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Dora Jane Hamblin papers

Identifier: IWA0087

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Scope and Contents

The Dora Jane Hamblin papers date from 1937 to 1993 and measure 5.8 linear feet. They are organized in four series: Biographical material and oral history, Writings and research, Family papers, and Photographs.

The first series, Biographical material and oral history (1967-1993), is arranged in two subseries. The first subseries, Biographical material (1967-1993), contains a precis of Hamblin's life written by her sister, Mary Ovrom; newspaper clippings about and a program of the 1968 Coe College commencement at which Hamblin was awarded the honorary degree of Doctor of Literature; correspondence from Frank Paluka, Head of Special Collections, University of Iowa, concerning the donation of manuscript and book draft materials to the university; a copy of her obituary from the Des Moines Register dated August 22, 1993; and a eulogy to Hamblinby her sister, Mary Ovrom, from her column in the Van Buren County Register. The second subseries, Oral history, consists of a videocassette of Hamblin made on January 8, 1988 in which she discusses the highlights of her professional career. The cassette has been removed and shelved separately in the Videocassette Collection (no. V27).

The second series, Writings and research (1937-1981), is organized chronologically into seven subseries. The first subseries, Early writings (1937-1942) contains book reviews, term papers,manuscripts submitted for publication to various women's magazines, and poetrywritten while she was a student at Coe College. Also in this subseries is a photographic essay entitled Girl Scout Camping Trip, compiled while she was at Northwestern University. The second subseries, Cedar Rapids Gazette articles (1944-1947), contains articles about United States troop conditions submitted by Hamblin while serving as an American Red Cross staff assistant in Australia, the Phillippines, the Southwest Pacific, Japan, and later in the European theater of war. The third subseries, Red Cross Courier articles(1945-1948), contains articles submitted by Hamblin in her capacity as an American Red Cross staff correspondent. However, contributions to other periodicals and clippings from various United States newspapers as well as photographs by Hamblin published in International Events are also included.

The fourth subseries, Life file (1948-1981), is by far the most extensive portion of these papers. It contains Hamblin's original drafts and revisions of articles, research and background material sent to Life magazine for rewrite or development by senior staff editors and copies of original articles published in Life under her own by-line. It also includes descriptions of photographs submitted to the editorial offices in NewYork. A significant portion of this subseries, indeed, of this entire collection of papers, is devoted to Hamblin's assignment to Houston, Texas in 1969 to cover the Apollo 11 mission to the moon. Contained herein is extensive research material, scientific and personal, on man's first landing on themoon. Of primary importance are her interviews with all the major personnel associated with the flight, NASA personnel included, but with special emphasis given to the three astronauts, Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Mike Collins, and their families. All material in this extensive subseries is arranged alphabetically by the author's own subject headings.

The fifth subseries, Miscellaneous articles (1968, 1982), contains articles from the Coe College Courier(July 1968) and the Smithsonian (July1981). The sixth subseries, Reviews of Hamblin's books, contains reviews of The Appian Way and That Was the Life from Iowa newspapers. The seventh subseries consists of a single, unpublished and undated manuscript (ca. 350 leaves) of the life of film actress, Sophia Loren, entitled simply"Sophia." The manuscript covers Loren's life up to 1966.

The third series, Family papers (1939-1993), is divided into three subseries. The first, "Mrs. Hamblin's children" consists of an autobiography by Mary Margaret Ovrom, Hamblin's sister, written in 1975. The second subseries, "Around the bend" contains a collection of columns by that title from the 1980s, written by Mary Ovrom for the Van Buren County Register, the Des Moines Register, and the Ottumwa Courier. The column occasionally appeared under the title "Mary-go-round". The third subseries, "In our town" contains a collection of columns by that title dated 1939 to 1963 from the Bedford Times-Press by Allen W. Hamblin, the paper's editor and publisher for forty-one years. Of special note in this subseries is a published letter from Dora Jane Hamblin describing her Mexico-Yucatan trip in1955. It also contains a 1955 letter from James McCutcheon of the Mount Vernon Hawkeye-Record to A.W. Hamblin requesting information on the early history of chautauqua performances in Bedford, Iowa, and a copy of a eulogy to A.W.Hamblin by his daughter, Mary Ovrom, from the Cedar Rapids Gazette, dated May 5, 1974.

