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Alma Erickson Swanson papers

Identifier: IWA0454

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Scope and Contents

The Alma Erickson Swanson papers date from 1897 to 2000 and measure 9 linear inches. The collection is divided into four series: History and biography, Correspondence, Diaries, and Photographs.

The History and biography series dates from 1897 to 2000 and includes family history, a plat drawing of the Erickson farm, a history and maps of Swede Valley, tributes to the educational accomplishments of the family, and encomiums to Alma Erickson on her wedding, her 50th and 90th birthdays, and her death in 1985. Autobiographical sketches of Signe, Thor, and Greta Swanson complete the series.

The Correspondence series dates from 1939 to 1979 and includes letters from Alma, Carl, and Greta Swanson to Thor Swanson while he was at college, in the military, and teaching at various universities. They contain rich details about rural life in Ogden, Iowa, during World War II and the post-war years.

The Diaries series consists of diaries written by Alma Erickson Swanson in scattered years from 1903 until 1925 and annually from 1943 until 1972 (lacking 1970). Thor Swanson created a typescript of all these diaries, which follows the originals. A photocopy of a typescript of a 1919 diary of Carl W. Swanson completes the series. These diaries cover daily events in the life of a Swedish-American farm woman in central Iowa. The 1919 diaries of husband and wife offer contrasting perspectives. The 1949 diary concerns a trip through Ohio.

The Photographs series includes photographs of the Swanson family and other members of the community.


  • Creation: 1897-2000


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

Alma Erickson was born April 17, 1889 in Boone County, Iowa, to Britta and Halver Erickson of Swede Valley, Iowa. She was the youngest of eight children, five of whom survived to adulthood. She attended local schools and in 1914 went to Omaha to work as a seamstress and housemaid. While there, she lived at the Swedish Young Women's Association. After several months, she returned to Boone County to marry neighboring farmer Carl W. Swanson, in 1915.

Carl and Alma Swanson farmed in Marcy Township near Ogden, Iowa, where they raised three children, Signe, Thor, and Greta during the farm depression of the 1920s and 1930s. Each of their children worked to finance their college educations. Carl Swanson died in 1952 and twelve years later, Alma Swanson moved from their family farm into Ogden, Iowa, where she lived until her death in 1985.

Signe Swanson was born in 1917 and graduated from Ogden High School in 1934 at age sixteen. At age eighteen she began teaching country school. She attended the University of Texas at Austin, where her uncle Benjamin Swanson was on the faculty, graduating in 1943. She immediately entered the WAVES as an ensign and was stationed in Washington, D.C., for three years. In 1946, she entered Syracuse University under the G.I. Bill, earning a masters degree in Education in 1948. She worked as Dean of Women at various colleges until 1952 when she married Earl Leininger [See biographical folder for further information].

Thor Swanson was born in 1922 and graduated from the University of Iowa, receiving a B.A. in economics in 1943 and an M. A. in political science in 1947. He became an officer in the Navy in 1943, and returned to graduate school at Syracuse University, where he received a Ph.D. in 1953. He married Dorothy Neiman in 1950 and was appointed to the faculty at Washington State University, Pullman, Washington, in 1951 [See biographical folder for details of his extensive public and professional service].

Greta Swanson was born in 1924. She studied nutrition at Iowa State University, receiving a B.S. in 1946 and an M.A. from Texas Women's University in 1948, also in nutrition [See biographical folder for further information about her Iowa education].


12.50 linear inches

Language of Materials



Swedish farm woman whose three children became academics during the 1930s and 1940s.

Method of Acquisition

The papers (donor nos. 665 and 666) were donated by Thor Swanson and Greta Swanson Hamilton in 1999 and 2006. Additional papers (donor no. 686) were donated by Uta Hamilton in 2000.

Doris Malkmus, 2001; Janet Weaver, 2004 and 2006.
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Script of description
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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)