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Keyes, Margaret N., 1918-2015



  • Existence: 1918 - 2015


Margaret Naumann Keyes, professor of Home Economics at the University of Iowa and nationally recognized leader in the field of historic preservation, was born in Mount Vernon, Iowa on March 4, 1918. As a child, Keyes enjoyed unique access to the academic world. She frequently accompanied her father, Charles Reuben Keyes on his archaeological travels. She attended Cornell College and graduated in 1939 with a B.A. in Home Economics.

Following her graduation, Keyes taught home economics at several Iowa high schools and pursued her graduate degree at the University of Wisconsin during summer terms. She received an M.S. in Related Art in 1951. She joined the Home Economics faculty at the State University of Iowa (now the University of Iowa) for the Fall 1951 term. On the advice of home economics department chair F. Eugenia Whitehead, Keyes took a leave of absence from her position in Iowa to enroll in the graduate program at Florida State University. There, Keyes studied historic preservation under the direction of Dr. Janet Smith. In 1961, Keyes' graduate expenses were alleviated when she won the prestigious Ellen H. Richards Fellowship from the American Home Economics Association. She completed her Ph.D. in 1965 and published her dissertation, "Nineteenth Century Home Architecture of Iowa City," a year later. She returned to the University of Iowa and taught a variety of courses including Textile Design, Historic Interiors, and research seminars.

In the 1970s and 1980s, Keyes led Iowa's drive to preserve and renovate its historic structures. She served on a diverse set of historic preservation groups, including the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the Johnson County Bicentennial Commission. Keyes also served as a board member for the State Historical Society of Iowa, the Terrace Hill (the Iowa governor's mansion) Authority, and the Iowa City Urban Renewal Design Review Board. Keyes' most important work in historic preservation was her direction of the restoration of the Old State Capitol in Iowa City. From 1975 until 1988, Keyes organized massive research and restoration projects for the structure. Her work restored the building into a museum that reflected its uses by Iowans over time. In 1988, she published Old Capitol: Portrait of a Landmark (University of Iowa Press), which details her research findings and restoration accomplishments.

Throughout her work in home economics and historic preservation, Keyes sustained memberships in a variety of professional organizations. As chair of the research committee of the Iowa Home Economics Association, Keyes initiated the first institutional history of the organization and organized an annual statewide research survey. In addition, she served on both the state and national boards of directors for the Victorian Society of America. Keyes' commitments as director of Old Capitol, speaking engagements, and service work left her with little time to fulfill her duties as professor in the Home Economics department. She gradually decreased her course load and officially retired as full professor in 1984.

Keyes relished chances to travel, and toured the world whenever her schedule and the health of her companion, F. Eugenia Whitehead, allowed her the opportunity. The two traveled to a variety of exotic locations, including Israel, Jamaica, Taiwan, and Europe. For over thirty years, the two shared a home on Ferson Avenue in Iowa City that was renowned for its gracious hospitality. Eugenia Whitehead died in 1998.

Found in 3 Collections and/or Records:

Floy Eugenia Whitehead papers

Identifier: IWA0037

Nutrition scholar and chair of the University of Iowa's Home Economics Department for sixteen years.

Dates: 1935-1998

Keyes Family papers

Identifier: IWA0039

Mount Vernon, Iowa, family whose papers include photographs, account books, correspondence and civil war diaries.

Dates: 1832-1992

Margaret Keyes papers

Identifier: IWA0038

Professor of Home Economics at the University of Iowa and nationally recognized leader in the field of historic preservation.

Dates: 1907-2015

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Correspondence 2
Cultural artifacts 2
Diaries 2