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


MARY TERRONEZ (1918-2009)

PAPERS, 1936-2009
2.5 linear inches and artifact


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 Terronez Papers, Iowa Women's Archives, University of Iowa Libraries, Iowa City, Iowa.


Collection Overview

The papers (donor no. 862 and donor no. 995) were donated by Mary Terronez in 2002 and subsequent years, and by Ernest Rodriguez in 2005.
The papers are open for research.
Copyright held by the donors has been transferred to The University of Iowa.
  Artifacts: In Box 2.  
Two audiocassettes shelved in the audiocassette collection. [AC939-AC940; One DVD shelved in digital collection [d0063].
In Box 1.
Processed by:
Britt Nelson, 2005; Janet Weaver, 2006, 2009. [TerronezMary.doc]


Maria (Mary) Ramirez Terronez was born in San Luis Potosi, Mexico, in 1918 to Adelida Gutierrez Ramirez and Dionisio Ramirez, the third oldest of fourteen children. She was four years old when her father was recruited to work for the Rock Island Railroad in Davenport, Iowa. The rest of the family joined him one year later in 1923, when Mary Ramirez was five years old. They settled in the barrio known as Cook's Point near the railroad tracks in southwest Davenport. Ramirez attended Davenport schools where she completed the sixth grade after which she stayed home to help her mother cook, clean, and look after her siblings. In 1936 she married Felipe Bravo Terronez, a railroad worker, who was originally from Mexico and had grown up in Silvis, Illinois. The couple had six children: Virginia (born 1933), John (born 1938), Phyllis (born 1940), Irene (born 1944), Georgia (born 1949), and Randolph (born 1955). Mary Terronez became a U.S. citizen in 1962.

Terronez was a community activist most of her adult life.  She served as an interpreter and liaison between the Spanish-speaking community and the schools, sheriff’s department, U.S. Immigration Service, business owners, medical doctors, and welfare agencies. She was a spokesperson for Cook’s Point residents during their forced relocation in 1952, when the barrio was closed down.  She supported the grape boycott campaign by picketing local supermarkets and also cooked for a reception for Cesar Chavez in 1969 when he attended a grape boycott rally in Davenport. From 1971-1974 she was the job coordinator for the Area Board for Migrants; in this position she worked with the Spanish-speaking community in the Quad Cities, interviewing job seekers, contacting employers, and matching job seekers with job vacancies. Terronez later worked with the Muscatine Migrant Committee and served as a teacher’s aide for the Davenport Community School District where she raised funds for new playground equipment at Jefferson Elementary. In 1976 she completed her GED and continued her education at Palmer Junior College where she graduated with an AA degree in 1980; she was honored with a placement in Who’s Who Among American Junior College Students. Terronez was involved in many organizations including the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), the Mexican-American Committee on Education, and the Visiting Nurses Association. Terronez received recognition from institutions including the University of Iowa Chicano-Indian American Student Union, the American Institute of Commerce, and the State of Illinois. She was named KRVR radio’s “Quad-Citian for the Day” in April of 1983. In 1997, Terronez attended President Clinton’s second inauguration in Washington, DC. 

Mary Terronez passed away in 2009 at the age of 91.

Scope and Content Note

The Mary Terronez papers date from 1936 to 2009 and measure 2.5 linear inches. The biographical information folder includes copies of her birth certificate and certificate of naturalization, and resumes from different time periods in her life.

The Cook’s Point economic survey conducted by Reverend William O’Connor and members of the Human Relations Club of St. Ambrose College in Davenport, Iowa, describes the living conditions and history of the settlement. This folder also contains a copy of a series of articles written in 1963 by Reverend O’Connor for the Tri-City Labor Times entitled, “Racial Injustice in Iowa.” In No.15, O’Connor describes the speech Terronez made in defense of the Cook’s Point residents.

The letters of recommendation include a letter from Sister Irene Muñoz concerning Mary Terronez’s work with the Muscatine Migrant Committee from 1977 to 1978.

The newspaper clippings include articles about the Terronez family, the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) festivals, local activism related to the grape boycott campaign and migrant worker issues. A 1974 article entitled, “Reflections of a Mexican Heritage” describes the master’s art project of Irene Terronez, daughter of Mary Terronez.

The materials pertaining to Mary Terronez’s husband, Felipe Bravo Terronez, include photocopies of: a newspaper clipping about the Mexican All-Stars baseball team he played on in the 1920s. A 1936 seniority list for the Rock Island Line, Illinois Division, Maintenance of Way Department, which lists Mary Terronez’s husband Felipe Bravo Terronez and her father Dionisio Ramirez, is also included.

The folder on John Terronez includes newspaper articles and memorial tributes. He served as state director of Iowa LULAC from 1968 to 1970, and also chaired the Quad City Grape Boycott Committee duirng that period.  In 1970, he was recruited by the U.S. Department of Justice to work as a conciliator in its Community Relations Service. He received a distinguished service award in 1979 for his role the previous year in the “Longest Walk”—a Native American protest march from Los Angeles to Washington, DC.John Terronez passed away in 1997 at the age of 58.

The family photos date from the 1940s to 2004 and many of them are identified.

An embroidered, red LULAC Council #10 bowling shirt that belonged to Virginia Terronez completes the collection.

Related Collections

Oral history interview with Irene Terronez, artist and daughter of Mary Terronez.

Box List

Box 1                          
  Awards, 1976-1995
Biographical information, 1962-2009 and undated
"Selections from the Mary Terronez Video Archives," compile by Freddie Fillers [her grandson], 2009 [d0063, shelved in the digital collection]
Cook’s Point survey, 1963 [copied from Rusty Barceló’s collection]
Letters of recommendation, 1975-1984
Newspaper clippings, 1959-1997 and undated (2 folders)
Oral history, 2003
Audiocassettes [AC939-AC940 shelved in audiocassette collection]
  Terronez, Felipe Bravo [husband of Mary Terronez]
Terronez, John, 1965-1997 [son of Mary Terronez]
Photographs, 1947-2004 and undated (2 folders)
Box 2                          
    LULAC Council #10 bowling shirt, ca.1967  

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