Iowa Women's Archives
University of Iowa Libraries
Iowa City, Iowa



PAPERS, 1935-2004
1.6 linear feet


Iowa Women's Archives
100 Main Library
University of Iowa Libraries
Iowa City, Iowa 52242

Phone: 319-335-5068
Fax: 319-335-5900
E-mail the Iowa Women's Archives

Please cite materials from this collection as follows:
Leola Bergman Papers, Iowa Women's Archives, University of Iowa Libraries, Iowa City, Iowa.


Collection Overview

The papers (donor no. 168 and 329) were donated by Leola Bergmann in 1950, 2002, and 2005. .
The papers are open for research.
Copyright held by the donor has been transferred to The University of Iowa.
One videocassette shelved in the videocassette collection (V281).
In Box 4 .
Processed by:

Jun-Nicole Matsushita, 2005. [BergmannLeola.doc]




Scholar, writer, and artist, Leola Nelson Bergmann was born in 1912 in South Dakota. She grew up in small Midwestern towns settled largely by Scandinavians. As a high school student Leola Nelson was very involved in music, a passion she pursued as an English student at St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota, where she was chosen to sing for the renowned St. Olaf Choir under founder and director F. Melius Christiansen. After completing her bachelor’s degree at St. Olaf College, Nelson continued her graduate work at the State University of Iowa (now the University of Iowa) with a master’s degree in English in 1939 and a PhD in 1942. She was the first student at the University of Iowa to receive a doctorate in American Civilization.

In 1943 Leola Nelson married Dr. Gustav Bergmann, a mathematician who had fled Vienna, Austria in 1938. Gustav Bergmann was a professor of Philosophy and Psychology at the University of Iowa from 1941 to 1974. Gustav Bergman died in 1987. The couple raised one daughter, Hanna.

Bergmann’s writing career of the 1940s and 1950s began with her dissertation Music Master of the Middle West: The Story of F. Melius Christiansen and the St. Olaf Choir, which was later published in 1944. Additional works were Americans from Norway, published in 1950, an article in the Iowa Journal of History and Politics, “The Negro in Iowa,” and an invitation by the State Historical Society of Iowa to write the forward for the book Outside In: African-American History in Iowa, 1838-2000.

Bergmann shifted her attention to art in the early 1960s. She began her new passion with drawing and painting classes at the University of Iowa School of Art and Art History, and eventually took up printmaking. Under the guidance of her professors, Bergmann developed a unique monoprinting process. Her work has been heralded and displayed at art galleries throughout Iowa.

Scope and Content Note

The Leola Bergmann » papers date from 1935 to 2004 and measure 1.6 linear feet. The papers are arranged in five series: Family history, Education, Publications, Art, and Photographs.

The program for the memorial service for Gustav Bergmann and a 21 minute biographical video, Leola at 85, are included in the Family History (1983-2004) series.

The Education series (1935-2004)contains two St. Olaf College yearbooks, St. Olaf Choir newspaper clippings and publications, and the St. Olaf College class of 1937 golden anniversary reunion booklet. Included from the University of Iowa are a Department of English newsletter and transcripts.

The Publications series (1942-1978)consists of Bergmann’s published works. Included are manuscript drafts with revisions and editorial comments, reviews, newspaper clippings, and correspondence with publishers for her two books, Music Master of the Middle West and Americans from Norway. The typescript drafts of Americans from Norway were previously housed in Special Collections. Bergmann’s genealogy of the Ibsen family is part of her work on Norwegian immigrants to the United States. “The Negro in Iowa,” with reviews and a fan letter to Bergmann completes this series.

The Art series (1986-2003) is comprised of exhibit reviews, newspaper clippings, a journal article featuring self-portraiture in photography and one print.

The Photographs series (1936-1994) contains photos of the St. Olaf Choir, the choir director F. Melius Christianson, and of Leola Bergmann. Research photos and negatives of the Ibsen family include the gravestone of Nicolai Ibsen and a family portrait originally set in tintype. Bergmann’s art pieces are featured in twenty three retrospective slides, identified photographs of Bergmann at work in print workshops and her standing next to framed prints, including a portrait at the May Brodbeck Library dedication.

Related Collections

 The papers of Gustav Bergmann are located in the University of Iowa Archives.

The papers of Louis Adamic, which contain correspondence with Bergmann are located in the University of Iowa Archives.

A letter from Harry S. Truman to Gustav and Leola Bergmann is located in the University of Iowa Archives

Box List

Box 1                        
  Family History                
    Leola at 85, 1999 (V 281)
Gustav Bergmann Remembrance, 1987
May Brodbeck Memorial and Estate Matters, 1983-1988
Erwin Tegtmeier, 1994-2004
    University of Iowa Library Catalog, 2004      
    St. Olaf College    
      Yearbook, 1935-1936 (2 folders)
St. Olaf Choir, 1945-1986
Reunion, 1987
    University of Iowa        
      1997-2002, undated
Willard L. Boyd, “Never Too Brief: Commencement Remarks,” 2004
    Music Master of the Middle West, 1968    
      F. Melius Christiansen Dissertation with Editor’s Notes, 1942    
Box 2                        
      Reviews and newspaper clippings, 1942-1950, undated
Correspondence with publishers, 1944-1968
Music Master of the Middle West: The Story of F. Melius Christiansen and the St. Olaf Choir, 1968
    Americans from Norway, 1950            
      Correspondence with Publishers, 1944-1978
Reviews and Newspaper Clippings, 1950-1952
Palimpsest, 1956, 1959
Ibsen Family History
        Research Correspondence, 1957-1959
      Immigration in American History, 1960
Michigan History, 1961
First Typescript Draft- with Revisions (folder 1 of 3)
Box 3                        
      First Typescript Draft- with Revisions (folders 2-3 of 3)
First Typescript Draft- with Revisions (3 folders)
Second Typscrift Draft- with Revisions (2 folders)
Printer’s Copy- Carbon (2 folders)
Box 4                        
    “The Negro in Iowa,” 1948          
    Cathedral Prints, 1991
Exhibits, 1986, 1989, 2003
Portrait of Hanna Bergmann Weston, 1973
Portrait of May Brodbeck, 1983
Venice- Scola Internationale di Grafica, 1997
“Reflections of Self-Portraiture in Photography,” 1999
    St. Olaf Choir, 1936, undated
Ibsen Family History, 1957, undated
Leola (Nelson) Bergmann, 1937-2001
Art Prints and Studio Action, 1986-1996
Slides: 1-23 Retrospective, 1994; May Brodbeck Library Dedication, 1988


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