PAPERS, 1921-1992

11 linear inches

ACQUISITION: The papers (donor no. 135) were donated by Wilma Belden Collins in 1993 and subsequent years.

ACCESS: The papers are open for research.

COPYRIGHT: Copyright has been transferred to the University of Iowa.

PHOTOGRAPHS: In boxes 1 and 3.

PROCESSED BY: Robert J. Jett, 1994 and Randel W. Lackore, 1996.


         Wilma M. Belden, newspaper columnist and editor, was born on March 19, 1909 to Lillie Mae Thompson Belden and Dwight Moody Belden on a farm 1 1/2 miles east of Minburn, Iowa where her grandparents were pioneers in the 1800s. She attended Sugar Grove Country school through the seventh grade and graduated from Minburn High School in 1927. In December 1927, Wilma Belden married Dean Donald Collins of rural Dallas Center and moved to his grandparents' estate farm south of Stuart, Iowa. The couple raised two children: Virginia Lynn Collins Ruth (1932-1986) and Donald Christy Belden Collins (b. 1934). The death of Virginia Lynn Collins Ruth, at age fifty-four, had a profound effect on Collins. She was proud of her daughther's work as an artist and once said that Ruth accomplished more in fifty-four years than others did in a lifetime.

         The Great Depression of the late 1920s and 1930s caused one member of the Collins family to force their mother to sell the farm following the death of his father, relocating the couple temporarily to Collins' grandparents' home in Minburn. That same year they went into the trucking business. In 1942 the couple moved to Grimes, Iowa where several years previously they had established rights for the Grimes canning factory trucking business.

         Collins began her journalistic career working as a newspaper correspondent for Thorpe Publications Weekly from 1946 to 1947, and was the editor and columnist for Grimes News Supplement of the Dallas Center Times from 1947 until 1952. From 1952 until 1954 she was a staff member on the Iowan magazine, which premiered in 1952. She obtained her realtor's license in 1953 while attending Drake University in Des Moines from 1953-1954. After having worked for various realtor's in the Des Moines area, she formed Collins Real Estate in 1964. Her education continued at Des Moines Community College from 1962 to 1966.

         In 1970 Collins organized the Women's Council of Greater Des Moines Board of Realtors and served as president from 1972 to 1973. She was appointed by Governor Robert D. Ray to the Terrace Hill Commission of Des Moines in 1972, restoring the century-old mansion for the governor's residence and served as director until 1980. She was the fourth person to receive the Medal of Freedom from the Republicans in the Iowa Senate in 1994. Previous recipients have been former President Ronald Reagan, Lady Margaret Thatcher, and Charlton Heston.

         Collins was active in many organizations, including: the Polk County Red Cross, earning the coveted ten-year pin and certificate of service; the American Soroptimist Club; the Iowa Press Women's Association; Iowa Press Women, Inc.; National Federation of Press Women, Inc.; Women's Council, Greater Des Moines Board of Realtors; Iowa Association of Realtors; and National Association of Realtors. She was one of the organizers of the Iowa United Nations and served for many years on the public relations committee.

Scope and Content Note

         The Wilma Belden Collins papers date from 1921 to 1992 and measure 11 linear inches. The papers are divided into seven series: Biographical material, Certificates and awards, Correspondence, Newspaper clippings, Scrapbooks, Photographs and Ruth, Virginia Lynn Collins (daughter). The seventh series was added to the collection in 1996. The bulk of the material is related to Collins' work as a newspaper editor and columnist.

         The first series, Biographical material, (1974 and undated) consists of a narrative sketch of Wilma Belden Collins, two lists relating to her employment, membership in organizations and a copy of her entries in The World Who's Who of Women and The International Register of Profiles.

         Certificates and awards (1946-1947 and undated) include recognition for journalistic endeavors as well as for work in various organizations.

         Correspondence (1950-1992 and undated) is mostly congratulatory, including a letter from Mrs. Franklin D. Roosevelt for Collins' work as a correspondent for the Grimes News and Dallas Center Times Weekly in 1951.

         Newspaper clippings (1947-1983) consists of newspaper articles written by or about Collins and the premier issue of The Iowan magazine.

         Two Scrapbooks (1921-1951) form the bulk of the collection. The first is made up of a scrapbook compiled by Wilma Belden Collins while she was a student at Minburn High School from 1924 to 1926. Included are many photographs. The second is an oversize scrapbook consisting primarily of the newspaper column "It's...YOUR TOWN, TOO!," written by Collins for the Grimes News from 1946 to 1952.

         Photographs (1940s-1985 and undated) are arranged chronologically and divided primarily by the organizations to which Collins belonged. Also included is a publicity folder, consisting of stills of Collins; a family folder with photographs of Collin's family; and a miscellaneous folder, which includes photographs of Governor Terry Brandstad, Ralph Nader, Mary Pickford, White House Press Correspondent Helen Thomas, and Margaret Truman.

         The Ruth, Virginia Lynn Collins series (1961-1984) consists of Ruth's artwork as collected by her mother, Wilma Belden Collins. Most of the artwork are prints of Ruth's pen and ink drawings of buildings in her suburban community of Hinsdale, Illinois. The series also contains papers from Ruth's involvement in the local art council and its efforts to save a historical dormitory in Hinsdale as a community art center.

Related Collections

Iowa Press Women records

         This collection contains documents of the National Federation of Press Women conventions attended by Wilma Belden Collins. See Box 6, National Federation of Press Women, Inc., Conventions, 1940-1951.

Box no. Description

Box 1
                       Biographical material, 1974 and undated
                      Certificates and awards, 1946-1947 and undated
                       Correspondence, 1950-1951, 1980, 1992 and undated
                       Newspaper clippings
                               General, 1947-1983
                               The Iowan, 1952-1953
                               1921-1926, Minburn High School
                               1946-1951, Grimes News [oversize: in box 2]
                               National Federation of Press Women, 1940s-1950 and undated
                               Publicity, 1940s and undated
                               Family, 1947, 1950, 1952, 1980, 1985 and undated
                               Press Columnists of Iowa, 1947 and undated
                               Polk County Red Cross, 1948
                               Grimes News Supplement, Dallas Center Times, 1949
                               Iowa Press Women, 1950 and undated
                               American Soroptimist Clubs, 1951
                               Iowa Women's Council, Iowa Association of Realtors, 1969
                               Iowa Press Women's Association, undated
                                     Folder 1, 1953, 1963 and undated
                                     Folders 2,1971 [oversize: in box 3]
Box 2
                       Ruth, Virginia Lynn Collins (daughter)
                               Art work
                                           Birthday/Father's Day, undated
                                           Christmas, 1961 and undated
                                     Pen and ink drawings
                                           Abstract, undated
                                           Prints, undated [shelved in map case: drawer 6]
                                           Hinsdale scholarship home tour and luncheon programs,
                                     Work history, 1984
                               Hinsdale Cultural Arts Council
                                     Katherine Legge Memorial Park Dormitory ad hoc committee
                                                       report, 1979
                                     Newsletters, 1980-1981
                                     Newspaper clippings, 1978, 1980-1984
Box 3
                               1946-1951, Grimes News
                                     Folder 2, 1971