Skip to main content

Reger-Wilkinson, Mary Frances, 1909-2006



  • Existence: 1909 - 2006


Mary Frances Reger was born in Davis City, Iowa in Decatur County to Georgia M. Rudibaugh and Francis A. Reger. An older brother, Charles Kenneth "Ken" Reger, rounded out the family. Mary Frances Reger spent the first fourteen years of her life in Decatur County on a small farm with her family. She describes her life as "simple but good." Her maternal grandparents, Orlena Jane Craig and Charles L. Rudibaugh lived nearby, while her paternal grandparents, Mary Olive Ellis and William A. Reger, lived thirty-four miles away at Mt. Ayr, Iowa in Ringgold County.

Mary Frances Reger began school a year early so that she could share the same bench and textbook with her brother. Anxious for their children to have a good education, Georgia and Francis Reger packed all their belongings in a freight car and moved the family to Iowa City, Iowa in 1924. Mary Frances and her brother graduated on the honor roll from Iowa City High School in 1926 and entered the University of Iowa the same year. Mary Frances Reger graduated from the University of Iowa in just three years. Though she had a teaching certificate in hand, there were no jobs available. However, the faculty at her high school knew the young woman´s capabilities and hired her to do various tasks, including teaching. In 1934, Mary Frances Reger married Bernard R. Wilkinson. A rule against married women teaching forced the young couple to keep their marriage a secret for two years. It was at this point that Dr. Ralph Ojemann saw potential in Mary Frances Reger-Wilkinson and recommended her for a fellowship at the University of Iowa. The research area was in parent education and child development. Reger-Wilkinson received her M.A. in social work from the University of Iowa in 1939.

While her husband served in the South Pacific in World War II, Reger-Wilkinson joined the American National Red Cross, Military and Naval Welfare Department. Reger-Wilkinson served as the director of social and recreational programs both in the field and in hospitals. This duty took her from the Midwest to Washington and California. When her husband was released from the U.S. Army in 1946, Reger-Wilkinson was employed by the Long Beach American Red Cross Home Service as an Intake Supervisor working with veterans following World War II. Later she worked with the California Department of Social Welfare in Adoptions, resigning with the birth of her son, George Reger Wilkinson, in 1948. When her son George was old enough to attend nursery school, Reger-Wilkinson returned to social work, accepting a position with the Los Angeles County Protective Services. Reger-Wilkinson remained with the agency for over twenty-five years, retiring in 1974.

Following her retirement, Reger-Wilkinson divided her time between classes at Long Beach City College and her volunteer work at Long Beach Memorial Hospital. She also took organ lessons in 1983 at age 74. Reger-Wilkinson´s volunteer work at the hospital was a continuation of the volunteer service she began when her mother was a patient there. Reger-Wilkinson volunteered at the hospital for twenty-seven years. Through her course work at the college, Reger-Wilkinson became interested in genealogy. On her ninetieth birthday, she placed a copy of her completed Ancestral Record Book (Reger-Rudibaugh/Ellis/Craig and Those Who Joined by Marriage) in the Leon, Iowa Public Library in Decatur County.

Bernard Wilkinson, Reger-Wilkinson´s husband, died in 1962. Their son, George, died in 1993.

Found in 1 Collection or Record:

Mary Frances Reger-Wilkinson papers

Identifier: IWA0501

Social worker who worked for the American National Red Cross during and after World War II.

Dates: 1942-2002