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Cecile Cooper papers

Identifier: IWA0006

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Scope and Contents

The Cecile Cooper papers measure 3 linear inches and date from 1964 to 1998. The collection consists primarily of newspaper clippings, along with a small amount of correspondence and a few, mostly unidentified photographs.

Newspaper clippings (1964-1998) make up the bulk of the collection, following the career of Cooper's nephew Simon Estes, a bass-baritone who starred at the New York Metropolitan Opera. The grandson of a former slave, Estes was a Centervile, Iowa native who studied at the University of Iowa and The Juilliard School in New York. Clippings relate to performances by Estes, his Iowa roots, and racial discrimination in the opera world. Estes notes the difficulties many white audiences had with the idea of an African-American male playing opposite a white woman. Also included are articles relating to volunteer organizations in which Cooper was active and articles celebrating Cooper's volunteer activities. One clipping from 1964 describes the activities of an Iowa civil rights worker in Mississippi for whom Cooper organized local support.

Correspondence (1966-1979) is primarily congratulatory in nature. Some letters contain descriptions of volunteer projects with which Cooper was involved. There are two letters from United States Representative Fred Schwengel. With the correspondence are two pages outlining the historical development of the Quad Cities Council on Human Rights.


  • Creation: 1964-1998


Conditions Governing Access

The papers are open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright held by the donor has been transferred to the University of Iowa.

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

Biographical / Historical

Cecile Cooper was born in Trenton, Missouri, on April 15, 1900. She attended Walker's Beauty Academy in Chicago. She later worked as a hairdresser in the Quad Cities area and resided in Davenport, Iowa. She was a member of the Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church of Davenport.

From the 1950s to 1970s, Cooper was active in over thirty secular and church-related volunteer organizations, including the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the League of Women Voters, the Iowa and Quad Cities Human Rights Council, the Democratic Party and the Catholic Interracial Council. She was the founder of the Quad City Negro Heritage Society.

In 1960, she traveled with other volunteers to take food and clothing to the Mississippi Delta. Cooper also organized local support in the mid-1960s to aid civil rights efforts in Mississippi, including the Freedom Schools. In 1978, Cooper was presented with the local Diana Award for her volunteer efforts and won third place in the National Diana Award competition. In this same year, she moved to a retirement home in Coralville, Iowa. In 1986, she moved back to Davenport. Cecile Cooper died on May 25, 1997 in Davenport, Iowa.


3.00 linear inches

Photographs in Box 1 boxes

Language of Materials



Civil rights worker in Davenport.

Method of Acquisition

The papers (donor no. 7) were donated by Cecile Cooper in 1987.

Catherine E. Rymph, 1992, and Special Collections staff .REVISION:Bobby Jett, May 11, 1999, version WORD7
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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)