May E. Francis Collection, 1864-ca. 1968

Collection Overview

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

Record Series: MsC-81

Record Group:


Creator: Francis, May E.

Date: 1864-ca. 1968

Extent: 1 box (1.25 linear feet)

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

Language: Materials entirely in English.

Information for Users

Accessing the Collection:

No restrictions. Materials are open for research.

Immediate Source of Acquisition:

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

Sensitive Materials Statement: Manuscript collections and archival records may contain materials with sensitive or confidential information that is protected under federal or state right to privacy or similar laws, and the Iowa Open Records Law (see Iowa Code § 22.7). Researchers are advised that the disclosure of certain information pertaining to identifiable living individuals represented in this collection without the consent of those individuals may have legal ramifications (e.g., a cause of action under common law for invasion of privacy may arise if facts concerning an individual's private life are published that would be deemed highly offensive to a reasonable person) for which the University of Northern Iowa assumes no responsibility.

Preferred Citation: [Identification of item], in the [Series Title] #[series number], [folder number or title when applicable], [Collection Name], Rod Library, University of Northern Iowa.

General Use, Reproduction, and Copyright Policies

Many items housed in the Rod Library Special Collections & University Archives, including unpublished images and manuscripts, may be protected by copyright, publication rights, trademarks, or model release rights which the library does not own and for which the library cannot grant permission or licensing. Materials currently under copyright are usually still available for research and limited reproduction under Fair Use laws. However, it is the sole responsibility of the patron to determine whether or not their use of a given material falls within Fair Use guidelines and to obtain permission for said use from the rightful copyright owner. If you are unsure where to begin, please consult the Copyright LibGuide. Please note that it is not the library's responsibility to locate or contact copyright holders for a patron, and neither the library nor library employees are responsible for copyright violations of the materials to which they facilitate research access.

Please see our full General Use and Service Policies for more information.

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.



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.