Meet the Monuments Woman

Gladys Hamlin

George Clooney’s “The Monuments Men” hit movie theaters last winter, but did you know there is an Iowa State connection to the real-life story of these World War II-era art rescuers? Bonaparte, Iowa, native Gladys E. Hamlin was an ISU art history professor during WWII who served on the wartime Roberts Commission and helped write the how-to guides that were provided to the “Monuments Men” as they worked to steal artwork and antiquities from the Nazis.

Many of the once-classified field guides are housed in ISU Archives; Hamlin donated them before her death in 1986. They are written for soldiers who may not have known much about art history. For example, her guide to Rome starts out: “Rome is a very, very old city.”

Hamlin taught at ISU from 1949 until her retirement in 1973, and most of her former students had no idea she worked against the Nazis. Did you take a class from Gladys Hamlin? We’d love to hear your stories. Email the editor at


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