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Martha Nash papers

Identifier: IWA0235

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Scope and Contents

The Martha Nash papers date from 1939 to 2000 and measure 2.75 linear feet. The papers are arranged in four series: Biographical information; Catholic Church, society, and reform; Economics and politics; and Photographs. The bulk of this collection documents the National Council of Catholic Women (NCCW) and the Dubuque Archdiocesan Council of Catholic Women's (Dubuque ACCW) efforts to bring about religious and social reform in light of Vatican II. Nash's participation and leadership in these groups overlapped significantly with her work in civil rights and racial justice. This collection reveals Nash's commitment to community building and to the inseparable nature of local and universal efforts for freedom and justice.

Series one, Biographical information (1939-1998 and undated) includes Nash's diary (spanning 1947 to1948), resumes, letters of recommendation, writings and speeches, election materials, and newspaper clippings. It also includes certificates, plaques, and school yearbooks.

The second series, Catholic Church, society, and reform (1961-1991) is divided into two subseries: Iowa, and National and international. The first subseries, Iowa, contains correspondence, conference papers, study programs, and printed materials of the Dubuque ACCW,including material on its Conference on Religion and Race in 1963 and 1964 and on the diocese's pastoral council. The second subseries, National and international, contains NCCW conference papers following the Conference on Religion and Race in January 1963, correspondence, newsletters, and pamphlets on religious reform, including the international peace conference Nash attended on behalf of the NCCW in Cyprus in 1972. It also includes national Catholic magazines and grant writing materials.

The third series, Economics and politics (1959-1993) is divided into three subseries: Iowa,United Nations (UN) publications and United States. The Iowa files (1966-1993) contain reports on race relations, women, health care, and education in the state. The United Nations publication files (1963-1975) are comprised entirely of printed pamphlets, booklets and small books by and about the UN. The United States files (1959-1974) contain mostly printed materials on its relations with other nations and race relations within the borders. Finally, this series includes NAACP materials.

The fourth series, Photographs (1948-1991 and undated) consists of portraits of Nash and family snapshots including a disbound photograph album with photographs from Nash's visits to Cyprus and Washington, D. C. This series includes two photographs of Nash's husband Warren Nash and sister Betty Jean Furgerson with jazz musician Duke Ellington and Waterloo disc jockey Herbert Cox. Another photograph dateing from 1965 features Roy Wilkins, then executive secretary ofthe National NAACP, greeting the Nash family at a national convention. Jazz musician Clark Terry appears in another photograph playing music for Martha and Warren Nash's twenty-fifth wedding anniversary in 1973. This series also contains the exhibit catalog from "Legacy of Africa in the New World"; Nash served on the advisory committee that planned this exhibition at the Waterloo Museum of Art in 1991. This series includes a number of photo albums of Nash's family, friends, and college life.

The fifth series, Artifacts (1977-1981 and undated) includes plaques, certificats, a framed photograph, a hat, and a key to the city of Birmingham, Alabama.


  • Creation: 1939-2000


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

Martha Ann Furgerson Nash, civil rights activist and community and religious leader, was born September 26, 1925 in Sedalia, Missouri, to Dr. Lee B. and Lily Nina Williams Furgerson. She attended school in Waterloo, Iowa, and graduated from East High School in 1943. Furgerson earned a B.A. in history (with honors) from Talladega College in Talladega, Alabama, in 1947. The following year she married Warren Nash. They moved to Omaha, Nebraska, while he attended medical school at Creighton University and returned to Waterloo when he graduated in 1953.

Over the next four decades, particularly in the 1960s and 1970s (as she bore and raised seven children), Nash under took numerous responsibilities within her community, on local, national, and international levels. Among many other commitments, she served on the board of directors of the Black Hawk County Chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) for over a decade beginning in 1962. From 1965 to 1971 she was involved with the Iowa State Conference of NAACP Branches. Nash chaired the Black Hawk County Conferenceon Religion and Race from its inception in 1963 until its demise three years later. She and Warren Nash participated in its Home Visits Project, where people of one race visited people of anotherin their homes.

From 1966 to 1983 she served in most leadership positions in the Dubuque Archdiocesan Council of Catholic Women (ACCW), including the presidency. Nash was also a member of the Dubuque Archdiocesan Pastoral Council from 1972 to 1982 and of the Black Hawk-Bremer County League of Women Voters board of directors from 1974 to 1982. On the national level, Nash chaired the International Affairs Commission for the National Council of Catholic Women (NCCW) from 1970 to 1973, in which capacity she attended a United Nations seminar for non-governmental organizations in 1971 and a 1972 international Cyprus peace conference.

During the 1980s Nash's career took a slightly different turn as she became more deeply involved in education and healthcare. She was executive director of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Education and Vocational Training in Waterloo from 1981 until her retirement on February 1, 1995.

She ran for Black Hawk County supervisor in 1982, became a radio talk-show host on KBBG-FM (Iowa's first black-owned and operated radio station), and served on the Waterloo Community Schools Career Education Advisory Council and the State Planning and Accountability Report Committee of the Iowa Department of Public Instruction. Nash also was president of the Board ofDirectors of the Waterloo People's Community Health Clinic, a member of the Community Health Planning Council of Black Hawk County, and on the Board of Directors of Adults Care, Inc. (since 1974), an adult day-care center in Waterloo, among other duties. On March 27, 1979 her husband, Warren Nash, died. As of 1995 she was a member of St. Mary's Catholic Church in Waterloo,the Black Hawk County Branch of the NAACP, and the Black Hawk-Bremer County League of Women Voters.


2.75 Linear Feet

Photographs in boxes 6 and 7. boxes

Language of Materials



Civil rights activist, community and religious leader, she was executive director of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Education and Vocational Training in Waterloo.

Method of Acquisition

The papers (donor no. 327) were donated by Martha Nash in 1995 and subsequent years.

Related Materials

Betty Jean Furgerson papers (IWA): B. J. Furgerson, the sister of Martha Nash.

Lileah Harris papers (IWA): Lileah Harris, the sister of Martha Nash.

Penny Furgerson papers (IWA): Penny Furgerson, the sister-in-law of Nash.

Rachel Bohlmann, 1996; Randel W. Lackore, 1997.
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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)