Skip to main content

Ruth Schaefer papers

Identifier: IWA0746

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

Scope and Contents

The Ruth Schaefer papers date from 1956 to 2002 and measure 2.1 linear feet. The papers are arranged in six series: biographical information, correspondence, University of Iowa, newspaper clippings, photographs, and artifacts.

The Biographical Information consists of Ruth Schaefer's obituary and newspaper clippings featuring Schaefer's work with refugees.

The Correspondence series (1956-2000) is comprised of letters and postcards written by her daughter Elizabeth (Schaefer) Childress, dated 1956-1965. Later correspondence, dated 1970-2000, is a collection of letters, cards, drawings, birth, graduation and wedding announcements, invitations, and photographs from friends of the Vietnamese community who fondly refer to her as Mrs. Ruth, Mother, and Grandma.

Schaefer's involvement in the local Asian refugee community of Iowa City is documented in the University of Iowa series (1987, 1989, undated). Included are the University of Iowa Vietnamese Student Association Directory and pin. Papers and poetry written by Vietnamese students Hoa and Binh Huynh are also included.

The Newspaper Clippings series is rich in information about the Southeast Asian refugee crisis of the 1980s. Articles include the plight of refugees awaiting sponsorship in camps throughout Asia, as well as the lives of recent immigrants to Iowa and their struggles and dreams upon reaching theUnited States.

The Photographs series consists of a portrait of Ruth Schaefer in 1968, numerous candid and posed images of Schaefer with Asian families, including some in which she is wearing the traditional Vietnamese Au Dai (Long Dress), and numerous school portraits of children, weddings, graduations, and birth announcements, many with messages written on the backs.

Three Artifacts make up the final series: the State of Iowa Governor's Volunteer Award, the Vietnamese Friendship Award of the Vietnamese Association of Cedar Rapids, and a wood mounted poem of thanks written by the Duong Families.


  • Creation: 1956-2002


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

Pioneer, educator, advisor, volunteer, Ruth Schaefer was born in Colchester, Connecticut in 1909 to Harriet and Arthur Stebbins. Schaefer attended Middlebury College in Vermont after which she taught in the Norwich, Connecticut, school system. Married to Charles Schaefer of New York City in 1935 the couple moved to Alaska three years later to live as pioneers until 1963. In Matanuska Valley, Alaska, Schaefer was an active educator, 1955-1963, and mother of four children, Elizabeth, Patricia, Helen, and Charles Schaefer. Schaefer later moved to Iowa City in 1963 and pursued a Masters of Arts degree at the University of Iowa. Upon graduating in 1967 Schaefer taught Latin at City High and West High School until 1976.

An active friend and advisor to members of the Vietnamese refugee community in Iowa City, Schaefer assisted families and students. She opened her home to provide living accommodations, assisted in the daily needs of immigrant families and tutored students. In response to her kindness and support numerous families welcomed Schaefer to share their family celebrations and maintained correspondence with her after moving away from Iowa City. She was honored for her work as the recipient of the State of Iowa Governor's Volunteer Award in 1984 and the Vietnamese Friendship Award of the Vietnamese Association of Cedar Rapids in 1987. Schaefer died at the age of 90, as a result of breast cancer.


2.10 Linear Feet

Language of Materials



A Latin teacher who served as friend and mentor to Vietnamese refugees in the Iowa City community.

Method of Acquisition

The papers (donor no. 736) were donated by Helen Ryan in 2001.

Jun-Nicole Matsushita, 2003.
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)