Iowa History
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Iowa History

Readers Wanted: Iowa History Book Club

The Iowa History Book Club has opened a new chapter in the study of Iowa history. Since its formation last year by the State Historical Society of Iowa, hundreds of Iowans have tuned in to participate in lively online discussions with leading historians and authors.

During one recent session, Art Cullen, the editor of The Storm Lake Times, explained how he collected his thoughts about agriculture, immigration and the environment into a book called “Storm Lake: Change, Resilience and Hope in America’s Heartland.”

“After winning the Pulitzer, I got calls from two different New York publishers wanting me to write a book, and I laughed at them both and hung up the phone,” he said. “My brother John said, ‘Call them back and tell them you got a book.’”

Of course, there are plenty of other stories about Iowa’s recent and distant past. The book club digs into a new title every three months or so.

“It was an honor to have Art Cullen kick off the club’s second year,” said Andrew Klumpp, who leads the discussions and edits The Annals of Iowa, the State Historical Society of Iowa’s quarterly journal. “Looking forward, we’re going to hear from more authors who will share insights about different periods of history from every corner of the state.”

A recording of the February discussion with Cullen is available online, along with registration details for the upcoming free events. Here is a look at the rest of the 2022 lineup:

7 p.m. April 14: “Mormons at the Missouri”
With author Richard Bennett, president of the Mormon Trail Center at Winter Quarters (Register in advance)

The roots of Bennett’s “Mormons at the Missouri” go back to when he was 10, when he first heard about the Mormon Trail.

“That whetted my appetite and became the foundation of my dissertation at Wayne State in Detroit,” he said. “When it came time to defend my dissertation, the only question I got was ‘Who’s going to publish the book?’”

Bennett taught church history and doctrine for more than 20 years at Brigham Young University. In his book, he recounts how members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints wintered at the Missouri River near present-day Council Bluffs.

7 p.m. Sept. 22: “American Dreamer: A Life of Henry A. Wallace”
With Timothy Walch, director emeritus of the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library & Museum (Register in advance)

Walch’s first in-depth exposure to Henry A. Wallace came at the Hoover Library & Museum, where the book’s authors, the late Sen. John C. Culver and journalist John Hyde, visited for a book-signing event.

“The book is a wonderful way to dip into the life of an idealist,” Walch said. “Wallace had more courage than sense, but he cut through so many layers at a time when Iowa had more influence on agriculture than any other state.”

To tell that story, Culver and Hyde combed through thousands of documents, letters, diaries and family papers, as well as previously unavailable files sealed in archives in the former Soviet Union.

7 p.m. Dec. 1: “Dakota in Exile”
With author Linda Clemmons, professor of history at Illinois State University (Register in advance)

Clemmons found an invaluable source during her research for her book “Dakota in Exile” when she contacted a great-great-grandson of the late Robert Hopkins, a member of the Dakota Nation and a Christian preacher.

“It was amazing to have Mr. Hopkins agree to share his family stories,” she said.

In her book, Clemmons explores Hopkins’ struggle to balance life between his Dakota upbringing and Christian conversion. He was accused of fighting against U.S. soldiers in 1862, and his allegiance was often questioned by his fellow Dakota.

— Jeff Morgan, Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs

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State Historical Society of Iowa. Preserving and providing access to Iowa History.

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Iowa Culture

Iowa Culture

The Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs empowers Iowa to build and sustain culturally vibrant communities by connecting Iowans to resources. iowaculture.gov

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