IOWA WOMEN’S ARCHIVES
UNIVERSITY OF IOWA LIBRARIES
IOWA CITY, IOWA
BERTHA KORN TUCKER (1908- )
ORAL HISTORY AND PAPERS, 1920-1999
2 linear feet and audiovisual material
The papers (donor no. 637) were donated by Bertha Korn Tucker in 1999 .
The papers are open for research.
Copyright held by the donor has been transferred to the University of Iowa.
Three reel-to-reel audio tapes.
In box 1.
Susan J. Demas and Michael S. Demas, 1999.
Robert J. Jett, 1999. [TuckerBertha.doc]
Bertha Korn Tucker is a writer and life-long student who has lived in Iowa for almost her entire life. Bertha Ida Korn was born in Des Moines, Iowa on April 25, 1908. She was the youngest of five children born to Shana Ethel Hoffman and Samuel Koen, who had emigrated from Lithuania just a few years before her birth. Growing up in the "Jewish ghetto" of Des Moines, she faced a great deal of prejudice. She graduated from North High School in 1926 and completed her two-year Certificate in Education from Drake University in Des Moines two years later. Throughout her life, she has held a variety of jobs including kindergarten teacher, typist, and secretary.
In 1937, she married Isadore Tucker, an Oelwein businessman in the automobile salvage industry. After living briefly in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Washington, D.C., and Petersburg, Virginia, she settled back in her hometown with her family. Tucker had two children and is a devoted parent, grandparent, and great-grandparent. She has been involved in the Sisterhood (Jewish aid society) at the Beth El Jacob synagogue in Des Moines and served as program director for Hadassah, a national organization which aids disadvantaged Jews, primarily children. She has also been an active member of the Yiddish class at Bethel Jacob, for which she translated dozens of songs, poems, and short stories. Tucker has always been deeply committed to Jewish culture and history.
Tucker re-enrolled at Drake University and was awarded a bachelor's degree in Liberal Arts. With an emphasis on English, in 1969. She continued to take courses at Drake over ten years after her graduation, well into her seventies. Since elementary school, her true love has always been writing. Over the years, she has amassed an impressive body of work, having composed over forty short stories and poems in both English and Yiddish.
Scope and Content Note
The Bertha Korn Tucker papers date from 1920 to 1999 and measure 2 linear feet. The papers are arranged in five series: Personal life, Creative writing, Academic papers, Writings and translations in Yiddish, and Jewish-theme writings.
The Personal life series (1971-1991) primarily contains correspondence from family and friends. Most of the letters and postcards come from her daughter, Janey Tucker, from college and while abroad in Europe and Israel. The series contains photographs from all stages of Bertha Tucker's life (1913-1999). Personal mementos of important life events, such as her college graduation and son Yale's bar mitzvah are included. Tow issues of the Olwein High School yearbook (1927-28) are also included in this series.
Tucker's interest in writing began in elementary school. The Creative writing series (1924-1970 and undated) contains short stories written in English. A few poems and plays are included. She has written short stories throughout varies stages of her life:
elementary and high school, college, career, parenthood, and retirement. Always a perfectionist, Tucker completed several drafts of each of her stories, many of which are included. As a result, it is difficult to assess the precise year in which she wrote each piece. With the help of her niece, Ethel Pollack (née Jacobson), Tucker adopted the pen name of "Byrt" because it was more creative than "Bertha."
Education was always a priority for Tucker and she was a gifted student. She received her Certificate in Education from Drake University in 1928 and returned to Drake in 1960. After completing her bachelor's degree in 1969, she continued to take courses until approximately 1982. The Academic papers series (1960-1974 and undated) contains primarily papers for her English literature classes.
Tucker has been active in her Yiddish class at the Beth El Jacob synagogue in Des Moines from approximately 1951-1999. The Writings and translations in Yiddish series contains translations from English to Yiddish done by Tucker for her class. An original short story (undated) written in Yiddish is included.
Jewish culture and history have always been important to Tucker. The Jewish-themed writings series reflects her passion for her heritage. This series contains short stories written in English (1926 and undated) and academic papers (1972 and undated.)
