THELMA B. LEWIS (1904-1988)TITLE:»



»PAPERS, 1947-1967

4 linear inchesDATES:»





The »papers (donor no. 24) were donated by Thelma B. Lewis» in 1975.


The »papers are open for research.


»Scattered through Box 1 and scrapbook.Scattered through Box 1 and scrapbook.


Catherine E. Rymph, 1992, and Special Collections staff.Your name, year».




Thelma B. Lewis was born May 23, 1904 in Hamilton’s Fort, Utah.  She graduated from the University of Utah.  Lewis came to Iowa City in 1931, where her husband Donald Lewis was a professor of psychology at the University of Iowa (then the State University of Iowa).  During World War II, Lewis lived in Washington, D.C., and worked as an aide in the State Department for the Division of German-Austrian Economic Affairs.  In 1947, she accompanied Secretary of State George C. Marshall on his mission to Moscow, where she served as an information specialist during the drafting of the Marshall Plan.


Afterwards, Lewis returned to Iowa City where she was active in local politics during the 1950s and 1960s.  She was a leader in the campaign to develop a council-manager plan for city government.  From 1958 to 1963 she served on the City Council.  She was mayor for one year in 1961.  Lewis died on October 1, 1988 in Ontario, California.


Begin text here:»Scope and Content Note


            Begin text here:The Thelma B. Lewis» papers date from 1947 to 1967 and measure 4 linear inches.»  The »papers »are divided into five series: Moscow Trip, Correspondence, Iowa City Politics, Photograph, and Oversized Scrapbook.  These papers document Lewis’ trip to Moscow in 1947 and her involvement in Iowa City politics in the 1950s and 1960s.


            Early material in this collection consists of mementos of Lewis’ Moscow Trip, including a letter officially confirming her State Department appointment, a Norwegian visa, and an Iowa City newspaper article about her experiences.  Several typed manuscripts, probably written from 1949 to 1950, describe Lewis’ experiences in and impression of Moscow, including an account of her sighting of Stalin at the opera.  In some of these accounts, Lewis compares Moscow to the pioneer Utah of her childhood.  These manuscripts, then, also contain descriptions of early twentieth century Utah and the persecution of the Mormons.


            Lewis’ involvement with Iowa City politics and council-management government in Iowa City is evidenced in handwritten notes on the campaign for the plan, an article she wrote describing the plan after its adoption in 1950, and a 1962 manuscript describing the 1961 election in which voters challenged control of elections by the Council-Manager Association.  This manuscript is rich in its descriptions of Iowa City political disputes.


            Correspondence from 1957 to 1967 is both personal and official.  There are many letters of congratulation upon Lewis’ election as mayor.  Other letters relate to City politics and other civic activities.  A letter from Governor Herschel Loveless and one from Congressman Fred Schwengel are included.  Similar material is included in the

oversized scrapbook, which contains newspaper clippings and correspondence concerning Lewis’ position on the city council and as mayor, as well as some photographs.  Many items refer to her role as “Lady Mayor.”


            A framed photograph of Thelma Lewis and other city council members is included.




Related Collections


The State Historical Society of Iowa, Iowa City, also holds Thelma Lewis papers.


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Box no.   Description

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Box 1

Moscow Trip


Mementos, 1947


Correspondence, 1957-1967


Iowa City Politics

Notes on the campaign for the council manager plan

“The Politicians Lose Again,” National Municipal Review 39 (September 1950), 389-394 [article and manuscript]

Observations on the 1961 city election in Iowa City [typed manuscript]


Photograph: City Council of Iowa City


Box 2

Oversized Scrapbook, 1957, 1961 [covers 1957 election to city council of Iowa City and 1961 re-election]