Evelyn Birkby Collection of Radio Homemaker Materials
Scope and Contents
The Evelyn Birkby series (1978-1999) is arranged in two subseries. The first subseries, Newspaper clippings by and about Birkby includes photocopies of Birkby's "Up a Country Lane" column and newspaper and magazine reviews of her 1993 book by the same name. A 1991 New Yorker article by Jane and Michael Stern provides a history of KMA and KFNF radio stations and the radio homemakers, and includes an interview with Evelyn and Robert Birkby. The second subseries, Publications (1978-1993) consists of six cookbooks by Birkby: KMA Cookie Festival (1978), Festival Cookie Book (1983), Cooking with KMA (1985), and Come Again Cookie Book (1987), Neighboring on the Air: Cooking with the KMA Radio Homemakers (1991), and Up A Country Lane Cookbook (1993). Also included is Adventure After Sixty: Alone Through England and Scotland (1985).
Kitchen-Klatter Products Co. (1936-1986) consists of Kitchen-Klatter magazine and various other publications by the Driftmier Company, makers of Kitchen-Klatter products. Birkby's column was featured each month in Kitchen-Klatter magazine, a staple for the rural woman wanting kitchen tips, household hints and general information. Kitchen-Klatter went out of business in 1986.
The KFNF Radio and KMA Radio series (1926-1987) are comprised of publications of these two Shenandoah, Iowa radio stations. They are primarily newsletters and recipe books, some taken from the homemakers' programs. Among the homemakers featured are Jessie S. Young, Edith Hansen, Florence Falk, Evelyn Birkby, and Billie Oakley. The KMA Radio series also includes a small collection of photographs, some of which appeared in Cooking with KMA (1985) and Up a Country Lane Cookbook (1993). Also contained in the KMA Radio series are Billie Oakley's Home Talk magazine, published by Home Talk Publications, Inc., 1987-1991. The magazine featured recipes, fiction and local news. Oakley began her radio career in 1932 for KFNF. She later worked for KMA radio station, retiring in 1992. Oakley died in 1996.
The Henry Field Seed and Nursery Company series (1924-1999) contains Henry Field's Seed Sense magazine and newspaper clippings.
The Miscellaneous Radio Homemaker materials are non-Iowa items collected by Evelyn Birkby. This series includes books by radio homemakers from South Dakota and Oklahoma that are shelved in the Iowa Women's Archives printed works collection. They are: The Best of the Neighbor Lady (1987) by Wynn Speece with M. Jill Karolevitz and Long Lost Recipes of Aunt Susan (1989) edited by Patty Vineyard MacDonald.
The Photographs series (1948-1965 and undated) consists of photographs of Birkby and other radio homemakers.
The Scrapbooks series (1933-2010) contains a school days scrapbook with journal entries, notes from friends, photographs and pamphlets documenting her extra curricula activities, music contests, a visit to the Iowa State Fair, and a trip to a homemaking congress in Ames. The World War II scrapbook consists of newspaper clippings and correspondence with soldiers met between 1943 and 1945. Correspondents included Clarence Clark, who was with the Iowa unit known as the Red Bull Division, and Dick Hayashi, a Japanese American soldier disillusioned by the treatment of his parents who were sent to an internment camp.
The majority of the Scrapbooks series documents Evelyn Birkby's sixty years as a columnist for The Evening Sentential. The Up A Country Lane columns not only featured recipes, but also covered a variety of topics from children's activities and family vacations to rural traditions and national current events.
The Artifacts are bottles that held Kitchen-Klatter flavorings, cooking utensils and items offered as premiums to listeners and readers.Also included is a scarf sent to Evelyn Birkby from Italy by Clarence Clark, a solider friend in World War II.
The Audiovisual series includes a video documentary about the radio homemakers and entertainers of Shenandoah, Iowa; a CD-ROM of Birkby's Kitchen-Klatter columns; and audiotapes of radio homemaker programs.
Two of Birkby's books are shelved in the printed works collection in the Iowa Women's Archives: Neighboring on the Air: Cooking with the KMA Radio Homemakers (1991), and Up a Country Lane Cookbook (1993), Adventure after Sixty: Alone through England and Scotland (1985), and Always Put in a Recipe and Other Tips for Living. KMA Radio: The First Sixty Years (1985), written by Birkby's son, Robert Birkby is also shelved in the Iowa Women's Archives printed works collection.
