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Till-Retz, Roberta (1940-)



  • Existence: 1940-


Labor educator and political activist Roberta Till was born in 1940, the great-granddaughter of Mormon pioneers. She grew up in Byron, Wyoming, a town named after her great grandfather, Byron Sessions, and attended high school in southern California. In 1962, she married Jae Carl Retz after graduating from Brigham Young University with a BA in American Literature. She continued her education at Harvard University, earning an MA in the History of American Civilization in 1964. That same year, Roberta Till-Retz and her husband moved to Heidelberg, Germany, where she spent five years teaching history for the University of Maryland to soldiers at US Army bases. During this time their daughter, Justine, was born. Roberta Till-Retz received a Fulbright-Hays dissertation fellowship to support her research in Vienna, Austria, between 1972 and 1973. In 1976, she received a PhD in Modern European History at the University of Oregon. She was named a field researcher for Alice Cook and Val Lorwin for a German Marshall Fund grant studying women and unions in Europe, after which she decided that her true calling was in labor education, a career that would enable her to "touch the future." She enrolled in the Institute of Industrial and Labor Relations at the University of Oregon, where she received an MS in 1980. Upon graduating, Roberta Till-Retz was hired as a program coordinator at the University of Iowa Labor Center and moved to Iowa City with her family. She held this position for 26 years, serving the University and the Iowa labor movement as a labor educator. She also conducted research on women in the labor movement, presenting and publishing several papers and articles. Starting in the 1980s, Roberta Till-Retz and her husband were active in the Iowa Democratic Party, campaigning for and at times hosting candidates in their home. They were both inducted into the Johnson County Democrat's Hall of Fame in 2011. In addition to the Iowa Democratic Party, Roberta Till-Retz was a member and officer of the American Federation of Teachers Local 716, Workers' Education Local 189, the Coordinating Committee on Women in the Historical Profession, the Professional Council of the University College Labor Education Association, and the Association for the History of the Labor Movement in Vienna, Austria. After retiring from the University of Iowa Labor Center in 2006, Roberta Till-Retz joined her husband as Co-Communications Director for the Iowa Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO.

Found in 1 Collection or Record:

Roberta Till-Retz papers

Identifier: IWA0802

Research and educational materials of activist and labor educator Roberta Till-Retz.

Dates: 1970-2006