Box no. Description
Samuel Korn's (father) immigration papers, 1920
Isadore Tucker's (husband) high school diploma, 1930
Isadore Tucker's (husband) membership certificate for the
Nobles of the Mystic Shrine, 1943
Letter about Yale Tucker's (son) bar mitzvah, 1961
Mortgage certificate, 1962
Drake University Commencement announcement, 1969
Tuckers Auto Parts closing announcement, 1974
Drake University Alumnae Association banquet, 1994
Korn Family Tree, 1999
Biographical material and timeline, 1999
The Ghost, 1927-28
Creative writing in English (5 folders)
"Untitled (Becky Simon)", short story, 1924
"Margaret", short story, 1936
"What're They Doing to Twila?", short story, 1936
"Had I Been Mrs. Shakespeare or Had Mrs. Shakespeare Been Me", short story, 1960
"My Own Pilgrimage", short story, 1969
"The Other Side of the Measuring Stick or How Things Been Turnin' Aroun' Here", short story, 1970
"Just Wait and See", play, undated
"Why Call it Care Free Years?", short story, undated
"A Return to Market Street", short story, undated
"'Fraid to Die or Scared, Really Scared", short story, undated
"(Eaves-droppings) from The Golden Age Retirement Home", short story, undated
"It Had to Be Me", short story, undated
"Say it Without Flowers or Fiddler Off the Roof", play, undated
"The Hiatus of Clare Baker", short story, undated
"Molly Mendelson and the Volunteer Visitor", short story, undated
"Dinner in Sweet and Sour", play, undated
"The Party", poem, undated
"Nothingness", poem, undated
Unfinished Writings, 1963-1996
"Why Are We Moved by Willy Loman?", English, 1960
"Significance of the Title - 'Golden Boy'", English, 1960
"My Reaction to Richard II", English, 1960
"Camino Real by Tennessee Williams", English, 1960
"Our Town by Thornton Wilder", English, 1960
"Comparison of Women: Laura from 'The Father' by Strindberg and Regina from 'The Little Foxes' by Hellman", English, 1960
"Examination of Characters: Regina, pastor Manders, and Engstrand from 'Ghosts' by Henrik Ibsen", English, 1960
"Fijan Village by Buell Quain", Sociology, 1961
"An Essay of a Kind of Dramatic Poetry", English, 1968
"Poetic Diction in Wordworth's Theory and Practice", English, 1969
"A Letter to Jonathan Edwards", English, 1969
"Hawthorne and Faulkner", English, 1970
Untitled (Dos Passos), English, 1970
"The Genius of William Faulkner", English, 1970
"An Interview With Bertha Tucker", English, 1972
"Comparison: Snyder and Carruth", English, 1972
Untitled, English, 1972
"Proverbs", English, 1972
"Early American Folk Heroes", English, 1972
"Why Study Folklore", English, 1972
"Is There a Folk in the City?", English, 1972
"Joyce's Dubliners", English, 1973
Mid-Term Exam, English, 1973
"Lawrence's Sons and Lovers", English, 1973
"Lawrence's Lady Chatterley's Lover", English, 1973
"Greene's The Power and the Glory", English, 1973
"Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway", English, 1973
"Ford's The Good Soldier", English, 1973
Final Exam, English, 1973
"A Mystifying Mystic", English, undated
Invasion of the Body Snatchers- 1955 and 1978, Film Studies, undated
The Three of Them Changed to The Two of Them, Film Studies, undated
Autumn Sonata, Film Studies, undated
"How Do Indian Tales Differ From White Hero Tales?", English, undated
"Question No. 2: Cooper and Poe", English, undated
"Question No. 4: Irving's Rip Van Winkle and Poe's Narrator of 'Ligeia'", English, undated
Writings and translations in Yiddish
"Untitled (Mameh and Yosel)", original short story, undated
"Ah Pawrtret foon Sally Priessand", translation, undated
"'The Bond' by Sylvan Karchmer", translation, undated
Untitled (Abraham), translation, undated
"A Treasury of Jewish Folklore", translation, undated
"Untitled (Father)", short story, 1926
"Yiddish Folk Music", English paper, 1972
"A Folk Riddle", English paper, 1972
"Heard Melodies Are Sweet", English paper, 1972
"The Other Side of the Fence", short story, undated
"At the Cradle - From Voices of A People by Ruth Rubin", English paper, undated
"The Immigrant Jew and the American Dream", English paper, undated
"Adaption of 'The Washerwoman'", English paper, undated
"Adaption of 'Anne Frank', The Spirit of Brotherhood", English paper, undated
"The Bobie", poem, undated
Timeline for the Life of Bertha Korn Tucker
1898 Bertha's parents, Samuel Korn and Shana Ethel Hoffman are married in Lithuania.
May 8, 1899 Bertha's brother and sister, twins Harry and Sarah, are born in Lithuania.
