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Bertha Korn Tucker papers

Identifier: IWA0434

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Scope and Contents

The Bertha Korn Tucker papers date from 1920 to 1999 and measure 2 linear feet. The papers are arranged in five series: Personal life, Creative writing, Academic papers, Writings and translations in Yiddish, and Jewish-theme writings.

The Personal life series (1971-1991) primarily contains correspondence from family and friends. Most of the letters and postcards come from her daughter, Janey Tucker, from college and while abroad in Europe and Israel. The series contains photographs from all stages of Bertha Tucker's life (1913-1999). Personal mementos of important life events, such as her college graduation and son Yale's bar mitzvah are included. Tow issues of the Olwein High School yearbook (1927-28) are also included in this series.

Tucker's interest in writing began in elementary school. The Creative writing series (1924-1970 and undated) contains short stories written in English. A few poems and plays are included. She has written short stories throughout varies stages of her life: elementary and high school, college, career, parenthood, and retirement. Always a perfectionist, Tucker completed several drafts of each of her stories, many of which are included. As a result, it is difficult to assess the precise year in which she wrote each piece. With the help of her niece, Ethel Pollack (neé Jacobson), Tucker adopted the pen name of "Byrt" because it was more creative than "Bertha."

Education was always a priority for Tucker and she was a gifted student. She received her Certificate in Education from Drake University in 1928 and returned to Drake in 1960. After completing her bachelor's degree in 1969, she continued to take courses until approximately 1982. The Academic papers series (1960-1974 and undated) contains primarily papers for her English literature classes.

Tucker has been active in her Yiddish class at the Beth El Jacob synagogue in Des Moines from approximately 1951-1999. The Writings and translations in Yiddish series contains translations from English to Yiddish done by Tucker for her class. An original short story (undated) written in Yiddish is included.

Jewish culture and history have always been important to Tucker. The Jewish-themed writings series reflects her passion for her heritage. This series contains short stories written in English (1926 and undated) and academic papers (1972 and undated).


  • Creation: 1920-1999


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

Bertha Korn Tucker was a writer and life-long student who lived in Iowa for most of her life. Bertha Ida Korn was born in Des Moines, Iowa on April 25, 1908. She was the youngest of five children born to Shana Ethel Hoffman and Samuel Koen, who had emigrated from Lithuania just a few years before her birth. Growing up in the "Jewish ghetto" of Des Moines, she faced a great deal of prejudice. She graduated from North High School in 1926 and completed her two-year Certificate in Education from Drake University in Des Moines two years later. She held a variety of jobs including kindergarten teacher, typist, and secretary.

In 1937, she married Isadore Tucker, an Oelwein businessman in the automobile salvage industry. After living briefly in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Washington, D.C., and Petersburg, Virginia, she settled back in her hometown with her family. Tucker had two children and was a devoted parent, grandparent, and great-grandparent. She was involved in the Sisterhood (Jewish aid society) at the Beth El Jacob synagogue in Des Moines and served as program director for Hadassah, a national organization which aids disadvantaged Jews, primarily children. She was also an active member of the Yiddish class at Bethel Jacob, for which she translated dozens of songs, poems, and short stories. Tucker was deeply committed to Jewish culture and history.

Tucker re-enrolled at Drake University and was awarded a bachelor's degree in Liberal Arts with an emphasis on English, in 1969. She continued to take courses at Drake over ten years after her graduation, well into her seventies. Since elementary school, her true love was been writing. Over the years, she amassed an impressive body of work, having composed over forty short stories and poems in both English and Yiddish. Tucker died in 2010.


2.00 Linear Feet

3 reel-to-reel audiotapes, Photographs in Box 1 boxes

Language of Materials



Writer and life-long student who was active in the Sisterhood (Jewish aid society) at the Beth El Jacob Synagogue in Des Moines and Hadassah, a national organization aiding disadvantaged Jews, primarily children.

Method of Acquisition

The papers (donor no. 637) were donated by Bertha Korn Tucker in 1999.

Susan J. Demas and Michael S. Demas, 1999; Robert J. Jett, 1999.
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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)