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Debra Jean Blake papers

Identifier: IWA0327

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Scope and Contents

The Debra Jean Blake papers date from 1975 to 2017 and measure 2 linear feet and 2 megabytes. The collection is organized into seven series: Journalism and communications career, Volunteer work, Education, Chicana oral histories, Chicana Sexuality and Gender: Cultural Refiguring in Literature, Oral History, and Art, Teaching, and Academic career.

The Journalism and communications career series (1975-1988) provides an overview of Blake's journalism career, starting at the University of Northern Iowa (UNI). The series comprises examples of her work as an editor and journalist at university newspapers, as well as commercial radio stations and magazines. Materials include examples of her work as Assistant Publications Administrator at UNI, her résumés, and her professional achievement awards.

The Volunteer work series (1987) consists of materials pertaining to two events Blake helped organize, the Sturgis Falls Celebration and the Leadership for Tomorrow Conference. Both took place in Cedar Falls in 1987.

The Education series (1977-2000) includes materials related to Blake’s master’s thesis, fellowships and awards, and diplomas. The materials document her undergraduate studies at the University of Northern Iowa and her graduate studies at the University of Iowa.

The Chicana oral histories series (1993-2007) features oral history interviews with nine Mexican-American women. These interviews were included in Blake’s dissertation, titled “The Right to Passion: Chicana Sexuality Refigured,” which compared women’s lived experiences with narratives in Chicana feminist literature. Also included are interviews with Chicana feminist authors Gloria Anzaldúa, Ana Castillo, and Denise Chávez.

The Chicana Sexuality and Gender: Cultural Refiguring in Literature, Oral History, and Art series (1994-2010) is comprised of materials related to Blake’s 2008 Duke University Press publication, which builds on research she conducted for her dissertation. Materials include artwork copyright correspondence, book proofs, reviews, and marketing materials.

The Teaching series (1990-2016) consists of teaching contracts, a statement on Blake’s teaching philosophy, and syllabi for courses Blake taught at University of Northern Iowa, University of Iowa, Washington State University, University of Minnesota (Morris), St. Cloud State University, University of Minnesota (Twin Cities), and University of Puerto Rico (Río Piedras). Examples of her courses include Interpretation of Literature; Chicano/a Literature; Native American Literature; Chicana/Latina Lives: Oral Histories and Life Stories; Literature of American Public Life: Immigration, Identity, and the American Dream; Queer Sexualities in Film; University Writing; Gender in Literature and Culture; American Postmodern Literature; Feminist Theory; and Introduction to Ethnic Studies. During her time at the University of Puerto Rico, students went on strike and occupied the campus to protest the university’s attempt to raise tuition. Blake’s curriculum vitae provides context and details about the strike. Her photos of the student protest can be found in the curriculum vitae folder in the Academic career series.

The Academic career series (1993-2017) comprises Blake’s curriculum vitae, her conference presentations, programs from conferences she participated in, and book chapters and articles she wrote.


  • Creation: 1975-2016


Conditions Governing Access

The papers are open for research. Digital content may be made available upon request.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright held by the donor has been retained by the donor.

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

Debra Jean Blake, an Iowa-born journalist and professor, attended the University of Northern Iowa (UNI) in Cedar Falls, Iowa, where she wrote and edited for student paper The Northern Iowan. She graduated in 1977 with a B.A. in Communications Studies.

After completing her undergraduate education, Blake started working for Iowa television and radio stations KWWL, KWLO, and KFMW. She worked as a newscaster and reporter and in the traffic and continuity department. Blake also worked as an editor and journalist for several magazines, including Salute, a magazine for business and professional women in Northeastern Iowa; Northern Iowa Today, the Alumni Tabloid of UNI; and Nonpareil, the alumni magazine of the UNI.

From 1983 to 1988, Blake was employed as an Assistant Publications Administrator at the Office of Public Relations at UNI. During this time, she was engaged in several organizational committees. She was the Director of Publicity for the Board of Directors of the Sturgis Falls Celebrations in Cedar Falls in 1985-1986. In 1987, she facilitated several workshops at the Leadership for Tomorrow conference organized by UNI.

Blake later attended graduate school at the University of Iowa, earning an M.A. in Journalism in 1990 and a Ph.D. in English in 1997. During her Ph.D. program, Blake served as a Graduate Instructor, conducted research on representations of women in Chicana feminist literature, and gathered oral histories centering on Mexican-American women’s lived experiences. She published her research in the 2008 Chicana Sexuality and Gender: Cultural Refiguring in Literature, Oral History, and Art.

Blake taught at several universities throughout her career, such as University of Northern Iowa, University of Iowa, Washington State University, University of Minnesota (Morris), St. Cloud State University, University of Minnesota (Twin Cities), and University of Puerto Rico (Río Piedras). She also worked as a writing mentor and manuscript editor.


2.00 Linear Feet

31 audiocassettes [AC2105-AC2135]; 1 videocassette [V131]. boxes

2 Megabytes

Language of Materials



Journalist and professor who documented and analyzed Chicana women's lives, feminisms, and experiences of gender and sexuality.

Method of Acquisition

The papers (donor no. 448) were donated by Debra J. Blake in 1997 and 2018.

Related Materials

Germaine Mayer Blake papers (IWA0271): Germaine Mayer Blake is the mother of Debra Blake.

Melanie Jacobs, 1997; Meredith Kite, 2024
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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)