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COLLECTION Identifier: MC 572; Vt-157; MP-57

Papers of Caroline Iverson Ackerman, 1927-2004 (inclusive), 1939-1949 (bulk)


Photographs, writings, correspondence, and work files of pilot, journalist, travel expert, and professor Caroline Iverson Ackerman.


  • 1927-2004
  • Majority of material found within 1939-1949

Language of Materials

Materials in English.

Access Restrictions:

Access. Unrestricted.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright. Copyright in the papers created by Caroline Iverson Ackerman is held by the President and Fellows of Harvard College for the Schlesinger Library. Copyright in other papers in the collection may be held by their authors, or the authors' heirs or assigns. Researchers must obtain the written permission of the holder of copyright and the director of the Schlesinger Library before publishing quotations from materials in the collection.

Copying. Papers may be copied in accordance with the library's usual procedures.


7.85 linear feet ((16 file boxes, 1 folio box, 1 folio+ box, 1 card file box) plus 3 oversize folders, 5 supersize folders, 132 photograph folders, 6 videotapes, 1 16 mm motion picture)
Series I, BIOGRAPHICAL AND PERSONAL, 1927-2004 (#1.1-4.6), includes radio story award certificates, school-related materials, clippings written about Ackerman, and letters from family and friends. The series is divided into four subseries. Folders are arranged chronologically.

Subseries A, Biographical, 1927-1994 (#1.1-1.18), includes writing contest certificates from Ackerman's childhood; professional certificates and membership cards; housekeeping and child-rearing notes by Ackerman; student papers written about her life; information and samples of her short-lived postcard business; and speaking engagement notes. Folders are arranged chronologically.

Subseries B, Education and related, 1930-1989 (#1.19-2.5), contains high school newsletters; college term papers and University of Wisconsin yearbooks; papers from evening classes at unknown school in New York City; master's thesis from Boston University; and reunion material from the University of Wisconsin. Folders are arranged chronologically.

Subseries C, Clippings, ca.1930-1995 (#3.1-3.10), includes clippings on Ackerman during junior high and high school; University of Wisconsin activities; working at Life; and later. Files are arranged chronologically.

Subseries D, Correspondence, 1936-1998 (#3.11-4.6), includes family letters from her father, mother, and sister re: advice on her struggle to quit Life and join the women pilots serving their country during World War II; death of best friend/pilot Margaret Seip, while training in Sweetwater, Texas; daily activities; etc. Also included are letters to Ackerman from her children Karin and Terry while attending college, and from son Jon and wife; an Ackerman family Christmas card containing images of family members and news from 1993; wartime letters from friends Bill Dill (who also attended Civilian Pilot Training), Lieutenant H.P. Kniskern, and Cornelius Van S. Roosevelt (son of Theodore Roosevelt); and miscellaneous letters from friends grouped in chronological order, including Jean Speiser (1944 trip to Mexico), Margaret Seip (best friend killed in flight training), a female friend imparting male pilot's opinion of female pilots, etc.

Series II, FLIGHT SCHOOL/FLYING, 1939-2000 (#4.7-7.5), includes course material from Ackerman's time in flight school and teaching in the 1940s, as well as trip material, research files, etc., related to flying. This series is divided into two subseries.

Subseries A, Flight School, 1939-1944 (#4.7-5.3), contains course books with notations, student flight log books, class outlines for courses taught by Ackerman, etc. Folders are arranged chronologically.

Subseries B, Flying and related, 1940-2000 (#5.4-7.5), includes flight logs, clippings, notes, photographs, etc., on the month-long 1941 trip Ackerman took with her student, Gene Damrow, to Alaska. Ackerman's 1944 trip to Mexico in a two-seater plane with Life co-worker Jean Speiser ended with a forced landing. They were rescued by locals, and the Mexican Air Force dismantled their plane and transported it by truck down the mountain to a local airport for reassembly. Included are articles on their Mexico experience by both women; clippings about them and their trip; Ackerman's notes and Speiser's diary; correspondence; uncataloged photographs of the Mexico City airport; official government paperwork for trip; flight logs; maps; as well as files on the Ninety-Nines, Inc. (a women pilots' group), the Civil Air Patrol; and material on smaller flying trips. Files are arranged chronologically.

