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May Tangen papers

 Collection — Folder: 1
Identifier: IWA0895

Scope and Contents

The May Tangen papers date from 1961 to 1982 and measure one linear inch. They consist of annual Christmas letters written to friends along with notes written specifically to John and Joetta Stanley, who donated this collection.

In her annual Christmas letters, called the "Tangen Tribune," May Tangen discussed everything from her unsuccessful attempts to write a novel, to her time teaching Sunday school in Iowa. As the war in Vietnam progressed, Tangen wrote about her participation in peace vigils and her strong commitment to pacifism and civil rights. Initially, she thought she might go to Vietnam to teach but an "urgent need" for librarians at Rust College in Holly Springs, Mississippi changed her plans. While living in Holly Springs, Tangen attended NAACP meetings in the community and was active in the Asbury United Methodist Church, where she was a Big Sister to two children in the congregation. Tangen's letters from Holly Springs reflect her commitment to living in a racially integrated society. The collection contains one letter from Joetta and John Stanley, written in 1963.

The later letters concern her travels to Norway and England, and her subsequent life in Fort Dodge.

The collection contains one photograph of Tangen with her Sunday school class at St. Mark's Church in Iowa City in 1961. One folder of duplicate materials from the University of Iowa Archives concerns RILEEH Rust, Iowa, LeMoyne for Expanding Educational Horizons, a partnership between the University of Iowa and two historically black colleges formed in the early sixties. The University of Iowa Archives holds additional materials about RILEEH.


  • Creation: 1961-1982


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

May Tangen (1905-1983) worked as a librarian at the State University of Iowa (now the University of Iowa) for nineteen years beginning in the late 1940s. Upon her retirement from the University of Iowa in 1967, Tangen accepted a position at Rust College, a historically black college in Holly Springs, Mississippi with which the University of Iowa had an affiliation. There she became an active member in a local Methodist church with a predominantly African American congregation. She left her position at Rust in 1975 to travel in England and Norway, but returned to Mississippi after two and a half months. She moved back to Iowa in 1978 when she could not find a racially integrated retirement home near Holly Springs. She lived in Fort Dodge until her death in 1983.


1.00 linear inch

Language of Materials



University of Iowa librarian who moved to Mississippi during the Civil Rights Movement.


Three folders, shelved in SCVF.

Method of Acquisition

The papers (donor no. 1233) were donated by Joetta and John Stanley in 2010.

Related Materials

Lois Muehl Papers, IWA, Box 3: "Mississippi Comes to Iowa: Reaching out for Civil Rights in the Sixties," 2006.

Laurel Rhame, 2014.
Language of description
Script of description

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)