IOWA WOMEN’S ARCHIVES
UNIVERSITY OF IOWA LIBRARIES
IOWA CITY, IOWA
CHRISTINE DUTSON (1954- )
1.2 linear feet
The papers (donor no. 347) were donated by Christine Dutson in 1996.
The papers are open for research.
Copyright has been transferred to the University of Iowa. Copies of materials retained by Dutson family are available upon written request.
Bridgett Williams-Searle, 1999. [Dutson.doc] (revisions 2002)
Christine Brewington was born in Toledo, Ohio on April 29, 1954. She was the eldest of nine children raised by her mother, Laureen Kwart, and her mother’s husband, Robert Brewington. As a child, she moved frequently throughout California. She was painfully aware of her family’s poverty and her mother’s bouts with mental illness. She craved affection, attention, stability, and order – she found peace at school and as a member of the Roman Catholic church. She took joy in academic and creative pursuits and in dating, but yearned to be a nun. She became a novice in the Order of Carmelite Sisters of the Sacred Heart on October 3, 1972. In late 1974, she left before taking vows because she felt that “religious practices did not coincide with Biblical teachings.”
Once back home, Brewington began corresponding with a family friend, Army radio operator Eugene Lloyd Cheek. Within months, their friendship blossomed into love and they married on December 6, 1975 at La Puente, California. As an Army wife, Cheek soon found herself living on a military base in Germany. There, she gave birth to the couple’s first child, Craig, on November 3, 1976. The family moved back to the United States in 1978, settling in Missouri at Fort Leonard Wood. On May 8, 1978, Cheek gave birth to their second child, Carrie. In 1980, her husband returned to civilian life. The family moved to Fort Madison, Iowa in pursuit of better employment for Eugene Cheek and better educational and spiritual opportunities for the family as a whole.
Cut off from the support of family and friends, Cheek struggled with the dual challenges of motherhood and wifehood. She knew her income (as a dietary worker, then as a day care provider) was crucial to family survival, but she longed to stay home with her children and to get a college education. Moreover, although her family remained active in the local Catholic church, she felt that there was something missing in her faith life. During this time of readjustment and maturing, missionaries from the church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mormons) visited the Cheek household. She and her husband were baptized on July 17, 1982 and became active members of the church. Cheek’s faith sustained her through mounting debts, near-constant moves between Iowa and Illinois, the failure of business ventures, recurrent bouts of ill health, educational disappointments, and the worsening mental health of extended family members.
In the church, she found the support and perspective for which she’d longed. She gained the confidence to express herself creatively, publishing a number of poems and writing countless others. Despite numerous setbacks, Cheek also persevered and obtained a BS in Education from Western Illinois University in 1989. She became a teacher of the gifted and talented in southeastern Iowa, receiving professional recognition for her work. Equally importantly, she learned to take pride in the accomplishments of Mormon womanhood – she improved her homemaking, gardening, and food preservation skills, became an accomplished genealogist and craftsperson, worked as a visiting teacher, and celebrated her motherhood. She was also called to serve in several different capacities in her church. The death of her husband in 1990 was made bearable by the knowledge that, according to Mormon belief, their marriage was an eternal one; they would be reunited after death.
Cheek remarried on June 27, 1992, to Lorin LaMont Dutson; she has two step-children, Chantal and Christopher. She has one grandchild, Anne-Marie Sattler, daughter of Chantal Sattler. Although no longer teaching in the public school system, she still conducts educational workshops for her home organization business. She continues to keep a journal of reflections describing her daily affairs, her intellectual life, and her efforts at spiritual growth in these “latter days.”
Scope and Content Note
The Christine Dutson papers date from 1954 to 2000 and measure 1.2 linear feet. The papers are arranged in two series: Memoirs and Poetry.