Series III, JOURNALISM AND RELATED, 1938-2000 (#7.6-16.5), is divided into five subseries, four of which represent different stages of Ackerman's career: Life magazine; Shell Oil Company/"Carol Lane"; Northeastern University; and Lutheran Church publications. The fifth subseries contains articles not affiliated to any professional position Ackerman held in the previous subseries.

Subseries A, Life magazine, 1941-1993 (#7.6-11.14). In the spring of 1942, Life magazine recruited Ackerman to be an aviation researcher for the New York City office. During this time, women were searching for ways to serve their country and Ackerman was no exception. She qualified to train for airplane ferrying duty with the American Air Corps and planned to quit the magazine, but Life intervened, persuading her and her commanding officer that covering aviation news was more useful than being another woman pilot. Ackerman stayed with Life and her first story after that was on "girl" pilots training near Sweetwater, Texas, which consequently made it onto the cover. Later, after the publication of her wildly popular story, The Fightingest Flying Fortres,s on the Suzy-Q and her crew, Ackerman was promoted to aviation editor at the age of 26. This story was published in The 100 Best True Stories of World War II.

The subseries includes clippings, memos, correspondence, schedules, and photographs covering the publicity tour of war plants by the B-26 Hellcat crew. In 1944, Ackerman and photographer Margaret Bourke-White traveled nearly 10,000 miles over the United States, with Ackerman doing the background research and Bourke-White photographing every part of the country from the air for a special issue (A Letter to the GIs) for soldiers as a reminder of home. Later that year, the Air Transport Command invited Ackerman and eleven other journalists and radio notables (she was the only woman) to participate in a two-week tour of little-known American bases in Newfoundland, Greenland, and Iceland; material related to the trip is included.

Work-related correspondence includes letters re: Ackerman wishing to leave the magazine and fly for the American Air Corps; story ideas/follow-ups; visits to factories and bases; War Department; etc. Ackerman corresponded with other journalists, sharing story ideas and personal news. Included are business cards; office directories and Time corporate history; directions on use of Time, Inc. "morgue"; memos and informational booklets from the War Department on censorship and guidelines; story progress reports and analysis; story idea notes/notebooks; etc. Ackerman's work files on writing projects, ideas, and subjects contain correspondence, clippings, notes, and photographs. They are listed with Ackerman's original folder titles in quotation marks, arranged in alphabetical order. These files include subject headings: "Alaska communication"; "Corny" (Cornelius Roosevelt); "ferry flight to Guatemala"; "Mexico" (1945 flying trip); "parachutes"; "what a fighter pilot thinks about"; "woman pilots" (Sweetwater, Texas); etc.

Subseries B, Shell Oil Company/"Carol Lane," 1944-1991 (#12.1-14.9), documents Ackerman's work for Shell Oil Company from 1947 to 1950, as the first "Carol Lane, Women's Travel Director of Shell Touring Bureau." Her syndicated column, Carol Lane: Tips on Touring, ran in almost 200 newspapers; she traveled to women's clubs, giving presentations; appeared on television and radio shows; etc. The first contract for "Carol Lane"; reports and schedules for travel appearances; expense forms; informational packets; etc., are in this subseries. Well-documented road trips to the National Parks with Jean Speiser (1948) and a June 1949 trip to historic areas on the east coast with three orphan children include press releases, clippings and articles, photographs, notes, etc. Files are arranged chronologically.

Subseries C, Northeastern University, 1971-1999 (#14.10-15.11), is separated into three sections: general, Women in Communications, Inc. (WICI), and tenure material. General files include university-related correspondence; project and conference papers; course outlines; Phi Kappa Phi material; etc. Ackerman was involved with the Boston chapter of WICI (originally known as Theta Sigma Phi), a professional organization for women in journalism and communications. Ackerman became president of the Boston chapter and served as president and chairman of the jury for the Edward L. Bernays Foundation Award. Included are event programs; publications (i.e., Matrix); notes; correspondence; Edward L. Bernays Foundation award related material; etc., for the WICI Boston Chapter. Tenure applications from two separate attempts include clippings; papers; letters of recommendation; brochures; correspondence; etc., are also in this subseries.

Subseries D, Lutheran Church publications and related, 1971-2000 (#16.1-16.10), contains articles written for New England Lutheran, The Lutheran, and other related publications; and a retirement scrapbook for Ackerman as editor of New England Lutheran.