- Birkby, Evelyn, 1919 - 2021 (Person)
Conditions Governing Access
Conditions Governing Use
However, copyright status for some collection materials may be unknown. Transmission or reproduction of materials protected by U.S. Copyright Law (Title 17, U.S.C.) beyond that allowed by fair use requires the written permission of the copyright owner. Works not in the public domain cannot be commercially exploited without permission of the copyright owners. Responsibility and potential liability based on copyright infringement for any use rests exclusively and solely with the user. Users must properly acknowledge the Iowa Women’s Archives, The University of Iowa Libraries, as the source of the material. For further information, visit https://www.lib.uiowa.edu/sc/services/rights/
Biographical / Historical
In 1949 the Shenandoah Evening Sentinel advertised for a farm woman to write a weekly newspaper column. Encouraged by her husband, Birkby applied and was accepted. In speaking of her "Up a Country Lane" column, Evelyn Birkby said it was "a forum to share my observations about my own experiences and those of my neighbors." In the summer of 1950, the Birkbys moved seventeen miles southwest of Shenandoah to a 120-acre farm which they named "Cottonwood." On May 15, 1950, Evelyn Birkby took her column on the air with KMA radio station, changing its name to "Down a Country Lane." The program was broadcast over KMA until 1952 when the needs of her husband and children, Dulcie Jean and Bob, made it difficult to prepare a program and travel back and forth to the studio. Birkby took a hiatus until 1955, when she began working for Kitchen-Klatter as a writer and broadcaster. The Kitchen-Klatter radio program originated from KMA but was syndicated over a six-state area, while some programs had an even wider distribution: the Martha Bohlson and Edith Hanson programs were heard from the Rocky Mountains to the Atlantic seaboard.
In 1983, Birkby left Kitchen-Klatter and returned full-time to radio station KMA to head its book department. Besides authoring the KMA Festival Cookie Book (1983), Cooking with KMA: Featuring 60 Years of Radio Homemakers (1985), and KMA's Come Again Cookie Book (1987), Evelyn Birkby assisted with the radio homemaker broadcasts until the summer of 1991, when she resigned to give her full attention to writing. What followed were Neighboring on the Air: Cooking With the KMA Radio Homemakers in 1991 and Up A Country Lane Cookbook in 1993. In May 1990, KMA honored Birkby on the 40th anniversary of her first broadcast, May 15, 1950.
Birkby has had many opportunities and accolades: she was a member of the Iowa Bicentennial Commission, the Iowa Judicial Nominating Commission, the Iowa Grievance Commission, the Rural Betterment Commission, the National Board of Communication for the United Methodist Church, and a member of the state Methodist Communication Board. She was one of the Iowans in 1996 to represent Iowa at the Smithsonian Folk Life Festival in Washington, D.C. and Des Moines, Iowa, and in 1998, she was chosen as one of the Iowa Master Farm Homemakers. Birkby's alma mater, Simpson College in Indianola, Iowa, honored her with its Alumni Achievement Award in 1999. The 2002 novel Standing in the Rainbow by Fannie Flagg featured a character, Neighbor Dorothy, a radio homemaker modeled on Evelyn Birkby.
Birkby continued to be in demand as a speaker on many subjects, including life on the farm from a woman's perspective in the 40's and the 50's. She and her husband Robert lived on an acreage in Sidney, Iowa for many years. Evelyn Birkby retired from writing in 2019 and died in 2021 at the age of 101.
8.40 linear feet
1 videocassette [V239], 2 CDs [d0027 and d0037], 30 audiocassettes [AC532-AC535 and AC836-AC859, MC1183-MC1184], photographs in Box 9. boxes
Language of Materials
Method of Acquisition
Existence and Location of Originals
- 20th century
- Archives (groupings)
- Birkby, Evelyn, 1919 - 2021
- Country life
- Cultural artifacts
- Falk, Florence
- Hansen, Edith
- Henry Field Seed & Nursery Co.
- Oakley, Billie
- Personal papers
- Radio broadcasters
- Rural women
- Rural women
- Shenandoah (Iowa)
- Sound recordings
- Video recordings
- Women in agriculture
- Women in radio broadcasting
- Young, Jessie S.
- Bobby Jett, 1994; Marnie Schroer, 1995; Lisa Mott, 2002 and 2005; Rosemary Riess, 2012
- Language of description
- Script of description
- Language of description note