The Memoirs series begins with an unpublished work, “Enlightened by Enrichment: Teaching Gifted Education in a Rural Iowa School District.” Dutson uses a combination of journal entries and topical essays to describe and critique the programs she implemented in various elementary schools in southeast Iowa between 1990-1995. This book-length essay offers a wealth of practical details about classroom activity units as well as many sobering insights into the structural and intellectual challenges facing the special-needs educator in the 1990s.
The series continues with an unpublished collection of short essays on assorted topics. Subjects include Dutson’s experiences learning to drive, learning Spanish, doing laundry, and grocery shopping with her mother. She also shares with readers her attitudes on luck and her most joyful and sorrowful experiences.
Dutson’s major unpublished memoir, “Time’s Chameleon,” offers a rare research opportunity; it is an unusually lengthy and detailed spiritual autobiography written by a woman of working-class origins. This intimate and moving multi-volume work begins with an unblinking memoir of childhood poverty and familial disorder. Later volumes examine changes in Dutson’s marriage, her work experiences, the family’s struggles with debt and depression, and a wealth of personal details about her relationships with her children, her parents, and her husband. Volumes after 1982 are in journal form, capturing Dutson’s immediate reactions to the events of her life. Richly evocative passages chronicle her emotions as she experiences the uncertainty of widowhood and the joys of new love. Dutson’s spiritual devotions, woven into the fabric of everyday domestic activities or undertaken during service to her church callings, grant historians a rare chance to observe the way in which religious faith empowered and shaped one woman’s life. Her journals also provide abundant evidence describing the roles and activities of LDS women in the church’s day-to-day operations. Researchers seeking information on the treatment of the mentally ill, the challenges of and changes in family life in the latter half of the twentieth century, the entrepreneurial activities of women, or classroom practice in the Iowa public school system also will be richly rewarded. Each volume contains photocopies of photographs and memorabilia germane to the writings therein.
Works in the Poetry series are arranged chronologically within topical groupings. Dutson has annotated these works, adding descriptive matter concerning their subjects or the circumstances of their composition.
Box no. Description
“Enlightened by Enrichment: Teaching Gifted Education in a Rural Iowa School District”
“Remembering: Assorted Topics”
“Time’s Chameleon, 1954-1998” [electronic disks are stored separately]
Volume I: Genesis, 1954-1974
Volume II: All of My Life, 1974-1975
Volume III: Jewels in Germany, 1976-1978
Volume IV: Musings in Missouri, 1978-1981
Volume V: Insights in Iowa, 1982-1984 (3 folders)
Volume VI: Inklings in Illinois, 1984-1985 (3 folders)
Volume VII: A Bend in the River, 1986-1987 (2 folders)
Volume VIII: A Bend in the River II, 1988-1989 (3 folders)
Volume IX: Bittersweet Blossoms, 1990-1991 (2 folders)
Volume X: Indian Summer, 1992 (2 folders)
Volume XI: Indian Summer II, 1993 (2 folders)
Volume XII: The Year the Lentils Died, 1994
Volume XIII: Stuck in Mississippi Mud, 1995 (3 folders)
Volume XIV: Acquiescent Loosening, 1996 (3 folders)
Volume XV: Pioneering, 1997 (3 folders)
Volume XVI: Expanding, 1998 (2 folders)
Volume XVII: Laying the Foundation, 1999 (2 folders)
Volume XVIII: Establishing Cornerstones, 2000
Volume XIX: Soul under Construction, 2001
Volume XX: Dedication Time, 2002
“Encounters: Published and Unpublished Poetry about People I’ve Met (1994-1998)”
“Homestead: Published and Unpublished Poetry about Family Relationships (1975-1998)”
“Indian Summer: Published and Unpublished Poetry about Loving Again After Widowhood (1991-1995)”
“Time’s Chameleon: Published and Unpublished Poetry about Self (1982-1996)”
“Timeless Realms: Published and Unpublished Poetry about Friendship (1991)”
Marketing materials and tools to use with clients
Newspaper columns (Fort Madison Daily Democrat), 1998-2000