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A. Louise Mays papers

Identifier: IWA0645

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Scope and Contents

The A. Louise Mays papers date from 1939 to 1997 and measure 2.5 linear inches. The papers are arranged in eight folders, with the last seven representing the seven chapters of Mays's personal scrapbook, "The Road Not Taken." The folders and their contents have been kept in the original order as presented to the Iowa Women's Archives. Most of the contents of the folders are copies provided by Mays, and not originals.

Life experiences (1914-1998) contains a chronological listing of Mays's education, employment, professional associations, community activities and volunteer activities.

"The Road Not Taken" is divided into seven folders, with the original titles given by Mays. Of particular interest are:

Tuskegee, Medical TechnologyTraining, University of Chicago (1936-1956) This folder includes photographs of Mays.

Des Moines Child Guidance Center (1959-1966) covers the years Mays was employed at the Des Moines Child Guidance Center in Des Moines,Iowa, and includes her engagement announcement from July 1960.

The University of Iowa School of Social Work -- Des Moines Center (1972-1979) includes papers from the time Mays served on the Des Moines Human Rights Commission, along with photographsof Mays with Governors Ray (March 1977) and Branstad (June 1989).

Retirement, Stroke, Retirement Activities (1982-1997) contains "Louise's Copybook on Retirement, Old Age and Stroke," a collection of comic strips, articles and personal reflections. This folder also contains an article describing the 1992 documentary "At Arms Length," in which Mays was interviewed. (This video is availablefor viewing in the Iowa Women's Archives.) Also among the papers in this folder are two photographs of Mays with President Bill Clinton.

Letters (1968-1998) is a collection of personal letters Mays wrote to her sisters and friends over a thirty-year span, along with several letters Mays wrote to the editor of the Des Moines Register or to specific Register columnists in response to articles she had read.

Musings(1977-1997) Thisfolder contains diary-like musings that Mays wrote down sporadically over twenty years.


  • Creation: 1939-1997


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

Louise Mays was born Amanda Louise Potts on June 2, 1914, in Atlanta, Georgia. She graduated from Crispus Attucks High School in Indianapolis, Indiana in 1930, and was a member of the National Honors Society. Potts attended Tuskegee Institute in Alabama where she graduated magna cum laude in 1940. During her college years, Potts was a member of the KI YI Social Club, the Campus Digest Staff, the Associated Women Students, and the staff of the 1940 Tuskeana.

Following her graduation from Tuskegee, Potts went to Detroit, Michigan, where she was employed by the Department of Water Supply. From 1944-45, Potts was employed as a library assistant in the Department of Labor's Women's Bureau in Washington, D. C. In 1947, Potts completed a course in Medical Technology at the City of Chicago Municipal Tuberculosis Sanitarium's School of Laboratory Technology where she earned her certification as MT/ASCP. Potts was employed as Supervisor of the Student Health Laboratory at Billings Hospital, University of Chicago, until 1955 when she enrolled in the graduate Social Work program at the university. Potts earned her M.A. in Social Work from the University of Chicago in 1957.

In 1959, Potts moved to Des Moines, Iowa, after accepting a position with the Des Moines Child Guidance Center as a psychiatric social worker. Potts spent the next twenty years as a social worker in Des Moines, specializing in children from distressed families and those with speech and hearing disabilities.

On July 29, 1960, Potts married Everett A. Mays. The marriage ended in divorce, but Mays remained close to her two stepchildren, Everett, Jr. and Evanette.

From 1972-79, Mays served as both a professor and director of the Des Moines Educational Center of the University of Iowa School of Social Work. She also served as a lecturer in the Drake University Department of Sociology in Des Moines from 1971-76. Following her retirement, Mays continued to work as a social worker in Des Moines, offering her services to the Family Counseling Center, the Lutheran Social Services, and the Department of Social Services. Mays was an active volunteer serving on the Adult Education Advisory Council, the Planned Parenthood Board, the Des Moines Human Rights Commission, several Greater United Way advisory boards, and multiple YWCA committees, to name but a few of her volunteer activities.

Following a stroke in 1981, Mays turned her attention to elderly concerns becoming an active volunteer in the Wesley-Methodist Adult Day Care Center, the "Friendly Visitor" program at Iowa Methodist Medical Center, the Stroke Partnership Program and Home Health Care. In addition to her many volunteer activities and her professional life, Mays began expressing herself in letters to the editors of the Des Moines Register newspaper in 1972, as well as to Iowa's governors. Mays was honored by both the newspaper and Governors Robert Ray and Terry Branstad for her civic participation.


2.50 linear inches

Language of Materials



Social worker and University of Iowa professor.


There are three videocassettes in the collection. "The Road Not Taken: A Retrospective" and "80th Birthday Party" (1994) VHS and 8mm. These two videocassettes are identical except for their format. They both represent a video version of Mays's scrapbook, including photographs not contained in Mays's papers,followed by filmed footage from her eightieth birthday party on June 4, 1994.

"At Arm's Length" and "Raw Footage of Louise Mays" (1992) VHS. This videocassette includes a documentary on aging in Iowa, produced by Mary Frances Evans, in which Mays participated. It is followed by the unedited interview with Mays. Other persons featured on the videotape are: Estelle Alleman, Margaret Allen, Betty Atwater, Margaret Bastian, MaryEllen Buck, Robert Buck, Eileen Dawson, King Dawson, Venita Ellison, B. J.Fedler, Harold Forrester, Mildred Forrester, Helen Gore, Wayne Greene, HughGuernsey, Dorothy Hall, Helen Hansell, George Hildreth, Mary Elizabeth Hines,Bernice James, Florence Jarvis, K.C. Johnson, Ena Lingwall, Ray Lingwall, F. L.T. Lootens, Kathryn Love, Edna Lyman, Betty Miller, Bernice McKeever, LarryMcKeever, Mariam McKeever, Leonard O'Connor, Helen Peterson, Helen Powers,Ralph Powers, Everett Rushing, Naomi Rutledge, Harley Shirer, Cecil Stanton,Helen Tollefson, H. Marie Walker, Neva Wise, Helen Wood and Thelma Yeager.

Method of Acquisition

The papers (donor no. 518) were donated by A. Louise Mays in 1998.

Lisa Mott, 2002.
Language of description
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)