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Margaret Keyes papers

Identifier: IWA0038

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Scope and Contents

The Margaret Keyes papers date from 1907 to 2015 and measure 7 linear feet. The papers are arranged in nine series: Personal, Home Economics, University of Iowa Activities, Nineteenth Century Home Architecture in Iowa City, Old Capitol Restoration, Organizations, Artifacts, Photographs, and Education.

The Personal series (1944-2015) documents Keyes' world tour with F. Eugenia Whitehead in 1968. In addition, it includes over fifty years of correspondence from Keyes' family and friends. Materials regarding Keyes' membership in the Omicron Delta Kappa and Phi Beta Kappa honors societies round out the series.

The Home Economics series (1951-1990) documents Keyes' work and activities in Home Economics while she was a faculty member at the University of Iowa.

The Correspondence subseries (1956-1987) contains correspondence between Keyes and students, the University of Iowa Home Economics department, and various home economics related groups and businesses.

The Courses subseries (1954-1984) includes syllabi, class notes, weaving samples, and student projects from the courses that Keyes taught at the University of Iowa.

The Professional Activities subseries (1953-1990) documents Keyes' work in Home Economics outside of the University of Iowa Home Economics Department. Some notable components of this series are Keyes' personal weaving records, materials from Keyes' study trips to Europe, and letters to Keyes from other universities offering her positions.

The final subseries contains materials regarding Keyes' membership in Home Economics Professional Associations (1951-1986). It contains meeting minutes and materials from Keyes' work on the art section of the American Home Economics Association and correspondence regarding Keyes' involvement with the Iowa branch of that organization.

The University of Iowa Activities series (1907-1990) includes information regarding Keyes' activities at the University outside of the home economics department and Old Capitol restoration. The series details her involvement in exhibits at the University of Iowa Arts Museum and her activities on a variety of university committees including the Campus Planning Committee, the University of Iowa Architecture Committee, and the Council of the Friends of the University of Iowa Libraries.

The 19th Century Home Architecture of Iowa City series (1917-1999) provides information on Keyes' published work and her activities to promote it. It includes short magazine pieces that Keyes published on her research and publicity materials regarding her work. In addition, the series contains handwritten speech notes that Keyes used when presenting her work to area clubs and organizations.

The Old Capitol Restoration series (1931-1992) contains materials from Keyes' work as director of the restoration of the old state capitol in Iowa City. The bulk of the series consists of Keyes' original drafts from throughout her writing process for the work Old Capitol: Portrait of a Landmark. The series also contains publicity materials, speech notes, and information about the historic preservation awards she received in recognition of her work on the project.

The Organizations series (1967-1998) documents Keyes' work in historical organizations. The series is divided into three categories--city and county organizations, state organizations, and national organizations--and includes correspondence, reports, meeting minutes, conference materials, research materials, programs, and speeches. While most of the organizations are represented by just a folder or two, there are substantial files documenting Keyes' involvement in the State Historical Society of Iowa's Board of Trustees, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the Iowa City Urban Renewal Board, and the Victorian Society of America.

The Photographs series (1922-1994) is divided into five subseries: Miscellaneous, Terrace Hill Society, State Historical Society of Iowa, University of Iowa Home Economics Department, and Negatives. Researchers may also find photos of Keyes' travels and personal life in the Floy Eugenia Whitehead papers of the Iowa Women's Archives.


The series used to organize the 2007 accession mirrors the series used in earlier accessions, but it also includes one new series, Education. The 2007 accession consists of correspondence with Keyes, including original cards from local artist Eleanor Simmons, a video interview of Keyes, and additional research, career-related items, slides and photographs.

The Education series (1951-1965) documents Keyes' work as a graduate student at the University of Wisconsin and Florida State University. It includes notebooks, assignments, research and essays for classes. The correspondence concerns the progress Keyes made on her PhD while she was living in Iowa City.


  • Creation: 1907-2015


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

Margaret Naumann Keyes, professor of Home Economics at the University of Iowa and nationally recognized leader in the field of historic preservation, was born in Mount Vernon, Iowa on March 4, 1918. As a child, Keyes enjoyed unique access to the academic world. She frequently accompanied her father, Charles Reuben Keyes on his archaeological travels. She attended Cornell College and graduated in 1939 with a B.A. in Home Economics.

Following her graduation, Keyes taught home economics at several Iowa high schools and pursued her graduate degree at the University of Wisconsin during summer terms. She received an M.S. in Related Art in 1951. She joined the Home Economics faculty at the State University of Iowa (now the University of Iowa) for the Fall 1951 term. On the advice of home economics department chair F. Eugenia Whitehead, Keyes took a leave of absence from her position in Iowa to enroll in the graduate program at Florida State University. There, Keyes studied historic preservation under the direction of Dr. Janet Smith.

In 1961, Keyes' graduate expenses were alleviated when she won the prestigious Ellen H. Richards Fellowship from the American Home Economics Association. She completed her Ph.D. in 1965 and published her dissertation, "Nineteenth Century Home Architecture of Iowa City," a year later. She returned to the University of Iowa and taught a variety of courses including Textile Design, Historic Interiors, and research seminars.

In the 1970s and 1980s, Keyes led Iowa's drive to preserve and renovate its historic structures. She served on a diverse set of historic preservation groups, including the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the Johnson County Bicentennial Commission. Keyes also served as a board member for the State Historical Society of Iowa, the Terrace Hill (the Iowa governor's mansion) Authority, and the Iowa City Urban Renewal Design Review Board.

Keyes' most important work in historic preservation was her direction of the restoration of the Old State Capitol in Iowa City. From 1975 until 1988, Keyes organized massive research and restoration projects for the structure. Her work restored the building into a museum that reflected its uses by Iowans over time. In 1988, she published Old Capitol: Portrait of a Landmark (University of Iowa Press), which details her research findings and restoration accomplishments.

Throughout her work in home economics and historic preservation, Keyes sustained memberships in a variety of professional organizations. As chair of the research committee of the Iowa Home Economics Association, Keyes initiated the first institutional history of the organization and organized an annual statewide research survey. In addition, she served on both the state and national boards of directors for the Victorian Society of America.

Keyes' commitments as director of Old Capitol, speaking engagements, and service work left her with little time to fulfill her duties as professor in the Home Economics department. She gradually decreased her course load and officially retired as full professor in 1984. Keyes relished chances to travel, and toured the world whenever her schedule and the health of her companion, F. Eugenia Whitehead, allowed her the opportunity. The two traveled to a variety of locations, including Israel, Jamaica, Taiwan, and Europe. For over thirty years, the two shared a home on Ferson Avenue in Iowa City that was renowned for its gracious hospitality. Eugenia Whitehead died in 1998.


7.00 Linear Feet

1 videocassette [V371]; Photographs in boxes 12 and 17-18 boxes

Language of Materials



Professor of Home Economics at the University of Iowa and nationally recognized leader in the field of historic preservation.

Method of Acquisition

The papers (donor no. 39) were donated by Margaret Keyes to University of Iowa Special Collections in 1994. They were transferred to the Iowa Women's Archives in 1997 and additions were made in 2000 and subsequent years.

Related Materials

University of Iowa Home Economics Department records (IWA)

Floy Eugenia Whitehead papers (IWA)

Keyes Family papers (IWA)

Bridgett Williams-Searle; Heather Stecklein, 2002; Kate Stewart, 2007.
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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)