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Ruth Ann Alexander Papers

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Collection Summary


UA 53.22


Ruth Ann Alexander Papers


Ruth Ann Alexander




2.0 linear feet (2 records center boxes) photographs




South Dakota State University Archives and Special Collections, Hilton M. Briggs Library, Brookings, South Dakota.

Access note

This collection is open to researchers without restrictions. The materials in the Archives do not circulate and may be used in-house only.

Preferred Citation

Name of item . Ruth Ann Alexander Papers. UA 53.22. South Dakota State University Archives and Special Collections, Hilton M .Briggs Library, Brookings, South Dakota.


Ruth Ann Alexander was professor and head of the English Department. This collection is composed of files related to her writing and speeches, records related to her term on the Brookings School Board, Chautauqua, and with her term as head of the English Department. Also included is material related to various other activities in which Alexander was involved.

Biographical Note

Ruth Ann Alexander February, 13 1924 – February 1, 2010

Born in Lansing, MI on February 13, 1924 to Harry and Anne (Green) Musselman, Ms. Alexander graduated from East Lansing High School and Michigan State University with a BA in English in 1945. She completed her masters in American studies at the University of Minnesota and her PhD in American intellectual history at Michigan State. She married William Alexander in 1955 and had three children.

Ms. Alexander taught English at South Dakota State University for 34 years, becoming full professor and the first woman to head the English Department (1981-1989). She developed the university's first courses focusing on women writers and African American and Native American literature. She chaired the committee that created the Women's Studies major. Ms. Alexander received numerous grants and fellowships, including a Bunting Fellowship at Harvard in 1987. She received SDSU's Outstanding Educator Award" in 1971, 1972, and 1974. Upon retirement in 1989, she was named Professor Emeritus and continued to research South Dakota women writers and women in the Episcopal Church. From 1994 to 2002 she wrote a column about women in the Episcopal Church called All Sorts and Conditions of Women" for South Dakota Church News. In 2003, she published the collected columns in Patches in a History Quilt: Episcopal Women in the Diocese of South Dakota, 1868-2000. She wrote numerous scholarly articles on such South Dakota writers as Elaine Goodale Eastman and Kate Boyles Bingham. She was a touring member of the Great Plains Chautauqua series, portraying Elizabeth Cady Stanton from 1989-91 and acting as series moderator from 1998-2001.

A life-long advocate of equal opportunities for women and girls, Ms. Alexander was the first woman on the Brookings School Board (1970-1975) and worked for equal funding for activities for girls and boys and higher academic standards. In 1972 Governor Kneip appointed her to the first statewide Commission on the Status of Women where she served until 1979. She also served on the Board of Directors for the South Dakota Historical Association from 1988-2000; the Episcopal Church History Association from 1992-1997 and for the Episcopal Women's Church History Project from 1991-1997. She helped found the Brookings Food Pantry and was chair of the Emergency Services Commission from 1983-1999.

Ruth Ann Alexander died of lymphoma on February 1 in Brookings, South Dakota. She was preceded in death by her husband, William Alexander in 1979; her sister, Jane (Musselman) Addams of Houston, Texas in 2008; and her late life sweetheart, Wes Kelley of Brookings in October 2009. She is survived by her three children: Jane Alexander (Mark Johnson) of New Orleans; Andrew Alexander ( Linda Kruckenberg) of Wayne, NE; and Sarah Alexander of Sioux Falls; and by her siblings: George Musselman of Grand Haven, MI; Sarah (Musselman) Phelps of Madison, WI; and Mary (Musselman) Fischer of Hastings, MN


This collection is arranged into seven series:

Series 1. Personal material

Series 2. Brookings School Board activities

Series 3. Chautauqua activities

Series 4. English Department Head at SDSU and teaching

Series 5. Other activities

Series 6. Writings and speeches

Series 7. South Dakota Commission on the Status of Women

Contents Note

This collection is composed of material related to the activities of Dr. Alexander. The bulk of the material is composed of files related to her writing and speeches. Folders consist of correspondence, research, agreements with publishers, grant material, and manuscripts. Researchers will also find records pertaining to her term on the Brookings School Board including material related to her campaign, papers related to her involvement in Chautauqua, and records dealing with her term as head of the English Department at South Dakota State University, with a small amount of material related to courses she taught. Also included is material related to various other activities conducted by Alexander, such as her involvement with the Episcopal Church, and research dealing with women, women's rights, pioneer women, feminism, and sexism. Also included are files related to Alexander’s term serving on the South Dakota Commission on the Status of Women.

Key Words

Alexander, Ruth Ann, 1924-2010

Breneman, Muriel

Brookings (S.D.). School Board

Cady Stanton, Elizabeth


Episcopal Church


Le Seuer, Meridel

Pioneer women


South Dakota -- History

South Dakota Commission on the Status of Women

South Dakota State University -- Department of English

Wilder, Laura Ingalls

Container List

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Ruth Ann Alexander Papers Container List. UA 53.22

