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Ione Mulnix papers

Identifier: IWA0438

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Scope and Contents

The Ione Mulnix papers date from September 1904 (beginning of fall semester) through June 1909 (end of spring semester), with gaps during the semester she dropped out and every summer vacation during that period. Occasionally in the letters one may find newspaper clippings, mostly advice concerning young women's behavior; clothing ads and coupons; picture postcards; also a few performance programs and two cloth swatches. A program from the Dows Opera House is included in a January 23, 1907, letter from her parents to Ione. Biographical information supplied by the donor, Lois Aldrich, provides the relationship of family members mentioned in the letters to Ione and is filed at the end of this finding aid.

Ione was urged by her mother to write frequent, detailed letters which were to comprise a diary of her college years. The Mulnix collection documents, most colorfully, campus life for a woman of that era, as well as life in small town Dows where James Mulnix was the only doctor. At the University, Ione Mulnix was active in Glee Club and Hesperian Literary Society ("Hep"). She was a devout Methodist who disapproved of drinking and dancing, though she attended school dances fairly often and fought an increasing temptation to participate. Her letters detail her activities with the men she favored and describe a variety of social and cultural events--dining in boarding houses and combining funds with friends to provide joint food "spreads"; attending concerts, lectures and debates; picnicking, churchgoing, walking in the woods, entertaining guests in the parlor, ice skating, boating, clothing care, sewing or shopping. Her letters describe hazing or initiation rites, alcohol abuse, conflicts with acquaintances over beliefs and annoyances, incidents of and attitudes toward sexually active young women, and also historical events--a drowning, exam cheating, cases of smallpox, and a bout of campuswide illnesses caused by drinking water. Mention is made of an earthquake felt in Iowa City in June 1909. There are occasional lists of expenses, descriptions of classes and teachers, hand-drawn maps of city streets and charts of rooming houses. Ione Mulnix underwent sinus surgery and dental work while she was a student, and suspected that one of her doctors had "a drug habit." Both she and her mother paid great attention to clothing styles.

Walter Grissel appears for the first time in the Mulnix letters during April 1909, under the title of "Ella (Grissel)'s brother." Ione Mulnix met him during a visit to Ella's home in Cedar Rapids, and her letters from April through June 1909 refer to him several times, always as "Ella's brother." The last letter in the series includes a question to her parents asking them how they would like to have "a Bohemian son-in-law." Although she includes information about his habits and appearance, she does not use his name.

Letters from parents to daughter portray Iowa small town lectures and entertainments, sicknesses, fires, train accidents, housekeeping chores, and modes of travel, as well as parental attitudes toward dancing, sensuality and temperance. Some mention suicide, and marriages troubled by husbands' drinking; one such divorce is detailed in letters dated November 1907, between an aunt and uncle. Toward the end of the correspondence, Sallie Mulnix writes that the Dows Opera House was used for roller-skating and then sold to a resident who wished to make the building a garage.

The Photographs series (1905, 1909) consists of two portraits of Ione Mulnix as a student.


  • Creation: 1904-1909


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 Ione Mulnix was a student at the University of Iowa from September 1904 until her graduation in June 1909. During that time she wrote home often and in detail; about 200 of those letters, and approximately 175 letters of reply from her parents, survive in this collection. Margaret Ione Mulnix, known as Ione, was born November 25, 1887, the only child of James Angelo Mulnix, MD, and Sallie Lois Rice. Her parents had married in 1882 and settled in Dows, Iowa, where James Mulnix practiced as a physician and surgeon, and was one-third owner of the Mulnix Drug Store with his two brothers, A.B. and Lee Mulnix.

Ione Mulnix grew up in Dows. She condensed her high school education into three years which left her slightly short on requirements to enter the State University of Iowa (now the University of Iowa) as a freshman, but she was allowed to enroll in the fall of 1904 as a “sub-freshman.” Because she was only sixteen she roomed that year with a teacher from Dows, Miss Pingrey, who had returned to the University to finish her degree. After dropping out during the fall semester of 1905, Mulnix reentered in January 1906 and graduated in June 1909 with a major in zoology. After graduation, Ione Mulnix returned home to Dows and taught music in the local primary school.

On August 8, 1911 she married Walter Grissel and lived in Cedar Rapids throughout their marriage, mainly in a house they built in 1916 at 2226 Upland Drive SE. Walter and Ione Grissel had three children: Margaret Ione, Lois Anna and James Mulnix. After her marriage, she continued her intellectual pursuits with active membership in the DAR, the Cedar Rapids Shakespeare Club, and the American Association of University Women. Throughout her life she was a devoted “daughter of Old Gold.” Ione Mulnix Grissel died on December 8, 1947.


12.00 linear inches

Photographs in SCVF. boxes

Language of Materials



A student of zoology at the University of Iowa from 1904-1909 who wrote home frequently to her parents in Dows, IA.

Method of Acquisition

The papers (donor no. 644) were loaned to the Iowa Women's Archives for microfilming by Lois G. Aldrich in 1999.

Lizabeth Carpenter, 2000. Updated by Annie Tunnicliff, 2016.
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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)