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Identifier: 2

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Scope and Contents

From the Collection:

The Ione Mulnix papers date from September 1904 (beginning of fall semester) through June 1909 (end of spring semester), with gaps during the semester she dropped out and every summer vacation during that period. Occasionally in the letters one may find newspaper clippings, mostly advice concerning young women's behavior; clothing ads and coupons; picture postcards; also a few performance programs and two cloth swatches. A program from the Dows Opera House is included in a January 23, 1907, letter from her parents to Ione. Biographical information supplied by the donor, Lois Aldrich, provides the relationship of family members mentioned in the letters to Ione and is filed at the end of this finding aid.

Ione was urged by her mother to write frequent, detailed letters which were to comprise a diary of her college years. The Mulnix collection documents, most colorfully, campus life for a woman of that era, as well as life in small town Dows where James Mulnix was the only doctor. At the University, Ione Mulnix was active in Glee Club and Hesperian Literary Society ("Hep"). She was a devout Methodist who disapproved of drinking and dancing, though she attended school dances fairly often and fought an increasing temptation to participate. Her letters detail her activities with the men she favored and describe a variety of social and cultural events--dining in boarding houses and combining funds with friends to provide joint food "spreads"; attending concerts, lectures and debates; picnicking, churchgoing, walking in the woods, entertaining guests in the parlor, ice skating, boating, clothing care, sewing or shopping. Her letters describe hazing or initiation rites, alcohol abuse, conflicts with acquaintances over beliefs and annoyances, incidents of and attitudes toward sexually active young women, and also historical events--a drowning, exam cheating, cases of smallpox, and a bout of campuswide illnesses caused by drinking water. Mention is made of an earthquake felt in Iowa City in June 1909. There are occasional lists of expenses, descriptions of classes and teachers, hand-drawn maps of city streets and charts of rooming houses. Ione Mulnix underwent sinus surgery and dental work while she was a student, and suspected that one of her doctors had "a drug habit." Both she and her mother paid great attention to clothing styles.

Walter Grissel appears for the first time in the Mulnix letters during April 1909, under the title of "Ella (Grissel)'s brother." Ione Mulnix met him during a visit to Ella's home in Cedar Rapids, and her letters from April through June 1909 refer to him several times, always as "Ella's brother." The last letter in the series includes a question to her parents asking them how they would like to have "a Bohemian son-in-law." Although she includes information about his habits and appearance, she does not use his name.

Letters from parents to daughter portray Iowa small town lectures and entertainments, sicknesses, fires, train accidents, housekeeping chores, and modes of travel, as well as parental attitudes toward dancing, sensuality and temperance. Some mention suicide, and marriages troubled by husbands' drinking; one such divorce is detailed in letters dated November 1907, between an aunt and uncle. Toward the end of the correspondence, Sallie Mulnix writes that the Dows Opera House was used for roller-skating and then sold to a resident who wished to make the building a garage.

The Photographs series (1905, 1909) consists of two portraits of Ione Mulnix as a student.


  • Creation: 1904-1909


Conditions Governing Access

The papers are open for research.


From the Collection: 12.00 linear inches

From the Collection: Photographs in SCVF. boxes

Language of Materials

From the Collection: English

Repository Details

Part of the Iowa Women's Archives Repository

100 Main Library
University of Iowa Libraries
Iowa City IA 52242 IaU
319-335-5900 (Fax)