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Reed, Olabelle, 1935-



  • Existence: 1935-


Olabelle Reed, teacher and community activist, was born in Iowa City, Iowa on January 30, 1935. She was the seventh of eleven children bornto Freeman and Isabella "Sweetie" Woods. When she was only four months old, two of her sisters drowned in a vault of water at the back of the family's home in Waterloo.

While she was in high school, Olabelle Woods participated in many activities including choir, student council, and speech, in which she won a state contest. She was not allowed to join the cheerleading squad or swing choir, however, because of racial discrimination. Woods graduated from Waterloo East High School in 1953.

Despite discouragement from others, Woods went on to college and graduated from the University of Northern Iowa (UNI) with an associate's degree and a bachelor's degree in elementary education. As a college student, Olabelle Woods married Richard Reed. They had three children: Paula, Mark and Adrienne.

Olabelle Reed had difficulty finding work as a teacher but in 1960 she signed a teaching contract with Waterloo Community Schools. This put her among the first five minority women to teach in the district. She taught for nine years before returningto UNI to earn her master's degree. Reed continued to work in Waterloo schools until her retirement in 1996.

Reed was an active member of the Waterloo community for many years. She belonged to various educational and youth foundations and served asa representative for the Iowa and National Alliance for the Mentally Ill. Reed also helped found Club Les Dames, an African-American women's club in Waterloo, and has held various leadership roles within it.

Found in 1 Collection or Record:

Olabelle Reed papers

 Collection — Folder 1
Identifier: IWA0343

Teacher, community activist, and co-founder of Club Les Dames, an African American women's club in Waterloo.


One folder, shelved in SCVF.

Dates: 1935-1997