Barbara Bates Gunderson Papers

Identity elements

Reference code

MA 079

Name and location of repository

Level of description



Barbara Bates Gunderson Papers


  • 1911-2002 (Accumulation)


3.0 linear feet [3 records boxes]

Name of creator


Biographical history

Born in Bradley, South Dakota, on March 28, 1917, Barbara Bates Gunderson was the second of the four daughters and two sons of South Dakota newspaper editor Carmon L. Bates and his wife Helen E. (Lyman) Bates. The 1920 US Census lists them in Onida, South Dakota; the 1930 US Census lists them in Redfield, South Dakota, where he owned the Journal Observer Co, until his death there on May 13, 1942. In December 1954, Helen married Charles Whiting Gardner of Hand County, SD; she died August 21, 1978 in Gettysburg, South Dakota. / Barbara Bates worked her way through Yankton College with kitchen, sales girl and newspaper jobs. After graduation, she was the Continuity Director for Yankton’s WNAX radio and also occasionally was “Ma Brown” with the “Neighbor Lady” in the Flying Arrow Ranch Show. She was chief copywriter for the R.J. Potters Advertising Agency, Kansas City, Missouri, when on October 25, 1941, she married Robert W. Gunderson in Jackson, Missouri just prior to his departure in the US Army for the European theater during World War II. Robert “Bob” was born January 10, 1915 in Centerville, SD. The Gunderson’s lived in Omaha before moving to Rapid City in 1947, where Robert established his law practice and Barbara continued free-lancing, radio-script and magazine writing. / In 1952, her political experience began as the Pennington County, South Dakota Vice-Chair with Citizens for Eisenhower and later as the South Dakota state Vice Chair, where she headed up the state-wide volunteer effort to nominate Dwight D. Eisenhower for President. She became a Republican National Committee woman. In 1954, she was the national Co-Chair of the Citizens for Eisenhower Congressional Committee. / In August, 1958, President Eisenhower appointed her to be the fifth ever women Commissioner on the U.S. Civil Rights Commission, where she served as the Vice-Chair of the three-member governing board of this federal agency charged with all aspects of the federal personnel system. As Commissioner, she originated the Federal Woman’s Award Program, the first award in Washington, DC, recognizing women in government. While Commissioner, Mrs. Gunderson traveled extensively, visiting federal offices and addressing many audiences. She spoke at the University of California, Los Angeles Symposium on Women and, after her term ended in March, 1961, consulted with federal departments on the Equal Opportunity Act. She was vice-chairman of the President's Advisory on Personnel under President Johnson, and the public member of the Retirement Board of USIA which determined the career advancement of these State Department employees. / In 1973-1974, she ran for the U.S. Senate in the South Dakota Republican Primary. / In the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, Barbara was a columnist for the Rapid City Journal. She published two romance novels: in 1979, “Love’s Bold Embrace” under the pseudonym Brynn Gilbert, and, in 1981, “Seasoned to Taste” under the pseudonym Benna Gray. / In Rapid City, she served on the Board which united the two hospitals and was Trustee during the building and first operations of Rapid City Regional Hospital. She was President of the Rapid City Library Board at the time of the building of the new library. She was President of the Rapid City branch of AAUW, the Women's Fellowship of First Congregational Church, receiving Honor's Day award from the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology for conspicuous community service and a "Woman of Worth" award from AAUW. She also served on the YMCA Building Committee, and was a member of the National Board of Pennsylvania Medical College and the Corporate Board of Yankton College. / In 1994, Barbara Bates Gunderson was the only woman participant in an Eisenhower biographical program, "The Contentious Years of The Presidency" televised on the A&E Channel with narrator-host John Chancellor. / Barbara Bates Gunderson died aged 90 on July 29, 2007 in Rapid City, South Dakota. Her husband Robert died on January 23, 1994.

Content and structure elements

Scope and content

This memorabilia collected by Barbara Bates Gunderson is comprised chiefly of scrapbooks, which document her public, political and governmental career. The contents of these scrapbooks are mostly newspaper and magazine clippings and black and white photographs, as well as some business correspondence, invitations, badges, programs, etc. In folders are additional unorganized loose clippings, black and white photographs, correspondence, speeches, publications, etc. Also included are the contents taken from hanging picture frames, a plaque, and a silver presentation box.

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Conditions governing access

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

Researchers conducting extensive research are asked to make an advance 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.

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Conditions governing reproduction

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.

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Alternative identifier(s)




MA 79

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