Iowa Women's Archives
University of Iowa Libraries
Iowa City, Iowa



PAPERS, 1923-2003
1.5 linear inches


Iowa Women's Archives
100 Main Library
University of Iowa Libraries
Iowa City, Iowa 52242

Phone: 319-335-5068
Fax: 319-335-5900
E-mail the Iowa Women's Archives

Please cite materials from this collection as follows:
Mary Vásquez Olvera Papers, Iowa Women's Archives, University of Iowa Libraries, Iowa City, Iowa.


Collection Overview

The papers (donor no. 1009) were donated by Mary Olvera in 2005.
The papers are open for research.
Copyright held by the donor has been transferred to The University of Iowa. 
  Photographs: In Box 1.  
Processed by:
Andrea Simental, 2006; Janet Weaver, 2007. [OlveraMary.doc]


Mary Vásquez Olvera was born in Fairport, Iowa, in 1927 to Jesús and José Vásquez.  Jesús (later known as Jenny) Vásquez was born in Quiroga, Michoacan, Mexico. She came to Muscatine, Iowa, with her family in approximately 1910 where she worked in a button factory as a teenager. Jesús (Jenny) Vásquez later met and married railroad worker José Vásquez who was born in Nahuatzen, Michoacan, Mexico. The couple moved to Nahant, just outside of Davenport, Iowa, where they lived in a converted boxcar near the railroad tracks and the city dump. They had six children, three boys and three girls.  In 1938 the Vásquez family moved to the predominantly Mexican and Mexican American community of Cook’s Point in Davenport, Iowa, where they purchased a houseboat. 

Mary Vásquez attended Rockingham School, the old Monroe School, and Frank L. Smart Jr. High School in Davenport. At the age of sixteen she left school and began working at the Fala Company, located near the Kohr plant, where she made covers for air rifles. Her next job was at the Black Hawk Egg Company where she worked as an egg candler. Two of Mary Vásquez’s brothers enlisted in the military during World War II and both died on active duty: Albert Vásquez in December 1944 and her younger brother, Ralph Vásquez, just three months later in March 1945. Following the war, when the Vásquez family decided to purchase a home in a Davenport neighborhood outside of Cook's Point, the neighbors circulated a petition in an attempt to prevent the Mexican family from moving in. However, when neighbors learned that two Vásquez sons had died during World War II, they stopped circulating the petition and the Vásquez family moved in..

In 1948 Mary Vásquez married Augustine Olvera, a machinist who worked for the Rock Island Arsenal. The couple had four children, Albert, Donna, Augustine Jr., and Mario. Following her marriage, Mary Olvera concentrated on raising the couple’s children and did not return to her factory job.  Mary and Augustine Olvera were both active in politics and founded a Davenport chapter of the "Viva Kennedy" club. Augustine Olvera founded the Iowa chapter of the American G. I. Forum in 1958 and Mary Olvera was active in the Ladies Auxiliary of the organization.  In this capacity she was asked to entertain Rose Kennedy when Kennedy visited Davenport during John F. Kennedy’s 1960 presidential campaign. As a result of their political activism, the Olveras were invited to attend the inaugurations and presidential balls of President Kennedy and President Johnson. Augustine Olvera passed away in 2005.

Scope and Content Note

The Mary Vásquez Olvera papers date from 1923 to 2005 and measure 1.5 linear inches. The biographical information contains Augustine Olvera’s obituary, a condolence letter from one of Albert’s fellow soldiers following the death of Mary Olvera’s brother, Albert Vásquez, in World War II and a copy of a baptismal certificate in Spanish.  The Albert Olvera materials pertain to the work of Mary Olvera’s son, Albert, with the Equal Employment Opportunity program for the Army Corps of Engineers in Seattle, Washington. The photographs include family snapshots, a color photograph of Mary Olvera at age eighteen, and a black and white photograph of Mary and Augustine Olvera and Juanita and Ernest Rodríguez with Robert Kennedy at the 1963 American G.I. Forum convention in Chicago. The photograph album contains black and white photographs of Mary Olvera’s friends and family. Several of the photographs are labeled with first names and dates.

Related Collections

Mujeres Latinas Oral History Project
Mary Olvera oral history interview, 2006.

Box List

Box 1                  
  Biographical information, 1923-2005
Olvera, Albert, 1977-1980
Photographs, 1945-1995
Photograph album, 1950s
Loose photographs removed from 1950s photograph album


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Page created April 2007.