Collection MS/MS 01.49 - Margaret Matlack Kiesel Papers 1932-1988

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US US-IaGG MS/MS 01.49

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Margaret Matlack Kiesel Papers 1932-1988




Name of creator


Biographical history

Margaret Matlack Kiesel (1908-1987) was a writer, educator, feminist, and civil rights activist. She received her B.A. from Grinnell College in 1930 and her M.A. at Oberlin in 1932. She and her husband, Paul F., lived in Minnesota and Marshalltown, Iowa before returning to Grinnell in 1970. The bulk of the materials in this collection are from her work after her return to Grinnell and most of her published work is from this period. At the time of her death she was compiling a sociological and educational history of women in Grinnell.

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Scope and content

The collection is arranged in three series: Personal papers; Published work, course outlines, lectures; and Unpublished manuscripts and research notes. It reflects Margaret’s work as a writer, but except for her writing on women, does not reflect her active role in such women’s organizations as NOW and the League of Women Voters nor her work with activist’s groups such as Grinnell Peace Links.

Personal papers contains correspondence with family members, close friends, and letters that relate to her writing. There are many tributes written to her family on her death. Of significance is a poem, “The misbehaving feet,” written by James Norman Hall that Margaret had found in her mother’s papers. It is an unpublished poem written in 1936 for Margaret’s father. Also included is correspondence between Margaret and an editor at The Atlantic Monthly about possible publication of the poem.

Published work contains the research materials, notes, related correspondence, and drafts of her published articles. Although she wrote on a variety of issues, the most significant items are those relating to Grinnell College and published in The Grinnell Magazine, The Annals of Iowa, and Iowa Woman. She wrote fine articles about Herrick Chapel and Mears Cottage and a series of articles about Hallie Flanagan. Her work on Ruth Suckow was quite extensive and led to her participation in the Ruth Suckow Memorial Association; papers from that group are included in this collection.

Unpublished manuscripts includes stories and articles from early in her career and the drafts and research materials from her book on Grinnell women on which she was working when she died. Her extensive writing, her interest in Grinnell, and her strong feminist leanings may have made this last work the pinnacle of her career.

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Copyright transferred to the Grinnell College Special Collections and Archives.

Languages of the material

  • English

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Custodial history

Papers were donated to the Archives in July 1998 by Derrith and Jane Wieman who received them from the estate of Laura Wieman, Margaret’s sister and executor of Margaret’s estate.

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Items Discarded:

Photocopies of published materials that she used in her research; books; brochures; multiple copies of her published works.

Matlack family papers (Ms. 01.46) contain materials kept by Margaret’s sister, Laura, and their mother. Especially noteworthy in that collection is the extensive family correspondence. There are also copies of Margaret’s publications in the Iowa Room, including one not represented in her papers (commentary on the novel based on Grinnell College, Prominent among the mourners).

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