»PAPERS, 1920-1998

2.5 linear feet and artifactsDATES:»





The »papers (donor no. 365) were donated by Mary Elizabeth Wood» in 1996.


The »papers are open for research.


Three audiocassettes shelved in audiocassette collection:  AC364-AC366.


In box 7.


»Copyright has been transferred to the University of Iowa.


In box 6.



Randel W. Lackore, 1997Your name, year».

Eugenia M. Hernández, 2000 [Word 7 WoodMaryE.doc]



Mary Elizabeth Wood, educator, certified social worker, and Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA) administrator, was born August 28, 1902, in Des Moines.  Her parents were Emmett and Rose Wood, who instilled in their six daughters and three sons the importance of education.  Every night when the family gathered for dinner, each had to describe something they had learned or done that day.  “If you hadn’t done anything or learned anything you were in hot water,” recalled Wood (Des Moines Register, April 6, 1995).


Wood grew up in Des Moines and graduated from East High School in 1920 and Drake University in 1924, the only African-American in her graduating class at each institution.  With a teaching certificate from Drake she was offered a job at Houston College in Texas, where she taught for a year before becoming the director of the youth program for the African-American branch of the Tulsa, Oklahoma, YWCA.  Wood received her M.A. in Community Organization from New York University in 1946.  In 1949, Wood was one of six American YWCA leaders chosen to attend a six-week Leadership Training Institute in Geneva, Switzerland.  Wood worked at YWCA branches in Denver, Newark and Philadelphia before her appointment as metropolitan executive director of the YWCA of Buffalo and Erie County, New York, in 1957.  She was the first African-American woman to hold such a post.  In 1968 she became metropolitan executive director of the YWCA of Greater Pittsburgh, working there until her retirement in 1972.  After her retirement Mary Wood served as a consultant to the National Board of the YWCA, helping the association assess the progress of branches in implementing “the one imperative:  to eliminate racism.”  Throughout her life Mary Wood has received many honors and awards for her professional service and in 1996 she was inducted into the Iowa Women’s Hall of Fame.


Scope and Content Note


            Begin text here:The Mary Elizabeth Wood» papers date from 1920» to 1996 and measure 2.5» linear feet.  The »papers »are arranged in five» series:  Personal information; Church, civic groups, and clubs; Honors and recognition; Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA); and Photographs.  The bulk of the collection is related to Wood’s work as an administrator at the Buffalo, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh YWCAs.»


            The Personal information series (1941-1996) contains Wood’s personal correspondence as well as some of her poetry, most of which was included in her annual Christmas letter.  Of interest are a drawing and Lenten letter sent out by Wood after she had a near-death experience in 1992.  There is also the transcript of an oral history interview conducted in 1997 by the Iowa Women's Archives as part of the “Giving Voice to Their Memories: Oral Histories of African-American Women in Iowa” project.


            The Church, civic groups and clubs series (1958-1996) contains files that reflect Wood’s involvement in her church and community.  The files related to the Health and Welfare Planning Association and the 1977 Conference on Aging indicate her concern for the elderly.


            The Honors and recognition series (1920-1982) contains Wood’s diplomas and many certificates and awards she received in recognition of her professional service to the community, as well as her church involvement and charitable giving.


            The Young Women’s Christian Association series (1941-1995) is divided into two subseries:  Consultant and Director.  The Consultant subseries contains materials documenting Wood’s work as a volunteer for the national board of the YWCA after her retirement.  The Director subseries chronicles Wood’s professional career at the Buffalo, Newark, Philadelphia, and Pittsburgh YWCAs.


            The Photographs series (1925-1996) illustrates events from Mary Wood’s adult life.  The Des Moines folder contains an undated group photograph of the Des Moines Junior NAACP chapter probably from the 1920s.   Of interest are two panoramic photographs that document Wood’s earliest work.  One photograph features the students and staff of Houston College (Houston, Texas), where Wood was first employed after graduation from Drake University.  The second panoramic photograph shows Wood and other attendees at the National YWCA Conference in Frankfort, Kentucky in 1926.


Begin text here:»


Box no.           Description


Box 1

Personal information

Class assignment, 1945


General, 1936-1996

Drake University, 1961-1996

Creative writing class, 1991

Diary, undated

Funeral program, 1998

Graphology analysis, 1956-1957

“The Impact of the War on College Women” by Mary Elizabeth Wood, Journal of the National Association of College Women, 1941-1943

Insurance policy, driver’s licenses and registration, 1932-1961

Monthly minder, 1991

Newspaper clippings, 1983-1997 [oversized shelved in map case]

New York University, 1939-1943

Notes, 1975-1993

Oral history transcript:  “Giving Voice to Their Memories:  Oral Histories of African-American Women in Iowa,” transcript, 1997

Passport, 1978

Poetry, 1972-1996 [including oversized shelved in map case]

Poetry group, undated

Resume, 1954(?)

Undergraduate transcript, Drake University ‘24

University of the State of New York Bulletin, 1969


Box 2

Church, civic groups, and clubs

Aurora Reading Club of Pittsburgh

100th anniversary

Memorabilia, 1994

Newspaper clippings, 1994 [oversized shelved in map case]

Administrative materials, 1982-1998

Correspondence, 1982-1996 and undated

Devotions, 1981

Program yearbooks, 1977/78-1994/95

Television soap opera presentation, 1976-1977

Gertrude E. Rush Award Dinner, 1982

Health and Welfare Planning Association (HWPA)

“Area-Wide Model Project for Aging” staff report, 1973

Long-term care planning proposal, 1979

Memoranda, 1977-1979

“Some Comments on Allegheny County’s Plan for the Replacement of John J. Kane Hospital,” 1978