February 7, 1901 Bertha's sister, Mary, is born in Lithuania.
1903 Samuel Korn immigrates to the United States, leaving his wife and three children back in Lithuania.
Winter, 1905 Shana Ethel, Sarah, Harry, and Mary Korn immigrate to the United States.
January 26, 1907 Bertha's sister, Sophie, is born in Des Moines, Iowa.
April 25, 1908 Bertha Ida Korn is born in Des Moines. She is the youngest of the five Korn children.
June, 1910 Her mother, Shana Ethel Korn dies of an infection resulting from childbirth. There is some controversy, but it is presumed that a neighboring family, the Levines adopted her son, because Samuel Korn did not want to raise another child. The child's name was Martos.
Fall, 1911 Bertha enters Ethel Badgeley's kindergarten class two years early. Ms. Badgeley took an interest in the Korn children, particularly Bertha.
September 23, 1911 Bertha's future husband, Isadore Tucker, is born in Oelwein, Iowa.
1916 Bertha begins to write creatively and has one of her pieces published in the newspaper.
1919 Her paternal grandfather (first name unknown) dies.
May, 1926 Bertha graduates from North High School in Des Moines.
August, 1926 Bertha enters Drake University in Des Moines as a freshman with the help of her sister, Sarah, and her former teacher, Ms. Badgeley.
Fall, 1926 Bertha completes an untitled story about her family ("Once I told my father to go to Hell..."), the first piece she is truly proud of.
May, 1928 Bertha is awarded a Certificate in Education from Drake.
Fall, 1928 Bertha begins to teach kindergarten in Des Moines.
Summer, 1935 Bertha and her sister, Sophie, move to Washington, D.C. to obtain employment.
July 25, 1937 Bertha weds Isadore Tucker, an Oelwein businessman in the automobile parts industry, in Des Moines. The couple settles in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, where the Tucker family business is located.
1942 Bertha relocates to Petersburg, Virginia, as part of her husband's military service in World War II. She works as an administrative assistant in the psychiatric ward of the local hospital.
Fall, 1944 Following D-Day, Isadore obtains his release and he and Bertha move back to Cedar Rapids
August 9, 1947 Her son, Yale Stanley Tucker, is born.
July, 1948 Bertha moves back to her hometown of Des Moines while she is eight months pregnant with her second child. Her husband decided to relocate the family business there.
August 29, 1948 Her daughter, Janey Ethel Tucker, is born, named for both her mother and Ms. Badgeley.
1951 Bertha begins attending the Yiddish class founded by her sister-in-law Dorothy Korn (née Freedman) at Beth El Jacob synagogue.
March, 1958 Bertha moves into her present residence in Windsor Heights, a suburb of Des Moines.
August, 1960 Bertha re-enrolls at Drake University, this time in their four-year program.
1961 Her father, Samuel Korn, dies of heart failure.
September 11, 1967 Her sister, Mary Korn, dies of cancer.
August 15, 1969 Bertha graduates from Drake University with a bachelor's degree in Liberal Arts, with an emphasis on English literature. She continues to take courses at Drake until approximately 1982.
February 20, 1974 Her grandson, Andrew Tucker is born to Yale and Mary Lynn Tucker (née Wharoff.)
1974 Her sister, Sarah Korn Winick, dies of ovarian cancer.
February 6, 1978 Her husband, Isadore Tucker, dies of a heart attack.
Summer, 1979 Bertha honors her late husband's wishes and travels to Scandinavia with her daughter, Janey. She and Iz had always planned to visit her maternal aunt in Denmark so that she could find out more about her mother, but they never got to take the trip.
1980 Bertha travels to Egypt and Israel. It is her first time in the Jewish homeland.
January, 1990 Her brother, Harry Korn, dies of a bladder infection.
August, 1992 Her great-granddaughter, Sydney Tucker is born to Andrew Tucker and Jennifer Baker.
1994 Bertha writes her favorite short story to date "And Then They All Came Around" at the age of eighty-six.
October 22, 1998 Her sister, Sophie Korn Jacobson, dies four years after being diagnosed with dementia.
May 21, 1999 Great-nephew Michael Demas (née Pollack) and his wife, Susan Demas, approach Bertha about contributing her papers to the Iowa Women's Archives in Iowa City, Iowa. Bertha agrees and a collection in her name is started.