Iowa State education professor + Iowa artists = unique book

An education professor at Iowa State University is partnering with 30 Iowa artists—and Raygun—to create a book that can help students and their parents better appreciate the diversity in Iowa’s history.

And because of new social studies standards from the Iowa Department of Education, it could turn into a resource for Iowa teachers…

If a fundraiser is successful.

“Teachers need to have access to resources that are reflective of a wide range of experiences and people of a lot of different backgrounds,” said Katy Swalwell, Iowa State University education professor. “What we know is that most textbooks are really terrible at that. It’s usually white, Christian, straight wealthy men for the most part. So we’re trying to create resources that expand that picture because that’s clearly not the only history that happened or has influenced our lives today.”

The book is titled, Amazing Iowa Women from A to Z” and focuses on Iowa women of different backgrounds and industries in different time periods. To accompany the text, Iowa-based artists have signed on to create a portrait of each woman in the book.

Swalwell said Raygun will cover the design and publishing costs and she’s fundraising to commission the artists, purchase materials for local area education agencies to use with their teachers and develop a curriculum to pair with the book.

The fundraiser will last until the end of April, with a goal of raising $12,500. As of Wednesday, over $6,000 had been raised for the book.

“In a lot of schools social studies is being pushed to the side or not taught at all because of pressure from the government to increase reading and math scores,” Swalwell explains. “So when I was thinking about ways to get this history in front of kids and teachers, a book where they can work with non-fiction text, in digestible, kid-friendly paragraphs, is one really easy way.”

Some influence from Raygun

As the lead designer, Jen Leatherby laughed when asked if she will be able to work in any of the traditional humor associated with Raygun.

“There might be a little but there’s a lot of Katy’s influence as well,” Leatherby says. “I hope we can fit some snarky bits in there, we will see.”

As an artist herself, Leatherby also contributed a portrait of Leslie Hall, an Ames-based musician.

She first met Swalwell earlier this year when she spoke at the Human and Civil Rights Symposium.

“She was giving a lecture on how we remember history and how that reflects our ideas about race and gender,” Leatherby said. “That’s similar when you try to think of famous people from Iowa or anywhere, often times people think of men. So I think it’s pretty awesome to try to put that information out there that there are awesome women from Iowa.”


Assuming the fundraising goal is met, Swalwell says by the start of the 2018-2019 school year she can have a book published, with a curriculum and other resources for teachers.

“We want to build some activities and unit plans so they wouldn’t have to do that work themselves,” Swalwell says. “They can just go online, print them off for free and be high-quality lesson plans to go with the book at different grade levels.

“Ideally that would be great to have all that by the fall, it all depends on the fundraising,”

A link to the fundraiser is here.