Subseries E, Other, 1938-1993 (#16.11-16.15), includes other articles written by Ackerman, not related to previous subseries. Article topics include shoes for college girls; flowers; working in newspaper advertising; flying; local Wisconsin boys found during Ackerman's tour of New England bases; etc. The subseries contains a clipping with a photograph by Ackerman. Files are arranged chronologically.

Series IV. PHOTOGRAPHS, ca.1927-1992 (#PD.1-PD.104), include Ackerman, her family, and friends; flying trips; and work-related images for Life magazine, Shell Oil Company, and Northeastern University. Filed with photographs unless otherwise noted.

Subseries A, Biographical and personal, ca.1927-1992 (#PD.1-PD.20), contains photographs of Ackerman, family, and friends.

Subseries B, Flying/flying trips, 1940-1948 (#PD.21-PD.33), includes photographs of Caroline with women pilots in the CAA course, June 1944 and June 1945 Mexico flying trips, etc.

Subseries C, Life magazine, 1942-1947 (#PD.34-PD.58), includes images used for magazine stories: women pilots at Avenger Field in Sweetwater, Texas, Caroline holding an umbrella while on top of a blockbuster bomb, Caroline's visits and press tours to United States Air Force bases, etc.

Subseries D, Shell Oil Company/"Carol Lane," 1947-1950 (#PD.59-PD.101), includes "Carol Lane" appearances/presentations, publicity portraits, promotional trip with orphaned children to historical locations, trip out west to national parks, etc.

Subseries E, Northeastern University, ca.1971-1978 (#PD.102-PD.104), includes WICI events and clinics which Caroline assisted in planning.

Most of the photographs in this collection are or will be cataloged in VIA, Harvard University's Visual Information Access database. Others, referred to as "uncataloged" photographs, are not of sufficient research interest to warrant cataloging and are simply treated as part of the documents they accompany; they are marked on the back with an asterisk in square brackets [*].

Series V, OVERSIZED, MEMORABILIA, AUDIOVISUAL, 1937-1999 (#17FB.1-17FB.14, 18F+B.1-18F+B.3, OD.1-OD.3, SD.1-SD.5, 19CB.1m-19CB.6m, Vt-157.1 - Vt-157.6, MP-57.1), includes portrait sketches; magazine covers and credits; Shell promotional posters; tenure dossier; aerial maps; flying goggles worn by Ackerman; identification patches for the press; "Carol Lane" pencil; videotapes of Ackerman interviews; videotape of Ackerman presentation; etc.

Subseries A, Oversized, 1937-1976 (#17FB.1-17FB.14, 18F+B.1-18F+B.3, OD.1-OD.3, SD.1-SD.5), includes sketches of Ackerman; Life magazine covers with credit listings and articles written by Ackerman; Christmas scrapbook for husband Les; "Carol Lane" portrait sketches, award, and promotional posters; Northeastern University tenure dossier; and aerial maps from flying trips. Files are arranged by folder size and then chronologically.

Subseries B, Memorabilia, ca.1939-1950 (#19CB.1m-19CB.6m), includes Ackerman's aviator goggles; shoulder patch and mirror from the United States Air Force; press pins from air races and maneuvers; and a "Carol Lane" pencil.

Subseries C. Audiovisual, 1950, 1992-1999 (#Vt-157.1 - Vt-157.6, MP-57.1), contains videotape of Caroline Iverson Ackerman's retirement party from her Lutheran Church publication position; hot air ballooning in Arizona; interviews about her experiences flying and working for Life magazine; her presentation on the history of New England Lutheran magazine and motion picture she filmed while being "Carol Lane" for Shell Oil Company.


Caroline Iverson Ackerman was born in 1918 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to Jacob Engval and Ella Dorothea (Schmidt) Iverson. Ackerman's father was a layout editor for the Milwaukee Journal, while her mother taught short story/feature writing at Wauwatosa High School Adult Education Program and was publicity editor for the Milwaukee Athletic Club. Ackerman had a sister, Dorothy (Iverson) Edwards.

