Skip to main content

Melba Gardemann Olson papers

Identifier: IWA0456

  • Staff Only
  • Please navigate to collection organization to place requests.

Scope and Contents

The Melba Gardemann Olson papers date from 1916 to 1993 and measure 5 linear inches.

They consist of the reminiscence "The Life Story of Melba Gardemann Olson," one scrapbook [disassembled], and two photograph albums. The donor assembled the donated scrapbook from items in other scrapbooks without any particular order. It has been disassembled for preservation purposes. Pages of the scrapbook containing photographs have been photocopied to show original order. The scrapbook contains primarily school records and programs from Olson's education and teaching career as well as many newspaper clippings concerning the 1927 high school girls' basketball championship game. The photograph albums include many pictures of Melba Gardemann and her school mates. These papers and photographs convey the camaraderie and excitement surrounding the 1927 Newhall girls' high school basketball team.


  • Creation: 1916-1993


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

Melba Gardemann was born to John and Clara Schlotterback Gardemann in South Dakota in 1909. In 1911, the family returned to Iowa by train. After moving twice, they settled on a farm near John Gardemann's parents, whose daughter Luella was close in age to Melba Gardemann and her brother Merle. Melba Gardemann spent her young womanhood cleaning, helping with washing, ironing, gardening, and raising poultry. She belonged to the Fremont Busy Bee 4-H Club of which her mother was a leader.

She attended Newhall High School and made the basketball team as a sophomore. She and her two aunts, Luella Gardemann Boddicker and Marie Gardemann, played on the Newhall team. In their senior year, Melba and Luella Gardemann played in the 1927 girls' high school statebasketball tournament, winning the state championship for Newhall. The Des Moines Register chose Melba and Luella Gardemann as forwards for the All-Tournament team. Melba Gardemann graduated that year and was class salutatorian.

Her parents sent her to Iowa State Teachers College, now the University of Northern Iowa, for the two-year, elementary school teacher's training course. She graduated in 1929 and taught in Whitten for four years, then in nearby Conrad. She taught the high school girls' physical education course in both towns. In May 1936, she married Merle Olson. Because teachers were dismissed upon marriage and jobs were scarce, Merle and Melba Olson kept their marriage a secret the first year so that she could continue teaching. She left her job before 1937 when their daughter Karen was born. A daughter Kaylene followed in 1943.

Merle Olson operated a print shop, bought and sold the Benton County Star newspaper and finally the Dysart Reporter in 1945. Melba Olson edited its news page until 1954 when they bought an insurance agency in Dysart. They retired in 1972 and Melba Gardemann Olson died in 2000.


5.00 linear inches

Photographs in box 1. boxes

Language of Materials



Benton County, Iowa, farm girl and teacher who played on her high school's basketball championship team in 1927.

Method of Acquisition

The papers (donor no. 670) were donated by Karen Symonds in 1999.

Doris Malkmus, 2001.
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)