RECORDS, 1898-1988

(bulk 1898-1973)

5 linear inches


ACQUISITION: The records (donor no. 176) were donated by the Daughters of Ceres in 1993.

ACCESS: The records are open for research.

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


PROCESSED BY: Tammy Lau, 1994. [DaughtersofCeres.doc]



          The Daughters of Ceres, named for the Roman goddess of agriculture, is a statewide social and benevolent club comprised of farm women. On May 19, 1898, the Walnut Chapter was formed at the home of Mrs. Martin Flynn (the chapter's first vice-president) at what is now part of the Living History Farms in Des Moines. The women took turns hosting biweekly meetings in their homes where they discussed upcoming activities and charitable projects, enjoyed luncheons and socialized. Though living on isolated farms, these women did not allow snow nor rain nor heat to deter them from attending meetings for "the club meetings fulfilled a need for spiritual and social stimulation away from the everyday household tasks" (Box 1, Webster Chapter, Anniversaries, Ninetieth Anniversary, Introductory speech). More than just a means of social outlet for these women, however, the club also served as an important source of cohesion for the community. For example, the members helped to integrate newcomers into the community (including the wives of tenant farmers) and assisted needy families and underprivileged children with food and clothing.

         By the early 1920s, the Daughters of Ceres had expanded into two chapters: Walnut and West End. The Walnut Chapter seems to have become defunct by 1921. Meanwhile, the West End Chapter flourished and persevered through the years, changing its name to the Webster Chapter by 1921. The Daughters of Ceres continues on today, a testament to their "foremothers, those Pioneer women who were so dedicated, strong of spirit, hard working, and loving neighbors, always ready with a helping hand, whenever needed" (Box 1, Webster Chapter, Anniversaries, Ninetieth Anniversary, Introductory speech).

Scope and Content Note

         The Daughters of Ceres records measure 5 linear inches and date from 1898 to 1988. They are arranged in three series: Walnut Chapter, Webster Chapter and Miscellaneous. The records document the activities and concerns of this social and charitable club from the turn of the century to the 1970s. Moreover, they illuminate the social and emotional bonds that tied this group of women together throughout the years.

           The Walnut Chapter records (1898-1923) consist of an annual program of activities for 1922 to 1923 and two secretary's books (minutes) for 1898 to 1921, with some overlap. The 1898-1921 book contains accounts of dues paid and other club expenses for 1898 to 1914.

           The Webster Chapter records (1920-1988) are much more extensive, including four constitutions from different time periods, an almost complete set of secretary's books spanning the years 1920 to 1973, and a ninetieth anniversary memory book with a history of the Webster Chapter and personal reminiscences of members and their families.

           The Miscellaneous series (1971, 1978-1979) includes a reprint from the Annals of Iowa about the history of the Martin Flynn Farm from 1845 to 1970. In addition, there is a Polk County Federation of Women's Clubs handbook for 1978 to 1979. The Daughters of Ceres was a member of the Federation and some Daughters served as president over the years.

Related Collections

Lucy Van Voorhis White papers

         This collection contains a letter written by Harriet Wallace Ashby White on December 1, 1911, inviting her to join the Daughters of Ceres. Enclosed with the letter is one Daughter of Ceres chapter's constitution. See Box 1; Correspondence; Incoming; Ashby, Harriet Wallace , 1911-1923.

Box no. Description

Box 1
                       Walnut Chapters
                             Annual program, 1922-1923
                               Secretary's books (minutes)
                                   1898-1906 [original closed; photocopy available for research]
                                   1899-1921 (includes financial reports, 1899-1919)
                       Webster Chapters
                               Constitutions [removed from secretary's books]
                               Secretary's books (minutes)
                                 50th Anniversary [1948]
                                         Draft invitation and guest list
                                 75th Anniversary [1973]
                                 90th Anniversary [1988]
                                         Introductory speech
                                         Anniversary memory book
                                               Original (incomplete) with silk-screened photographs, 1988
                                               Photocopy, 1988
                               Annual programs, 1947-1950, 1954-1960
                               Correspondence, 1927, 1961, undated
                               List of dues paid, 1945-1960
                               Newspaper clippings, 1948-1949, 1973
                               Photograph, undated
                               "The Martin Flynn Farm: From Public Land in 1845 to Living History Farms in                                           1970," Annals of Iowa (1971)
                               Polk County Federation of Women's Clubs handbook, 1978-1979