Mary E. Francis Collection, 1864-ca. 1968

Collection Overview

Title: Mary E. Francis Collection, 1864-ca. 1968

Record Series: MsC-81

Creator: Mary E. Francis

Date: 1864-ca. 1968

Extent: 1.25 linear feet, 1 box

Repository: Special Collections and University Archives, Rod Library, University of Northern Iowa.

Language: This material is entirely in English.

Access and Use

Accessing the Collection:

There are no restrictions on the use of this material.

Preferred Citation: [Identification of item] in the Mary E. Francis collection, 1864-ca. 1968, Manuscript Record Series MsC-81, [folder number], University Archives, Rod Library, University of Northern Iowa

Historical Note

May E. Francis was a distinguished alumna of the University of Northern Iowa.  She was a nationally recognized educator, author, scholar, and historian.  She was born November 2, 1880, in rural Mapleton, Minnesota.  Her given name was Mary, but she apparently used the name May throughout most of her professional life.

Miss Francis began her career as a teacher in a one-room school in Bremer County.  She quickly advanced through the teaching and administrative ranks.  She drafted the Standard School Law and developed regulations to implement the law, which was designed to improve educational programs in one-room schools.  In 1922, May Francis was elected State Superintendent of Public Instruction for Iowa.  As such, she was the first woman to be elected to an Iowa statewide public office.  Her one term as State Superintendent was controversial:  she proposed that high school teachers should complete at least two years of college; she opposed school dress codes; and she championed the one-room school.  She lost her re-election bid and moved to Texas, where she received a Ph. D. from the University of Texas in 1934.  She had earlier received her Bachelor of Arts degree from the  Iowa State Teachers College in 1910 and her Master of Arts degree from Teachers College, Columbia University, New York.  She moved to New York and in 1948, returned to Iowa, settling in Waterloo.

May Francis had a remarkably varied career of teaching, government work, writing, and a final unsuccessful run for state superintendent.  Her popular historical novel, Bowie's Lost Mine, went through five printings; the final edition was published in 1970.  She also wrote a fourth-grade spelling textbook and pursued a long-term project on the history of Texas.

May Francis died in April 3, 1968.  She is buried in Littleton, Iowa.  She was inducted into the Iowa Women's Hall of Fame in 2003.

Scope and Content

This collection consists primarily of notes and manuscripts relating to a projected history of Texas that Miss Francis apparently worked on for many years.  There is also some Francis family correspondence relating to legal matters in the 1860s.  In addition, there are a few books associated with Miss Francis's work and research.

Mike Fuller, a great-nephew of May Francis, brought this collection to the University Archives in July 2013. 


Box 1

Folder 1: Bob Slaughter's famous ride (manuscript)

Folder 2: Herman von Ehrenberg (manuscript)

Folder 3: War Clouds Over Texas, revision of The Hermit of the Cavern (manuscript)

Folder 4: History of Texas (manuscript and notes)

Folder 5: Indians of the Southwest (manuscript)

Folder 6: Bowie's Lost Mine (book)

Folder 7: Francis family correspondence, 1864-1871

Processing Information

Collection processed by University Archivist Gerald L. Peterson, August 2013; updated, August 27, 2013 (GP). Last updated by Library Associate Dave Hoing, October 2017. Linear feet count updated on August 7, 2017.

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