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From the Director

Everyone is aware of the impending closure of Younkers, the 162-year-old Iowa institution.  Its demise is indicative of our changing retail habits as we now often opt for the convenience of online shopping.  But it also represents another loss of our Iowa heritage.   Most Iowans have fond memories of the store.   For me, a native southern Californian, Younkers was the place I bought my first winter coat and my wedding suit.

But beyond nostalgia, Younkers played an important role in our state’s history, and we should not let its story fade away.  There is only one book on the subject, Vicki Ingham’s Younkers: The Friendly Store (2016), which is an interesting and fun read, but much more needs to be said of this Iowa retailer, from its 1856 origins as a dry goods store in Keokuk to its closing this summer.

On a different note, please mark your calendars and save September 27.  That evening, we’ll be hosting Iowa Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark Cady and University of Iowa law professor Todd Pettys, who will be discussing the Iowa Constitution, its origins, and landmark supreme court cases that have shaped our state’s history.  Michael Gartner, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, lawyer, and businessman will moderate the program.  Details will be coming soon.

Speaker Series: Tom Milligan

In March, the Iowa History Center hosted Tom Milligan who portrayed the Des Moines Register’s Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial cartoonist and conservationist Ding Darling in his one-act play, “The Art of Conservation: A Visit with Ding Darling.”

After the performance, Milligan answered questions about Darling's career and conservation efforts.  He also provided insight into his own career as an actor and writer.

Speaker Series: Connie Mutel

In February, ecologist Cornelia Mutel visited campus to meet with students and give a presentation on Iowa’s natural history and environmental challenges. She is Senior Science Writer at IIHR–Hydroscience & Engineering at the University of Iowa College of Engineering. Her most recent book, A Sugar Creek Chronicle: Observing Climate Change from a Midwestern Woodland (2016), combines personal observations with scientific data to explain how climate change is impacting our Iowa landscape. The event was cosponsored by the Simpson Sustainability Club.

Iowa and the Midwest Experience Book Series

Two more books were recently published in the Iowa and Midwest Experience book series, which director Bill Friedricks edits for the University of Iowa Press.

You may remember the name Jon Lauck.  He published his well-received The Lost Region: Toward a Revival of Midwestern History (2013) in our book series.  Now he offers an additional view of the Midwest, highlighting the region’s rich culture, history, and literature before it was eclipsed by the urban and coastal areas after World War II.  From Warm Center to Ragged Edge: The Erosion of Midwestern Literary and Historical Regionalism (2017) is another interesting and provocative study. 

In Woman Suffrage and Citizenship in the Midwest (2018), Sara Egge recounts the grassroots origins and development of the suffrage movement in small Midwestern communities from 1870 to 1920.  Some of you might recall Sara Egge’s name; she received our first award for the outstanding master’s thesis in Iowa history back in 2009.

Iowa Jeopardy

In February, six teams participated in the 2018 Iowa Jeopardy game show hosted by the Center's Distinguished Scholars. The night was filled with Iowa history, trivia, popcorn, and prizes.