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Nissen Family papers

Identifier: IWA0073

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Scope and Contents

The Nissen papers date from 1936 to 1996 and measure 10 linear inches. The papers are arranged in two series: Biographical sketches and Scrapbooks, which consist primarily of biographical sketches of the Harold and Wilma Nissen family of Walnut, Iowa, written by Eleanor Nissen Bell, and of the family's ancestors. The scrapbook and biographical sketches are a useful source on women's club activities, farm life, illness and medical practice in the mid-twentieth century, and offer an extensive history of a family, in particular the women.

The Biographical sketches series is comprised of biographical sketches of the Nissen family, primarily written by Eleanor Nissen Bell, and accompanied by photocopies of photographs and newspaper clippings. Those represented include her parents, Harold and Wilma Nissen, her husband Bob Bell, her sisters Phyllis Chenault, Trudy Marks, and Joan Kriedeman, her great-great grandfather and grandmother Nissen, and her great-great grandfather and grandmother Price. A letter written by William "Bill" Bell on November 3, 1988 from Europe to his mother, Eleanor Nissen Bell, concerning hissearch for their ancestors is filed at the end of this series.

The Scrapbooks series consists of photocopies of three scrapbooks compiled by Eleanor Nissen Bell. The first documents the life of her mother, Wilma Nissen, and contains personal writings by Wilma Nissen, newspaper clippings, photographs, and magazine articles on 4-H, women's clubs (including the Iowa Federation of Women's Clubs), and rural women's activities.

The 4-H Activities scrapbook records Eleanor Nissen's involvement in the East Pottawattamie County Iowa 4-H club from 1936 to 1942. Included are copies of questionnaires, record books, club programs, snapshots, and newspaper clippings. The Scottish Highlanders scrapbook documents Eleanor Nissen's activity in the University of Iowa's Scottish Highlanders from 1943 to 1947. This scrapbook contains copies of snapshots and postcards from tours as well as newspaper articles regarding the group.


  • Creation: 1936-1996


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

Helen Wilma Parker Nissen (1898-1957), a farmer, teacher, and clubwoman, was born in Essex, Iowa on May 18, 1898. She graduated from Shenandoah High School and attended Coe College and the University of Iowa. In 1918 she moved to Walnut, Iowa, where she taught English and Music in the high school for three years. Parker, who was known as Wilma, married Harold Nissen of Walnut, Iowa in 1921 and continued teaching for one more year while her husband helped on his father's farm. When Harold Nissen's father died, the Nissens moved onto the farm. They had five children: Phyllis, Eleanor, Joan, Wallace, and Trudy.

Wilma Nissen was active in 4-H, the Farm Bureau, the YWCA, the State Red Cross, Eastern Star, and the State World Fellowship Committee. She was the state president of the Iowa Federation of Women's Clubs from 1953 to 1955. When Harold Nissen died of a brain tumor in 1951, Wilma Nissen continued to manage the 240-acre farm and raise her two small children until her arthritis forced her to retire from farming. Wilma Nissen died on January 18, 1957.

Phyllis Nissen (1923-1967) graduated from the University of Iowa with a B.A. in sociology. In 1944 she married Miles Chenault. Phyllis Nissen was president of the League of Women Voters in Mason City, and after the family moved to Florida she became president of the local League there. She was also active in various women's literary, civic, and social clubs.

Eleanor Nissen was born in 1925, on a farm near Walnut, Iowa. She graduated from the University of Iowa in 1948 witha B.A. in Sociology. She married Bob Bell in 1948, and lives in Munster, Indiana where she remains active in P.E.O.

Trudy Nissen (1943-1991) worked in the film and travel industries in Rome, Italy in 1967 and as a realtor. She was married and divorced twice; first to Rocky Lubin and second to Clark Marks. She died of cancer in 1991.

Helen Joan Nissen, "Joan," was born in 1927 near Walnut, Iowa. She attended the University of Iowa for one year before she married Bob Kreideman in 1948. They moved to Wisconsin where she worked for the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. They divorced in 1980,and she continued working at the university until her retirement in 1993.

Ewald Anton Nissen and Anna Justine (Bossen) Nissen, great-great grandparents of Harold Nissen, were born in the early 1830s in Germany and immigrated to Lyons, Iowa in 1857.

William Price and Lydia Ann (Smith) Price, great-great grandparents of Wilma (Parker) Nissen, were born in the early 1800s. Their story begins in 1827 in Moundsville,Virginia.


10.00 linear inches

Photographs in boxes 1 and 2. boxes

Language of Materials



Biographical materials relate to Walnut, Iowa clubwoman Wilma Parker Nissen and her daughters.

Method of Acquisition

The papers (donor no. 128) were donated by Eleanor Nissen Bell in 1993, 1995, and 1996.

Robert J. Jett, 1993, 1994; Kristen Rassbach, 1996; Lisa Peperkorn, 1997.
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

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)