1. Personal material11Clippings about Alexander1954-1996, 2001
1. Personal material12Honors1967-1993
2. Brookings School Board activities13Brookings School Board : Correspondence1970-1975, 1992-1993
2. Brookings School Board activities14Brookings School Board : Publicity on Alexander’s campaign1968-1970
3. Chatauqua activities15Chautauqua1998-2001
3. Chatauqua activities16Chautauqua application1998
3. Chatauqua activities19Chautauqua in Portsmouth, New Hampshire (Elizabeth Cady Stanton)1997 July 28-304
3. Chatauqua activities17Chautauqua lecture to Spearfish, SD Middle School (includes letters from school children)1994-1995
3. Chatauqua activities18Chautauqua memorabilia1986-2001
3. Chatauqua activities110Elizabeth Cady Stanton forum1990
4. English Department Head at SDSU and teaching111College of Arts and Science, SDSU: Dean Search Committee1985
4. English Department Head at SDSU and teaching112ENGL 794: Seminar in American Literature (course material)1987
4. English Department Head at SDSU and teaching114English Department, SDSU : correspondence1984-1989
4. English Department Head at SDSU and teaching113English Department, SDSU application for chairman1975-1981
4. English Department Head at SDSU and teaching115Humanities 253: Black and Red in American Society (course material)1970, 1976
4. English Department Head at SDSU and teaching116Meridel Le Seuer talk at SDSU1978
4. English Department Head at SDSU and teaching117Nameplateundated
5. Other activities118Episcopal Divinity School, Cambridge, MA application1986-1990
5. Other activities119Feminine history researchundated
5. Other activities120Laura Ingalls Wilder monologue1986, 1995
5. Other activities121Laura Ingalls Wilder/William Anderson project1983-1985
5. Other activities122Mary Ingraham Bunting Institute of Radcliffe College Fellowship1987-1993
5. Other activities123Plainswoman activities (journal)1984-1989
5. Other activities124Proving Up! The South Dakota Experience exhibit (member of Humanist Planning Committee at the Cultural Heritage Museum in Pierre, SD)1990-1992
5. Other activities125Snapshots of Women in South Dakota Church History at Episcopal Convention with focus on Emily West2001 September 28-30
5. Other activities126South Dakota History Conference2003 April 25-26
5. Other activities127South Dakota Humanities Council : Speakers Bureau1999
6. Writings and speeches128Book reviews1982-1987
6. Writings and speeches129Book reviews1990-2006
6. Writings and speeches130Brookings High School National Honor Society Induction Ceremony speech1984
6. Writings and speeches132Encyclopedia of the Great Plains contribution1999
6. Writings and speeches133Feminism / Sexism in Education (talks and articles)1974-1975
6. Writings and speeches134Fictionalizing South Dakota History: Kate Boyles Bingham, a South Dakota Humanities Council grant1991-1992
6. Writings and speeches131Graduation speech1983
6. Writings and speeches135Historiography papersundated
6. Writings and speeches136Interview with Muriel Breneman1985-1997
6. Writings and speeches137Keynote speech at Sioux Falls College “Breaking Barriers” in celebration of Women’s History Month1991
6. Writings and speeches138Letters to editor1964-2002
6. Writings and speeches139Parenting in a Changing Society (talk)1978
6. Writings and speeches140Phi Kappa Phi Lecture (speech)1982
6. Writings and speeches142Publications and articles1947-1997
6. Writings and speeches143South Dakota Women Stake a Claim (manuscript)1990
6. Writings and speeches144South Dakota Women Writers and the Blooming of the Prairie Heroine, 1922-1939 (manuscript, agreement, correspondence)1984
6. Writings and speeches21South Dakota Women Writers and the Emergence of the Prairie Heroine1983
6. Writings and speeches22Speeches and papers on South Dakota women and writers1976-1984
6. Writings and speeches141The Pioneer Heroine as Idea1985-1986
6. Writings and speeches23Three Missionary Teachers to the Indians, 1856-1894 – a South Dakota Humanities Council grant1996-1997
6. Writings and speeches24Toward Our Third Century (writing)1976
6. Writings and speeches25Women in Midwestern Literature (writings and revisions)undated
6. Writings and speeches26Women's issues (talks)2004
6. Writings and speeches27Women's rights papers1993-1999
7. South Dakota Commission on the Status of Women28Athletic dispute : Brookings (SD) School Board on women's activities1974-1975
7. South Dakota Commission on the Status of Women29Athletic dispute : Women's activities in Brookings (SD) Public Schools1971-1974
7. South Dakota Commission on the Status of Women210Commission records (policy statements, history, minutes, members, task force, budget)1974-1979
7. South Dakota Commission on the Status of Women211Did You Know column (Information about opportunities and problems of South Dakota women)1975-1979
7. South Dakota Commission on the Status of Women212Equal Rights Amendment 1979 / Displaces Homemakers Bill (Senate Bill 82)1974-1979
7. South Dakota Commission on the Status of Women213International Women's Year Conference, Houston, Texas: Perspectives on - beginning, end, or way station?1977
7. South Dakota Commission on the Status of Women214National Commission on the Observance of International Women's Year1976-1977
7. South Dakota Commission on the Status of Women215Room at the Top Conference : Upward Mobility Task Force1974
7. South Dakota Commission on the Status of Women216South Dakota International Women's Year Conference1975-1978
7. South Dakota Commission on the Status of Women217South Dakota Women's Political Caucus1977

Administrative Information

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open to researchers without restrictions. The materials in the Archives do not circulate and may only be used in-house.

Researchers conducting extensive research are asked to make an advanced appointment to access archival material. Please call or e-mail prior to visiting the collection and indicate as much detail as possible about a particular topic and intended use.

South Dakota State University supports access to the materials, published and unpublished, in its collections. Nonetheless, access to some items may be restricted as a result of their fragile condition or by contractual agreements with donors.

Copyright note

Copyright restrictions apply in different ways to different materials. Many of the documents and other historical materials in the Archives are in the public domain and may be reproduced and used in any way. There are other materials in the Archive carrying a copyright interest and must be used according to the provisions of Title 17 of the U.S. Code. The Archive issues a warning concerning copyright restrictions to every researcher who requests copies of documents. Although copyright law is under constant redefinition in the courts, it is ultimately the responsibility of the researcher to properly use copyrighted material.

Arranged and Described by

Crystal J. Gamradt, Archivist, 2010 July 7, additions made 2016 April 26.