Celebrating Diversity: Iowa Sisters Live, Learn, and Serve
Author Visit: Doocy Sisters
Friday, April 8th
Spirit Lake Public Library
Spirit Lake natives and teachers Diana Doocy Koppen and Pam Doocy Curry are returning home to unveil the publishing of their aunt’s memoir, Breaking Free From Rigid Boxes From The Outside Looking In. Born in Iowa to Norwegian immigrants, the Helland children, Marion, Orville, and Gladys (Doocy), learned how to celebrate differences and advocate for others who were seen as outsiders. Immersed in Norwegian traditions, Marion and Orville entered school speaking no English but made a pact their little sister Gladys would grow up with English as her first language.
Both Marion and Gladys walked the halls of Waldorf College for the first time in 1944 and 1954 respectively, in search of ways to make their imprints on society. The sisters found their avenues by becoming teachers and encouraging their students to celebrate individual differences. Marion began her teaching career in Iowa, moved to Minneapolis shortly after, and taught for five decades. Gladys began her career in Titonka, Iowa, where she met and married George Doocy in 1959. Soon after, with a baby on the way, the Doocys relocated to Spirit Lake where Gladys raised her five daughters and substitute taught on a regular basis for five decades.
In 1964, Marion made a trip to her childhood home to let her family know that she would be heading to the South that summer. Marion had responded to an ad “Teachers WANTED to Teach FREEDOM” and had been selected to open the Freedom School in Alabama. Her family reacted as expected: they were terrified and worried how Marion could oppose the Ku Klux Klan and survive alone in the deep South. Against her family’s concerns, Marion began her lifelong commitment to social justice— documenting her life’s work in fifty boxes filled with journals and photographs.
In 2017 at age 90, Marion and her husband returned to Iowa, choosing Spencer as their home, halfway between Gladys in Spirit Lake and Orville in Cylinder. Marion entrusted her 50 boxes to nieces Diana and Pam because she knew that as educators, they would keep the contents alive. During this presentation, you will witness how their unique family narrative molded sisters Marion Helland and Gladys Doocy into such impactful educators. You will also follow Marion as she encounters the Ku Klux Klan, teachers in the Freedom Schools, marches in the Meredith March, camps on Capitol Hill, and changes social policy for years.
Diana Doocy Koppen and Pam Doocy Curry will be bringing their treasure trove of stories to the Spirit Lake Public Library on Friday, April 8th at 1:00 p.m. They will be discussing the sisters’ story and the book. Copies of the book will be available for purchase. Books are also available at the Spencer Sports Cards Shop and Amazon along with copies available for checkout here at the Spirit Lake Public Library.