The fourth series, Photographs (1937-1969) consists of contact sheets, negatives and, less frequently, prints of personal trips taken by Hamblin and photographs of locations and persons associated with her many assignments for Life magazine. The first subseries, Personal and family (1937-1961), is arranged chronologically. The second subseries,Life articles (1951-1969), is arranged alphabetically by Hamblin's subject headings.


  • Creation: 1937-1993


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

Dora Jane Hamblin was born June 15, 1920 in Bedford, Iowa. Her father was the editor and publisher of the Bedford Times-Press and Dora--"Dodie" to her friends--was encouraged by her parents and her teachers at Bedford High School to write. She attended Coe College in Cedar Rapids where she became editor of the Coe College Cosmos and a member of the Delta Delta Delta sorority. She graduated "magna cum laude" in 1941 and then attended Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, where she earned a master's degree from the university's Medill School of Journalism in 1942. For the next two years she was employed as a reporter and photographer for the Cedar Rapids Gazette.

In June of 1944 she resigned from the paper, joined the American Red Cross and served in Australia, the Phillippines, the Southwest Pacific, Japan, and Europe. During this period she continued to contribute articles to the Cedar Rapids Gazette about her experiences with the United States troops and the native populations she came in contact with. She was eventually named overseas staff correspondent for the Red Cross official publication, The Red Cross Courier, and contributed extensively to that publication.

In mid-1948 Hamblin joined the staff of Life magazine in New York as a researcher. Within eighteen months she was named a correspondent in the Paris office. There followed two years as correspondent in London, two in Chicago, and four years, beginning in 1956, as chief of the Life bureau in Rome, Italy, where she directed Life's coverage of the death of Pope Pius XII, the election and coronation of Pope John XXIII, and the 1960 Olympic games.

In 1960 Hamblin was recalled to the New York office to serve as assistant editor, associate editor, and finally as staff writer, one of only three women ever to achieve that position on the magazine. From February 1967 until December 1969, she was stationed one-third of her time in Houston, Texas, to provide coverage of the space program and of the astronauts and their families for Life. She conducted interviews with all of the astronauts and did extensive research on technical details of this first manned moon flight. During this period she, along with Life's Gene Farmer, wrote First on the Moon (1970), an account of the first moon landing by Apollo 11. This work was officially approved by the three members of the crew, Neil Armstrong, Edwin (Buzz) Aldrin, and Michael Collins. It was also during this period of time that Hamblin was bestowed the honorary degree of Doctor of Literature by Coe College in Cedar Rapids.

In 1970 Hamblin resigned from the Life staff and retired to Trevignano, Italy, a lakeside resort near Rome, to live and work as a free lance writer. She continued to submit articles to Life until the magazine folded at the end of 1972. She also wrote on archaeological subjects for the Smithsonian as well as for Sports Illustrated and World. Several of her Life articles were reprinted in Readers Digest.

One of Hamblin's major interests was archaeology and she wrote several works on the subject: "Pots and Robbers" (1970), "Buried Cities and Ancient Treasures" (1973), and "The Appian Way, a Journey" (1974). She also wrote two volumes of the Time-Life Books series entitled "The Emergence of Man, namely The First Cities" (1973) and "The Etruscans" (1975), and wrote a section of the series' first volume, "Life Before Man" (1972).

During the years 1973 to 1975, Hamblin worked with stage and screen star Mary Martin and was, in effect, the "ghost-writer" of Martin's autobiography, My Heart Belongs, published in 1976. The year 1977 saw the publication of That Was the Life, Hamblin's collection of stories about the magazine she had worked for for twenty-three years. Hamblin's active, far-ranging life came to an end August 17, 1993, when the writer and Iowa native died of a heart attack at her home in Trevignano, Italy. She was 73.


5.80 Linear Feet

One videocassette [V27]. videocassettes

Language of Materials



Iowa native who wrote for the Cedar Rapids Gazette, LIFE magazine, and other periodicals.

Method of Acquisition

The papers (donor no. 144) were donated by Mary Ovrom in 1993 and by Ann Rosenfield (donor no. 1703) in 2023.

George Mullally, 1994.
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

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)