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320 records

About this collection

The Middletown Women's History Collection provides online access to archival materials documenting the experiences of women and women's organizations in Muncie, Indiana from the 1880s through the 1930s. It includes diaries, minutes, correspondence, photographs and other documents selected from the wealth of resources available in Ball State University Libraries Archives and Special Collections. These resources will expand research opportunities in women's studies and local history.


The organization of this online resource is based on the six areas used by Helen and Robert Lynd in their seminal sociological study of Muncie, or "Middletown," in the 1920s and 1930s. Click on the area below for more information on the resources included:



Getting a Living

When the Lynds came to Muncie, Indiana, in the 1920s they found that a majority of women still worked in the home. However, this was beginning to change and more and more women were beginning to work outside the home.


The materials selected in this area include the records of the Muncie Business and Professional Women's Club and the Muncie chapter of Altrusa International, Inc. Both of these organizations promoted equal rights for women in the workforce and offered support for professional women. A selection of photographs of women in the workplace is also included.


Materials are included from the following collections:


Altrusa Club of Muncie, Inc. records

Ball Memorial Hospital Training School for Nurses Photograph

Muncie Business and Professional Women's Club records

Muncie photographs



Making a Home


The Lynds discussed all aspects of home life in Muncie, Indiana in their chapter, 'Making a Home.' According to both Middletown and Middletown in Transition, the majority of Muncie citizens lived in single family homes and most working class families were able to purchase their own homes. Through the time period documented in this digital collection, family sizes became smaller and the divorce rate increased. Most women still continued to work in the homes, taking care of children. New innovations such as supermarkets, refrigeration, and washing machines and the decline in family size were beginning affect women's lives.


The materials selected for the Middletown Women's History Collection to represent Making a Home include photographs, diaries, correspondence, and household financial records created by women from a variety of backgrounds.


Materials are included from the following collections:

Cassady-Nelson Family Papers

Marsh-Ryan Family Papers

Mina McCormick-Beckett Diaries

Fred and Penny Prow Family Papers

Mary Alta Smith Diaries



Training the Young

When looking at education in Middletown, the Lynds were struck by how much emphasis was placed on schooling. A good education was seen by all social classes as the key to a successful and satisfying life. One-third of students expected to attend college and vocational training was also on the rise. High school became the center of social life for young men and women. Organizations, such as the YWCA, also provided opportunities for training and socialization.


The resources in this area include two scrapbooks created young women graduating from Muncie High School in the 1920s and 1930s, Grace Arthur and Louise Carey, and the records of the Young Women's Christian Association (YWCA).


Materials are included from the following collections:


Grace Arthur Scrapbook

Louise Carey Scrapbook

YWCA records



Using Leisure


In Middletown, the Lynds found that technology was greatly changing how residents spent their leisure time. Movies, radios, and automobiles had a significant impact on how people spent their time and how far they could leave their homes to enjoy leisure time. Membership in community organizations was also on the rise in this time and this is especially true for women. Archives and Special Collections has the records of over fifty women's clubs and many trace their histories to the time period focused on in this digital collection, the 1890s-1930s.


Resources in this area include the records of four women's clubs organized to provide social and cultural activities for women. The materials selected include meeting minutes, programs, and photographs.


Materials are included from the following collections:


McRae Club records

Reticule Circle Club records

Riverside Culture Club records

Woman's Club of Muncie Records



Engaging in Religious Practices


Religion was and remains an important component of life for many of the citizens of Muncie. Like countless other average-sized communities, Muncie's population has been largely Protestant. Although the "standard" denominations, such as the Baptists, Methodists, and Presbyterians still have the highest numbers of congregational members, many other denominations are represented in the town as well, including Roman Catholic parishes, those of Jewish faith, and Quakers. Many churches had organizations for women and other organizations were formed to promote religious values and teachings.


Resources in this area include records of women's organizations affiliated with churches in the Muncie area. The materials selected include meeting minutes and programs.


Materials are included from the following collections:


Community Women's Club records

Madison Street United Methodist Church records

Unitarian Universalist Church records



Engaging in Community Activities
Search Middletown Women's History Collection: Engaging in Community Activities
Browse Middletown Women's History Collection: Engaging in Community Activities


The citizens of Muncie have been involved in a wide range of community activities since the community's early days. Politically and socially, Muncie has earned its name "Middletown." Its clubs include those for women and men, veterans, those affiliated with business, and those that are religiously based, among many others. Politically, women in Muncie were active in the women's suffrage movement. The records of other women's clubs are included in under the other areas.


Resources in this area include the records of the Women's Franchise League of Muncie, an organization that was formed with the purpose of gaining voting rights for women in 1912. The materials selected include meeting minutes and programs. Also included are a selection of photographs of women participating in community activities, such as volunteering for the Red Cross.


Materials are included from the following collections:


American Red Cross. Muncie Chapter photographs

Mary Martha Club photographs

Woman's Franchise League of Muncie records

Woman's Relief Corps/Circle of the Ladies of the GAR/Daughters of Union Veterans Records




It is also possible to browse all of the materials in the collections or search by archival collection, format, keyword and using other advanced searching techniques. Go to Advanced Search.


For more information on Middletown Studies, visit the Middletown Studies Collection website.


This project is part of the Indiana Memory Digital Library and is made possible by a grant from the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services under the provisions of the Library Services and Technology Act, administered by the Indiana State Library.


Archives and Special CollectionsSocial Studies 392 Lesson Plan - Middletown Women's HistorySocial Studies 392 Lesson Plan - The Women of Middletown, IndianaInstitute for Museum and Library ServicesIndiana Memory

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