PAPERS, 1956-1997

3.35 linear feetDATES:»»




The »papers (donor no. 264) were donated by Lois and Don Laughlin in 1999».


The »papers are open for research.


»Copyright held by the donors has been transferred to the University of Iowa.


In Box »8


Lori Muntz, 2000. [LaughlinRuth.doc]


Ruth Laughlin, an advocate for social justice, was born on July 25, 1954, in Iowa City, Iowa. Laughlin attended public elementary schools and attended high school at the  Scattergood Friends School in West Branch, Iowa, from which she graduated in 1972.  As a young adult,  Laughlin worked as an apple-picker with the Young Friends of North America and was a member of Amnesty International. Laughlin moved to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in the fall of 1978.  In the summer of 1983 Laughlin married Ben Kazina, an African immigrant.  Kazina returned to Africa and was killed in a café bombing approximately three years after their marriage.


Laughlin completed her undergraduate education in 1984 by earning a B.A. summa cum laude in urban studies from Temple University. While in Philadelphia, Laughlin also devoted her time and intellect to many advocacy projects: she lived in  cooperative housing sponsored by the Movement for a New Society (MNS), contributed to and helped produce the COMMUNITY activist newsletter, and was employed by the Quaker publication Friends Journal.   Laughlin also participated in organizations such as the Coalition on the Utility Crisis and the Workers’ Rights Law Project.  Laughlin crafted a diverse advocacy that included resistance to class-, gender-, and race-based oppressions and participation in anti-nuclear organizations and the peace movement.  Ruth Laughlin was raped and murdered in her apartment in Philadelphia on May 29, 1986.

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Scope and Content Note


Begin text here:The Ruth Laughlin» papers date from » 1956? to 1997 and measure» 3.35 linear feet.  The »papers »are arranged in »thirteen series: Personal Documents, Education, Religion, Personal Correspondence, COMMUNITY, Financial Accounts, Employment, Diaries, Death, Tafataono P. Mahoso, Political and religious essays and articles, Poetry, and Photographs.  As Ruth’s mother Lois Laughlin writes in the Introduction to the Diaries, the material  in this collection tells “the feelings of a young woman of the turbulent mid-years of th[e] twentieth century when the Vietnam war, the civil rights movement, and the feminist movement had massive impact on the behavior and attitudes of just about everybody and every institution” of American society.


            The Personal Documents (1965-1985) include Laughlin’s passport, birth certificate, eye donation card, and 1981 calendar.


            The Education series (1960-1985) includes grade reports, teacher assessments of Laughlin, and Laughlin’s poetry and other writings.  Laughlin’s concern with and efforts to attain the ideal feminine body are evidenced in the earliest writings of this series.  Also included in the Education series are Laughlin’s college notes and writings concerning her formal study of Marxism and her creative writing.


            The Religion series (1964-1982) concerns primarily the Young Friends of North America.  This material demonstrates Laughlin’s  growing network of friends, some of whom she met while working with the apple picking crews in Ohio.  The correspondence reflects Laughlin’s desire and attempts to establish intimate relationships.


The Personal Correspondence series (1971-1986) includes four subseries: Family, Friends, Life Center and Movement for a New Society, and Political Action.  The correspondence for the Family series is arranged chronologically by Incoming and Outgoing categories.  The Friends series is arranged alphabetically by friend, with incoming and outgoing correspondence together in the same folder.   Of particular interest may be Laughlin’s correspondence with friends Brigitta Jecko and Thilo Weichert, whose communications discuss the international peace and anti-nuclear movements.  George Clayton was a prison inmate with whom Laughlin corresponded. Throughout the Family and Friends subseries Laughlin’s interest in social justice and her attempts to set and achieve personal goals in terms of education, personal relationships, and self-awareness are all evidenced.   Together with the material in the  Diaries series, Laughlin’s correspondence indicates her constant introspection concerning her need to establish a value system.  Laughlin cohabited with Tafataona P. Mahoso, and their correspondence is included within the Friends subseries; Mahoso’s correspondence with Laughlin’s mother Lois subsequent to Laughlin’s murder is held in the Death series. Laughlin was briefly married to Ben Kazina, an African immigrant; his cards to her are included in the Friends subseries; her poem written upon his murder is in the Poetry series. The Political Action subseries of the Personal Correspondence series includes material concerning the United States’ intervention in El Salvador, coffee plantation workers in Nicaragua, and Laughlin’s refusal to pay income tax. 


The COMMUNITY series (1981 and undated) contains press releases concerning Karen Silkwood, as well as three issues of COMMUNITY: Philadelphia’s Progressive Newspaper, in which Laughlin’s articles were published.


The Financial Accounts series  (1984-1985 and undated) is comprised of several checkbook registers.


The Employment series (1984 and undated) includes personal  assessments written by Laughlin about herself, others’ assessments of her skills and abilities, results of aptitude tests, and résumés.


The Diaries series (1970-1986) together with the Personal Correspondence comprise the bulk of the collection.  The Diaries series contains an introduction and index prepared by Laughlin’s mother, Lois Laughlin.  The Introduction, Index, and Excerpts folder contains a list of Laughlin’s immediate family and excerpts from the diaries selected by Lois Laughlin.  Throughout the Diaries Laughlin meditates upon her self-image, her role within her family, the place of activist concerns such as feminism in her life, her sexual relationships, and her attempts at establishing personal relationships.  The earliest diaries discuss diet and physical appearance.  Anti-nuclear protests at Seabrook are discussed in the March - June 1980 diary. 