Ackerman graduated from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, in 1939 with a B.A. degree in journalism and education. She was fired from her first job as a shopper's reporter for the Janesville Daily Gazette after six months, and moved back to Milwaukee to live with her parents. Ackerman then worked as a classified advertising and business feature writer at the Milwaukee Journal. While there, she noticed an advertisement for free flying lessons at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, sponsored by the U.S. Government. Rejected initially because she was a woman, Ackerman was called back when the school failed to meet its quota of males. She passed all her courses, and received her pilot's license in the fall of 1940. After receiving government certification as a Civil Aeronautics Administration (CAA) Ground School instructor in the U.S. Civilian Pilot Training program, Ackerman taught at the University of Wisconsin (Milwaukee), Carroll College, and the Milwaukee School of Engineering in the evenings. Among the courses she taught were navigation, meteorology, theory of flight, engines, and civil air regulations. Ackerman continued her own education, taking advanced lessons in open cockpit and acrobatic flying. In 1941, she and one of her students made a much-heralded flight to Alaska: a first in a small, 65-horsepower, two-seater airplane.

In the spring of 1942, Life magazine recruited Ackerman to be an aviation researcher, developing aviation-related picture stories, covering stories with photographers, and writing captions. Before World War II, flying had been considered primarily for daredevils, but the military began to rely heavily on its use and approached Life for help alleviating public fears about flying. Ackerman was promoted to aviation editor at the age of 26, and continued in that position for the duration of the war. Because of her previous flying experience, she was given the opportunity to fly B-52, B-26, B-24, and B-17 bombers, as well as the first B-29 to come off the line in Wichita, Kansas, during tours of military bases.

In 1947, Ackerman, like many other women in the workforce, was released from her job after the soldiers returned from the war. She left Life and was hired by Shell Union Oil Corporation (which changed its name to Shell Oil Company in 1949), founding the company's first program for public relations for women, based on family automobile touring. She worked under the pseudonym "Carol Lane, Women's Travel Director," a persona who traveled frequently to speak to women's groups about efficiently packing a suitcase, entertaining children in the car, and finding child-friendly destinations for weekend trips (which she called "Tourettes"). She also wrote a syndicated weekly column, "Tips on Touring," and appeared on radio and TV shows as a "travel expert."

On December 31, 1949, Caroline Iverson married Leslie (Les) Ackerman in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin. Shortly after marrying, Caroline quit Shell and moved to Warwick, Rhode Island, where Les worked as a chemical engineer and commodity manager for the U.S. Rubber Company, while Caroline stayed home to raise their three children: Karin (Field), Terrell, and Jon. While at home, Ackerman did some freelance writing, but mostly gratis publicity work for organizations such as the Girl Scouts, Parent Teacher Association (PTA), Cub Scouts, American Association of University Women (AAUW), etc.

In 1965, the family moved to South Natick, Massachusetts, where Ackerman returned to school, receiving her M.S. in journalism at Boston University in 1969. Ackerman joined the faculty of Northeastern University as a journalism professor in 1971. She was denied tenure, and left Northeastern in 1978. Throughout her life, Ackerman had been involved with the Lutheran Church, and after her retirement from Northeastern, she assisted with communications development within the New England Synod, and on a national level. She wrote for and eventually became editor of the New England Lutheran until her retirement in 1992. Her husband joined her, becoming her chief editorial assistant after his retirement. Ackerman was also New England correspondent for The Lutheran, the church's national publication. The Ackermans had been married 51 years when Les died in 2001; in 2004, Caroline moved to an assisted living facility in Montana where she passed away in 2012.


The collection is arranged in five series:
  1. Series I. Biographical and personal, 1927-2004 (#1.1-4.6)
  2. Series II. Flight school/flying, 1939-2000 (#4.7-7.5)
  3. Series III. Journalism and related, 1938-2000 (#7.6-16.15)
  4. Series IV. Photographs, ca.1927-1992 (#PD.1-PD.104)
  5. Series V. Oversized, memorabilia, audiovisual, 1937-1999 (#17FB.1-17FB.14, 18F+B.1-18F+B.3, OD.1-OD.3, SD.1-SD.5, 19CB.1m-19CB.6m, Vt-157.1 - Vt-157.6, MP-57.1)

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Accession numbers: 2004-M84, 2004-M92, 2004-M102, 2004-M145

The papers of Caroline Iverson Ackerman were given to the Schlesinger Library by Caroline Iverson Ackerman in 2004.

Processing Information

Processed: February 2009

By: Stacey Flatt
Link to catalog
Ackerman, Caroline Iverson. Papers of Caroline Iverson Ackerman, 1927-2004 (inclusive), 1939-1949 (bulk): A Finding Aid
Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America

Repository Details

Part of the Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute Repository

The preeminent research library on the history of women in the United States, the Schlesinger Library documents women's lives from the past and present for the future.

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