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Iowa Women Artists Oral History Project

Identifier: IWA0628

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Scope and Contents

The Iowa Women Artists Oral Histories date from mid-1998 to September 1999, and measure 12.25 linear inches. The interviews cover childhood, education, development as an artist, artwork, creative process, and influences. They vary in length, but the average interview was one and one-half hours. The interviews usually took place in the artist's home or studio. The interviewer, Jane Robinette, traveled over 5,800 miles to thirty-three towns and cities, collecting seventy-nine interviews on 148 tapes, resulting in 1,830 transcript pages. The transcripts are arranged alphabetically, preceded by individual biographical abstracts and Jane Robinette's notes about the interview.

An additional impetus of the Iowa Women Artists Oral History Project was the construction of a website,, which features sound bytes from the interviews, text clippings from the transcripts, updates of recent exhibits, short biographical sketches of each artist, and a small sampling of each artist's work.


  • Creation: 1998-1999


Conditions Governing Access

The tapes and transcripts are open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright held by donor has been transferred to the University of Iowa. Copyright to the accompanying materials, such as artwork images, artist statements, and other materials from the artists, is retained by the artists/authors.

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

Jane Robinette launched the Iowa Women Artists Oral History Project in the first half of 1998. Names for the original mailing were gathered from several sources, including the Iowa Arts Council artists' directory, recommendations from artist friends and relatives, lists from galleries, and art exhibits. This letter, sent to over 100 women, stated general criteria for the interviewees, namely women visual artists who were age 30 or older, who had lived in Iowa for at least the past five years (or who previously lived in Iowa for several years and recently returned), and who considered art their major activity or vocation (including the teaching of art).

As the interviewing progressed, many of the artists also suggested more names, which resulted in further mailings. While the initial hope was to interview nearly all women visual artists in Iowa, it quickly became clear that this would be impossible-even when limiting the types of artwork included. In the end, seventy-nine women were interviewed. Two artists later withdrew from the project after receiving copies of their transcripts. Those interviewed represent a fair cross-section of artwork, location, and age, but regrettably racial and ethnic diversity is limited. Some of this is inherent in the makeup of Iowa's population; some is due to interviewee self-selection (not responding to or declining the invitation to participate); some is due to the project's limited resources, time, and ability to locate artists.

Jane Robinette was born and raised in Des Moines, living most of her life in Iowa. She grew up surrounded by art and art-making, as her mother and aunt were visual artists. She began writing poetry and prose and enjoying visual creative activities as a young child. After earning a B.A. in social work from the University of Northern Iowa, Robinette was coordinator of two community-based organizations in Iowa, and was an editorial assistant and copy editor at a small press in Michigan. She received her J.D. from the University of Iowa College of Law, and in 1990, she began her employment as a law clerk, and later staff attorney, for the federal district court in Des Moines.

She left her law job in April 1998 to begin the Iowa Women Artists Oral History Project and to do more creative work on her own. In the 1990s, Robinette began creating "poem-paintings"-works on paper combining watercolor or acrylic paint and her poetry. In her travels, she saw first-hand the gender gap still present in the collections of many museums-this reinforced her belief in the need for projects like the Iowa Women Artists Oral History Project. She has a long-time interest in oral history, believing that the telling and recording of life stories can be a meaningful and illuminating experience for both the narrator and the interviewer.


12.25 linear inches

1 CD [d-001]; 144 audiocassettes [AC669 - AC812] boxes

Language of Materials



Oral histories and transcripts. Collection of 77 oral histories of Iowa women artists conducted by Jane Robinette in 1998-1999.

Method of Acquisition

The tapes and transcripts (donor no. 829) were donated by Jane Robinette in 2001.

Related Materials

The papers of artists preserved in IWA include: Jean Berry, Gretchen Coy, Virginia Myers, and Robbie Steinbach.



Emily Broeckling, 2003.
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Script of description
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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)