The University of Iowa

Kären M. Mason

Adjunct Assistant Professor
Curator, Iowa Women’s Archives, University of Iowa Libraries

Kären M. Mason is Curator of the Louise Noun--Mary Louise Smith Iowa Women's Archives at the University of Iowa Libraries, a position she has held since the establishment of the Archives in 1992.  She earned a bachelor’s degree from Bryn Mawr College, a master’s degree in history from the University of Minnesota, and, in 1991, a PhD in American history with a cognate in archival administration from the University of Michigan. Her dissertation was entitled “Testing the Boundaries: Women, Politics, and Gender Roles in Chicago, 1880-1930.”

Kären is a native Minnesotan but claims Iowa roots by way of three grandparents who grew up in Iowa before heading north.  Before coming to the University of Iowa, she was an archivist at the Bentley Historical Library at the University of Michigan.  Her involvement with women’s history dates to the late 1970s, when she worked on the pathbreaking Women’s History Sources survey at the University of Minnesota and co-authored a Women's History Tour of the Twin Cities.  She is the author or co-author of several articles on women’s history and on women’s archives, and is currently writing about the Women’s History Sources survey.   With University Archivist David McCartney, she curated an online exhibit entitled “LGBT Life in Iowa City, Iowa: 1967-2010″ which won honorable mention in an OutHistory.org competition in 2010.

The Iowa Women’s Archives opened in October 1992 with a modest but rich set of collections on the women’s movement and on women in politics originally acquired by Bob McCown for the Special Collections Department.  Since that time, Kären has worked to acquire collections that document the broad range of activities of Iowa women.  She has been particularly concerned with building collections that reflect the history of groups that tend to be underrepresented in archives.  To that end she has overseen projects to preserve the history of Iowa’s African-American women, rural women, and Latinas.   The collections of the Archives have provided rich resources for students, faculty, and the general public, and are the basis for digital collections on a variety of topics including girls’ and women’s sports, women artists, the suffrage movement in Iowa, and African American women students at the University of Iowa.