            The Death series  (1986-1997) includes three files: Newspaper Clippings that report on Laughlin’s murder, Memorials and Obituaries, and Condolence Correspondence.  Because of the duration of the correspondence between Lois Laughlin and Tafataona P. Mahoso that was initiated by Laughlin’s death, that correspondence has been filed separately in a series entitled Tafataona P. Mahoso.


           The series for Tafataona P. Mahoso  (1981-1992) includes Mahoso’s correspondence with Ruth Laughlin and his correspondence with Ruth’s mother Lois Laughlin.  The latter correspondence treats Mahoso’s relationship with Ruth Laughlin, as well as his education and teaching career during the time he lived in the United States and after his return to Africa.  The Résumé and Writings folder includes Mahoso’s poetry, the syllabi for classes he taught, and information pertaining to his academic studies.


           The Essays and Articles series (1975-1981) contains writings by Laughlin’s friends and articles from newspapers and journals that address issues of advocacy and social justice.


             The Poetry series (1979, 1986, but primarily undated) contains the personal writings of Laughlin and includes a poem written in memory of her husband, Ben Kazina.


             The Photographs (1956-1986) series includes individual photographs and the following folders:  Childhood, School Pictures, Jan’s Wedding, Christmas 1980, Dave’s 1981, Steve Gallagher, Family, Philadelphia Days, Tafataona Mahoso and son, Temple Graduation, and Slides of Ruth Laughlin. 


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Box no.   Description

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Box 1

                Personal Documents 1965-1985


                     Grades 1-9

                          Writings and Drawings, undated

                          Grade Reports and Award, 1960-1968

                     High School [Scattergood Friends School, West Branch, Iowa]

                          Writings, 1972-1986

                          Grade Reports and Diploma, 1969-1972

                     Kirkwood Community College, Cedar Rapids, Iowa, 1972

                     University of Iowa

                          Class Notes, Writings, and Grades, 1973-1978

                     Temple University

                          Class Notes and Writings, 1980-1982

                          Class Notes, 1981-1982

                          Awards and Diploma, 1983-1985


Box 2



                        Writings and New Testament, 1964-1982

                        Young Friends of North America, 1972-1977


                Personal Correspondence

                     Family - Incoming









Box 3


                Personal Correspondence

                     Family - Outgoing





                            High school friends, 1971-1980 [Scattergood Friends School]

                            Iowa City Meeting House roommates, 1976-1985

                            Adams, Joe 1981-1982

                            Boardman, Ben, 1974-1976

                            Clayton, George 1979-1984

                            Collins, Julius, undated

                            Durbin, Mike, 1973-1974

                            Earles, Ash, 1979

                            Friedkin, Steve, 1978-1979

                            Gallagher, Steve, 1981-1982

                            Hughes, John, 1978

                            Huwiler, Kurt, 1980-1981

                            Jecko, Brigitta, 1980-1986 and undated


Box 4

                            Kazina, Ben 1984

                            Lapon, Chris, 1982-1984

                            M, Hannah 1979

                            McAndrews, Jamie 1978-1980

                            Mosquera, Chris 1976

                            Perez, Brian 1977

                            Ruskin, Bob 1981-1982

                            Shalita, Geoffrey 1984

                            Schlesinger, Lila1979-1984

                            Taussig, Marilee 1980-1985

                            Tenneriello, Carol and Ascenzi, John1983-1985

                            Weichert, Thilo1979-1984

                            Zangger, Ursula 1983-1984

                            Gail (roommate), 1981, Undated

                            Gil, Undated

                            Joe, 1981-1982

                            Lenny, 1980

                            Lenny and Doris, 1984-1985

                            Simon, 1984

                            Miscellaneous, 1981-1986, Undated

                     Life Center and Movement for a New Society, 1978-1983

                     Political Action, 1979-1984


                 COMMUNITY writings, 1981 and undated


                 Financial Accounts 1984-1985 and undated




Box 5


                         Assessments and resumes, 1984, but primarily undated



                         Introduction, Index, and Excerpts, 1986-1987 and undated [by Lois Laughlin]











Box 6








Box 7






Box 8




                         Newspaper Clippings, 1986-1997

                         Memorials and Obituaries, 1986, 1989

                         Condolence Correspondence, 1986-1987


                Tafataona P. Mahoso

                      Correspondence with Ruth Laughlin, 1980-1985

                      Correspondence with Lois Laughlin, 1986-1992

                      Résumé and Writings, 1981-1985


                Political and religious articles and essays, 1961-1981

                Poetry, 1979, 1986, but primarily undated


                      Childhood, ca. 1956-1961

                      School Pictures, ca. 1960-1972

                      Jan’s Wedding, ca. 1979

                      Christmas, 1980

                      Dave’s, 1981

                      Steve Gallagher, ca. 1981

                      Family, ca. 1979-1984

                      Philadelphia Days, ca. 1979-1986

                      Mahoso, Tafataona and son, 1982, 1984, 1989

                      Temple University graduation, ca. 1984

                      Slides of Ruth Laughlin