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Jill Jack papers

Identifier: IWA0519

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Scope and Contents

The Jill Jack papers date from 1967 to 2006 and measure 5 linear inches. The papers, arranged alphabetically by topic, document the women's and lesbian community in Iowa City during the late 1970s and early 1980s. They include materials relating to the institutions and organizations founded by women and lesbians to serve their needs, and the cultural and social events they sponsored, especially those involving music, education, theater, recreation, dance, and poetry. Most of these organizations had overlapping memberships and constituents.

About half of the collection documents the events and activities held in the early 1980s at the Women's Coffeehouse (also known as the Studio Project), a private space where lesbians could socialize without fear of ridicule or harm. The collection includes posters and flyers advertising events, notes from meetings, policies, original notes from the bulletin board, and a calendar showing events held at coffeehouse. The "Lesbians" subseries contains the article “Lesbianism in Iowa City,” based on interviews with members of the Iowa City lesbian community by Harry and Glen Epstein, published in the Iowa Defender Vol. 8 No. 8 (December 1967).

Materials also document community discussions and controversies about discrimination against lesbians ("Co-op Showdown"), violence against women and censorship (the showing of the movies Cruising, Peeping Tom, and Dressed to Kill at the Bijou Theater on the University of Iowa campus), and classism. The Grace and Rubie's materials include bylaws, guidelines, and minutes from a board meeting. The Iowa City Women's Press folder includes a call for writings on fat issues. Several T-shirts complete the collection.


  • Creation: 1967-2006


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.

Biographical / Historical

Political activist Jill Jack was born in Chicago, Illinois, in 1957 to Mary T. (Hayes) Jack and James A. Jack, a detective in the Chicago police department. Jill Jack's parents divorced when she was young, and Jack and her two older brothers were raised by their mother, who was an office manager. Jack graduated from Taft High School in Chicago and moved to Iowa City, Iowa, in 1975 to attend the University of Iowa; she received a BA in 1981 and an MA in 1985. In 1995, Jack earned an MLS from Indiana University. Jack and her partner, Diane Finnerty, have one daughter, Jennifer. Jack and Finnerty were the second couple to register with the city of Iowa City as domestic partners.

Jill Jack's political activism began in the civil rights, anti-war, and environmental movements of the 1960s and 1970s, which led her to work on George McGovern's presidential campaign in 1972. After she moved to Iowa City, Jack became involved with the feminist and lesbian movements. She worked with organizations such as the Women's Resource and Action Center (WRAC) and the Iowa City-based publication Common Lives/Lesbian Lives, and on issues and projects including Women Take Back the Night, the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), Safe Ride, and the domestic violence shelter.

Jack headed the Lesbian Alliance from 1978 to 1992, and co-founded the local Gay/Lesbian Pride month celebration. In addition, Jack worked at the Plains Woman Bookstore and played on softball teams sponsored by the Emma Goldman Clinic, Plains Woman Bookstore, and WRAC. Jack's political work illuminates the connections among peace, women's, gay, environmental, racial, and economic issues. Jack's professional work has included diverse jobs such as factory worker, waitress, bookseller, and office worker.

After receiving her degree in library science, Jack worked as a librarian at Cornell College, the State Historical Society of Iowa, and Kirkwood Community College. Jack became the "unofficial" historian of the women's and lesbian community in Iowa City, collecting and saving papers and posters documenting that community's activities, struggles, and triumphs. In 1995, she began her own business, Paper Trails, as a freelance archivist and consultant.


5.00 linear inches

Artifacts in Box 2; Photographs in Box 1 boxes

Language of Materials



Iowa City political activist.

Method of Acquisition

The papers (donor no. 900) were donated by Jill Jack in 2003.

Related Materials

Women's Resource and Action Center records (IWA): Jill Jack was a volunteer at WRAC.

Jo Rabenold papers (IWA): This collection also documents lesbian life in Iowa City.

Tess Catalano papers (IWA): A friend of Jack's who belonged to many of the same organizations.

Common Lives/Lesbian Lives records (IWA): Jill Jack was very involved in this publication.

Sharon M. Lake, 2006.
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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)