Working papers

Elderly Homeowners’ Association Project, 1978

Health education, 1979

Housing alternatives, 1979

In-home care, 1977-1979

Martin Luther King Jr. Day observance, 1989-1994 [including oversized shelved in map case]

Miscellaneous, undated

Mount Ararat Baptist Church (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania)

Budget Manual, 1977

Catalog, 1989-1990

Cooperative Venture: Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and Mount Ararat Baptist Church Committee, 1981-1994

Church retreat, 1978

Farewell tribute, 1993

Installation service for Rev. Donald O. Clay Jr., undated

Newspaper clippings, 1961, 1986

Neighborhood census, 1970

Women’s Day services, 1958-1975

1977 Conference on Aging (Hershey, Pennsylvania), 1977

Planned Parenthood Center of Pittsburgh, Inc., 1977-1979


Box 3

Honors and recognition

Certificates, 1922-1996 [including oversized shelved in map case]

Diplomas, 1920-1968 [oversized: shelved in map case]

New York University commencement, 1946


Young Women’s Christian Association


Cincinnati, Ohio, 1976

Communications National Board, 1981




Eastern regional conference council of urban league guilds, 1974

Invitation to serve as a national volunteer on special assignment, 1974

Management function workshop Lexington, Kentucky, 1974

“Mary Wood,” Courier Page (Black Aged Special Edition) by Ron Suber

National board reports, 1973-1974

Notes, undated

One imperative YWCA action audit for change, 1973 and undated

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 1976-1993

Report on redirecting programs and priorities at YWCA of Greater Cincinnati, 1976

Resource file, 1942-1992 and undated

 “Richness in Diversity,” Conference, 1981

Speeches, 1986-1988 and undated

Twenty-sixth national convention

Working design for cluster communities, 1973

“Women in the ‘70s fact book,” 1973

Box 4


World YWCA

Correspondence, 1949-1994 and undated

Protest against South Africa apartheid, 1976

“Report on Bahamas Assignment April 19-May 7, 1977, Nassau, New Providence, Bahamas,” 1977

World relations workshop, cluster meeting, 1977


Buffalo, New York

125th-anniversary souvenir program, 1995

Administrative papers, 1956-1959

All-Girl weekend, 1968

Annual reports, 1958-1967

Board of directors dialogue group, 1968

California and Pacific Southwest Recreation and Park Conference, 1965

Camp Forty Acres, 1960

“Challenge for 1966-1967” staff orientation and Upper Manhattan Leadership Conference, 1966



1968, 1994-1995

Executive director’s reports, 1967-1968 and undated

Good Neighbor Award program, 1959

Memorials, 1959-1969

Newspaper clippings, 1957-1968

Reports, 1957-1968 and undated

“The Role of the YWCA in a Changing Era,” National Board of the YWCA, 1960

“Sex: A Moral Dilemma for Teen Agers, conference, 1967

Speeches, 1958-1966 and undated

Professional evaluations, 1957-1968 and undated

Programs, undated

Denver, Colorado

Correspondence, 1929-1937 and undated

Job description and contracts, 1929-1937


Box 5

Newark, New Jersey

Correspondence, 1937-1941 and undated

Contracts and date book, 1939-1942

Speech:  “The Impact of War on College Women,” 1942


Sketchbook, undated

Speeches, 1949-1968

Speeches, undated

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Correspondence, 1942-1956 and undated

Executive director’s reports, 1949-1956

Job description and contracts, 1942-1956

Leadership Training Institute

Correspondence, 1949

Newspaper clippings, 1949

Notes, 1949

Scrapbook, 1949 (2 folders) [photographs in photograph series]

Speeches, 1949

Training materials, 1949

Travel itinerary, 1949

Membership Campaign kickoff speech, 1973

Newsletter, 1949

Newspaper clippings, 1953-1956 and undated


Box 6

 “The Philadelphia YWCA Replies to Charges of Communist Influence in the National YWCA,” 1948(?)

Second Annual Forum on the Dynamics of Democracy, 1953

“The Walking Stick,” reprinted by special permission of the Saturday Evening Post, 1945

“What America Means to Me,” Christian Herald, 1953

“Women of the Future,” speech, 1963

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Annual reports, 1969-1972

“As I Heard It,” The YWCA Magazine, 1972

Correspondence, 1969-1972

“Documentation of Racial Discrimination at Camp (Epworth Forost)”

Equal Employment Opportunities for Older Women

Executive director’s report, 1972

Good Friday service, 1970

Newspaper clippings, 1968-1973

The One Imperative--to eliminate racism, 1971-1972

Resource File, 1971

Seminars and workshops on racism, 1968-1972

Speeches, 1972 and undated

Staff list, 1971-1972

“Tribute to Lois Jones” retirement ceremony, 1969

Tulsa, Oklahoma

                                              Correspondence, 1929



Aurora Reading Club of Pittsburgh 100th anniversary, 1994-1995

Buffalo Urban League award presentations, 1958

Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, 1996

Des Moines, 1926-1970 and undated [includes photograph of the Des Moines Junior NAACP]

Family and friends, 1922 and undated

Houston College students and staff, 1925 [oversized shelved in map case] [closed for conservation]

Needlepoint work and personal art collection snapshots, undated

Negatives, undated

Read Program Exchange speaking engagement Atlantic City, New Jersey, 1953


Bahamas [1974]

Denver, 1929-1932

Leadership Training Institute scrapbook, 1949 (2 folders)

National YWCA Conference Frankfort, Kentucky, 1926 [oversized shelved in map case] [closed for conservation]

Philadelphia, 1945-1957

Pittsburgh, undated

Tulsa, 1935 and undated


Box 7

         Drake University Veritas medal, undated
Good Neighbor Award, 1958              

Parting gift [sandal and poem], undated

YWCA Distinguished Service Award, 1987