History Culture Textiles & Clothing
Clothing collection provides historical perspective
It's Happening at State, published by the Office of the President/University
Relations, North Dakota State University, Fargo, September 20, 2000
Collection Provides Historical Perspective." It's Happening at State, 20 September 2000.
It's a gift that gives a glimpse at a lifetime on the North Dakota
prairie. "The Pauline Neher Diede Collection" is a set of clothing
dating from 1932 to the 1970s that helps represent how a first-generation
Germans from Russia adapted to American culture.
The garments are part of the Germans from Russia Heritage Collection
housed in the Emily Reynolds Costume Collection at North Dakota
State University Library. Donated by Pauline Diede, Hebron, N.D.,
the clothing items include her 1932 wedding gown, a 1950s brown
rayon dress, a lavender nylon knit dress from the 1970s and a navy
blue dress with matching jacket. Also included are three coordinating
hats: a brown head-band with leaves and netting, a lavender hat
with lilies around the edge of the crown and a blue "pill box" with
navy trim. In addition, Diede donated handicrafts such as a crocheted
doily and table cover and a huck-woven pillow case. "Pauline has
given things that span her lifetime," said Ann Braaten, senior lecturer
of apparel, textiles and interior design and Reynolds Collection
curator. "She is a first-generation German from Russia, and the
garments show how she blended in to American culture."
Diede said the collection is the perfect place to preserve and
display the clothing items. "They represent the changes of the styles
over the decades," she said. "I see them as a way to honor the Germans
from Russia Heritage Society." Diede, who turns 89 in October, is
a longtime feature writer and "The Prairie Echoes" columnist for
the Hebron Herald newspaper. She has written six books about her
life on the North Dakota prairie, and is currently working on the
seventh, titled "The Road Home." She received the North Dakota Professional
Communicators' "Communicator of Achievement" award in 1995.
The daughter of parents who came to America from Russia in 1909,
Diede was born in a one-room sod house in southwest Mercer County.
"Germans from Russia were not considered a superior class of people,"
said Diede, who is an active member of the Germans from Russian
Heritage Society. "We often did not have the privileges and advantages
of other nationalities. Nevertheless, we brought a lot of culture
into the society and the offspring became progressive, hard-working
Braaten said the clothing collection provides a visual addition
to the first-person history Diede has provided in her many writings.
"The items help us understand how quickly Germans from Russia assimilated
into American culture," she said. "They definitely maintained aspects
of their Germans from Russia identity, but they adapted into the
American way of doing things. Clothing is so visible and it is often
one of the first things that change." Braaten describes Diede as
a very fashionable lady who came from a family that was not wealthy.
"But she dressed in a way that was current with the times. The collection
shows what somebody did in that portion of the prairie to dress
in a fashionable way," she said. "Having items from North Dakotans
who were not as prosperous helps us to understand the dress of all
The Reynolds Collection focuses on clothing, textiles and related
items from across the state, region and world. The collection works
with the NDSU Libraries to preserve and collect items representing
Germans from Russia Heritage. The Pauline Neher Diede Collection
is available for viewing by appointment. For more information, contact
Braaten at (701) 231-7367.
to use any images from the GRHC website may be requested
by contacting Michael