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The Benton County Women's Oral History now available to order on CD

In-depth first-person accounts of rural Iowa history from the last century are now available to families, researchers, library archives and schools, thanks to area trusts, private donations, volunteers and an Iowa City archive.

Ten Benton County women’s life reviews, in their own voices, were recently restored, indexed and digitized from cassette tapes to CDs through grants from the Mansfield Trust of Belle Plaine, the Gilchrist Trust of Vinton, Three Rivers Promotions of Center Point and private donations. The CDs and DVDs with audio and print files are now available to historical preservation archives, schools and private individuals.

The Benton County Women’s Oral History Project was completed in 1984 by the Vinton branch of the American Association of University Women. A condensed montage slide-tape show was digitized in 2009 and aired publicly during Women’s History Month (March) in recent years.

“Digitizing each woman’s individual audio story was the last and largest piece of updating these materials,” said adhoc committee member Virginia Holsten, Vinton Public Library Director. “The generosity of the Gilchrist and Mansfield Trusts, Three Rivers Promotions, the Iowa Women's Archives and private donations made it possible to restore and preserve nearly 40 hours of these audio stories, with print versions and photos. Now we can share them with anyone who is interested, in usable, accessible formats.”

The outcome far exceeds the expectations nearly 30 years ago, when the project was launched by a small group of volunteers, according to project director Julie Zimmer. She said the opportunities for wider distribution also exceed the expectations of the adhoc committee that revived the project earlier this year, thanks to having the expense of remastering and digitizing underwritten by trusts and donors.

Each woman’s individual audio interviews will be permanently available through the Vinton public library, however user-friendly reproduction of audio interivews, on CDs with fully printable edited stories and photos, will be available for order and purchase only through October. Pricing and order forms for the CD sets and the 35-minute project montage DVD are available on the Vinton Library website or from project director Julie Zimmer (319) 472-4660 or

Unedited indexed transcripts of the 36 hours of tape were digitized this summer by the Iowa Women’s Archives in Iowa City and can be accessed from the Iowa Women’s Archives at these addresses (note: the punctuation before the numerals is a comma, not a period):

Project overview of Her Own Story: Oral Histories of Benton County Women,3002

Individual transcripts and photos:

Jennie Koch Beck,3079

Bess Burrows,3147

Esther Williams,4180

Nira Primmer Geiger,3284

Freida Brehm Geiken,3393

Ruth Gongwer Mumford,3727

Dorothy Sallee,3821

Alvena Selken Schroeder,3872

Allegra Bush Grady Schueler,4001

Gertrude Nellist Smith:,3597

To print order here!

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