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Martha Havlic papers

Identifier: IWA1285

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Scope and Contents

The Martha Havlic papers date from 1914 to 2014 and measure 7.25 linear inches in 2 boxes. The papers are arranged in three series: Biographical, Writings, and Images.

The Biographical series (1914-2014) contains newspaper clippings and Havlic’s obituary, as well as family histories and official records including Havlic and her father’s birth certificates.

Havlic spent time writing down poetry and music lyrics on scraps of paper. In the Writing series (1988-2014), those materials can be found in addition to correspondence and two different newsletters to which Havlic subscribed and contributed.

The Images series (1921-2000) is made up of photographs and slides from Havlic’s childhood and adulthood, including images of her mother, friends, and time in California.


  • Creation: 1914 - 2014


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

Martha Havlic was born in 1942 in Chicago, Illinois, to Martha Sittler Havlic and Frank Charles Havlic. Both her parents were Czech, her mother immigrated to the United States before she met Martha’s father. Havlic’s mother passed away when she was just four. Havlic would spend most of her childhood in Chicago, participating in Girl Scouts, school gymnastics, and playing both the accordion and trumpet in the school band. She then moved to Iowa City and attended the University of Iowa, studying Physical Education until 1962.

An automobile accident in January 1962 caused a spinal cord injury. Havlic was paralyzed from the waist down. It was after this accident that Havlic also came out to her friends as a lesbian. Embracing her identity as a lesbian and disabled person, Havlic became increasingly involved in the lesbian-feminist community in Iowa City. She became a strong advocate for LGBTQ and disabilities rights. She was especially vocal on the establishment of safe and accessible spaces for members of queer and disabled communities.

In 1982, Havlic moved cross-country to California with her trailer and dog. There, she enjoyed writing poetry, playing traditional Czech music, and spending time outdoors. She advocated for the creation of more available outdoor spaces for folks with disabilities. In the late 1980s and 1990s, she became a mailer for the Californian newsletter, The “L” Word, which offers space for lesbian writers and lesbian-owned businesses to share their stories and events with local lesbian communities. In the May 2013 issue of The “L” Word, Martha Havlic is described as a “dog lover, poker player, wheelchair explorer, L-word mailer, and a good friend to many.”

Later in life, Havlic relied on the support of close friendships and lesbian communities. In 2007, she became increasingly ill and took residence in a care facility. She died in 2013 in California.


7.25 linear inches (Photos in Boxes 1 and 2; Slides removed to Slides Box 13)

Language of Materials



Lesbian and disabilities activist from Chicago, Illinois.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The papers (donor no. 1660) were donated by Sue Hilton in 2021.

Martha Havlic papers
Emma Barton-Norris, 2022.
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)