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Betty Coxson papers

Identifier: IWA01212

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Scope and Contents

The Betty Coxson papers date from 1924 to 2011 and measure 1.5 linear feet. (4 boxes) The collection is arranged in four series: Biographical, Writings, Africa, and China.

The Biographical series (1943-2012) consists of a Coxson Family Tree, last updated in 2012, and a brief history of the family. Both were created by an aunt Jenny Moore. Also included is Time Was Too Short – Life with my Father Emmett Coxson by Gregory Coxson, a memoir about Coxson’s brother. A commemorative pamphlet titled “Faith Family Album” from her church in California is included. This series also contains a 2001 photograph of Coxson next to the submarine CSS Hunley, as well as a newspaper article discussing its discovery, and photographs of Coxson touring Frank Lloyd Wright houses in 2010.

The Writings series (1924-2011) comprises various writings and compilations by Coxson. It includes Her Loving Caveman, a memoir of Coxson’s father and brother; Fact and Fancy, a compilation of Coxson’s newspaper features; My Brief Stint as a Foreign Correspondent, which includes Coxson’s journal and articles from when she was in Europe; Dinosaurs in My Attic, a series of letters written to and from Coxson; It’s a Great Life if You Don’t Weaken, a collection of memories about her mother Alma Coxson; and Our Family and Other Animals, Part IV, a compilation of stories about family pets. Truth on Trial, a playscript about the 1733 trial of John Peter Zenger, adapted by Coxson for middle school history students, completes the series. The materials about the trial include Coxson’s introductory notebook on Zenger and Andrew Hamilton and correspondence relating to her effort to have a stamp made commemorating their early advocacy for freedom of the press.

The Peace Corps series (1960-2003) comprises Coxson’s experiences in Nigeria and Uganda. It contains photographs from her time in the Peace Corps, keepsakes that she brought home such as a poplar game called Omweso, and her documentation of her teaching positions. Between 1963 and 1965, she served with the Peace Corps in Nigeria and materials in these folders include the book Eminent Nigerians of the Nineteenth Century, a 1963 syllabus for the Peace Corps Training Program, and Nigerian newspapers from 1963 to 1965 covering the assassination of John F. Kennedy, celebrations of Nigeria’s fourth and fifth-year anniversaries of independence, the dedication of the school library to Coxson, her letters to family and friends during her time there, and a traditional Nigerian outfit she had made while teaching there. The rest of the series relates to Coxson’s work in Uganda at the Lady Irene Teacher Training College (located 25 miles from Kampala) between 1966 and 1970 and her ongoing correspondence with friends and acquaintances in Uganda. Materials include a journal written by the principal of the Lady Irene College about the April 1979 invasion of the school by the army of Uganda dictator Idi Amin. The principal wrote, “They made us do some exercises, jumping, running, rolling on the ground, stripping off clothes etc. . . . They asked some individuals their tribes but whatever tribe one mentioned, he or she was beaten for belonging to that tribe.”

The Education Exchange Services series (1980-2003) comprises materials relating to Coxson’s work with Education Exchange Services in China. It covers the students she taught, and the notebooks she compiled about the places she visited. These notebooks include publications given to Coxson by students who worked in these occupational sectors: East China Architectural Design Institute, Shanghai Caohejing Hi-Tech Park, and Shanghai Power Construction; a class photo, list of students names. Publications preserved by Coxson include an account of the 1989 Tiananmen Square protest in Beijing, and a visual history of the Cultural Revolution that swept China between 1969 and 1979. These publications are shelved in the printed works collection.


  • Creation: 1924 - 2011


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.

Biographical / Historical

Betty Coxson, an early Peace Corps member, teacher, and writer, was born in 1926 to Emmett and Alma Coxson. She attended Luther College in Decorah, Iowa, graduating in 1951. The next year, she went to the first post-war convention of the Lutheran World Federation in Hannover, Germany and sent back articles to her hometown newspaper, the Garfieldian, while in Europe.

In 1963, Coxson joined the Peace Corps. She served in Nigeria from 1964 to 1966 at the St. Andrew’s Secondary Commercial School, which named its library after Coxson in 1965. From 1966 to 1970, Coxson taught at the Lady Irene Teacher Training College in Uganda under the Agency for International Development. After returning from Africa, she taught English and journalism at Ranchos Alamitos High School in California until 1984; the next twelve years she taught as a part-time faculty member at a local community college in Garden Grove California.

During the summers of 1990 and 1993, Coxson served as an English teacher in China through the Educational Services Exchange with China (ESEC), which was headquartered in Pasadena, California. Her students were working professionals who enrolled in classes to improve their English skills. In 2000, Coxson moved from California to Buffalo Center, Iowa, where she began compiling family history and writing her memoirs.


1.5 Linear Feet

Language of Materials



Writer, early Peace Corps member, and teacher who taught in Africa and China.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The papers (donor no. 1338) were donated by Betty Coxson in 2014 and subsequent years.

Rachel A. Black, 2015; Janet Weaver, 2017-2019; Avery Porter, 2021.
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)