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(August 29, 1929 — August 15, 2011)

Quick Facts

Geitel served as curator, and later co-curator, of the Historic Costume (Clothing) and Textile Collection.

Geitel was born to Annette (Wright) and Arthur Winakor in Springfield, Illinois and grew up in Urbana, Illinois, along with a younger sister, Bess. She received an AB in Home Economics in 1950 from the University of Illinois, followed by an MS in Home Economics from (then) Drexel Institute of Technology in 1951. She enrolled at Iowa State College (now University) in 1957 taking a doctoral major in Consumption Economics, with minors in Statistics and Textiles and Clothing, graduating in 1960.

Between her MS and PhD programs, Geitel taught at Michigan State University and the University of Toronto. Upon graduating from Iowa State University, she joined the Department of Textiles and Clothing, with a halftime Experiment Station appointment. She became a full professor in 1966 and Mary B. Welch Distinguished Professor in Home Economics in 1973. She retired as Professor Emerita in 1992. Her major areas of teaching were clothing consumption, research methods, and history of costume, the latter at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. Geitel served as curator, and later co-curator, of the Department’s Historic Costume (Clothing) and Textile Collection, helping to develop and organize the holdings.

Dr. Winakor wrote or co-authored 34 research papers, and was co-author of The History of Costume 2nd Ed. This was a complete rewriting of a classic text. She directed the research of 45 graduate students, who worked mainly on topics in the history of dress or clothing consumption, her own primary research area. Statistics were a particularly fulfilling aspect of her scholarly work. She led the way in research about supplementary sources of apparel, such as clothing gifts and secondhand clothing. Later in her career, in collaboration with statisticians, mechanical engineers, and architects, Dr. Winakor investigated perceived comfort in indoor environments.

Geitel Winakor played the lead role in establishing NCR-65, a regional conference committee that coordinated and promoted research in clothing and textiles. She served as the first editor of the Home Economics Research Journal, from 1971 through 1975, setting the high standards that marked it as a highly respected scholarly journal. She was named Fellow in the International Textile and Apparel Association in 1989, the first year that honor was given. Geitel participated in the Costume Society of America as chair of the book award committee and as a regular reviewer of journal manuscripts. She was inducted into several honor societies, including Phi Beta Kappa, Phi Kappa Phi, Omicron Nu, and Phi Upsilon Omicron.

Dr. Winakor helped in the professional development of junior faculty members. Her zeal for research and her “jargon-free” approach to writing greatly influenced the work of younger scholars. She kept abreast of journal literature, and was a regular visitor to the New Titles shelf in the ISU Library, sharing her finds with other faculty members. At professional meetings, Geitel asked probing questions, sometimes to the discomfiture of colleagues. Nonetheless, she was greatly respected.

Besides being a bibliophile, Geitel pursued fine art and crafts, both as a practitioner and a collector. While teaching at Michigan State, and later, Geitel took summer craft workshops at Gatlinburg, Tennessee (1953-1965) There she studied weaving and jewelry making, supporting her creative work and collecting. Geitel maintained a remarkable output of watercolors and silver jewelry throughout her professional career and in retirement. She was an exquisite knitter and tried her hand at weaving. Her watercolors were often exhibited in Ames, after her retirement from Iowa State.

A long-time member of the Ames Jewish Congregation, Geitel served as President and Treasurer. Using her textile skills, she created some of the torah covers that are used to the present. She educated friends about the feasts, prayers, and traditions of Judaism. Former graduate students continued their friendship with Geitel, because she kept in touch via her December greeting cards and letters, the “card” being a photo that she had taken during the year.

Although she appeared to be a homebody, Geitel traveled extensively, visiting several European countries, Hong Kong, and parts of the United States. Some trips were sponsored by museums, others were self-planned; her sister and her friends provided travelling companionship, which Geitel valued.

One offshoot of her love of design was her involvement in planning two of her homes, an innovative house by David Block, which was featured in an architectural magazine, and an open-plan town-home, where she spent her later years.

Geitel’s appreciation of the natural world carried over into both her artwork and her philanthropy. She provided very substantial gifts to Ames Parks and Recreation Department. Iowa State University Museums received fine examples of 20th century furniture and decorative arts both during her lifetime and through bequests.

Selected Sources

Winakor, Thora Geitel, "Factors associated with changes in clothing expenditures in the United States, 1929-1958 " (1960). Retrospective Theses and Dissertations. 2776.


ISU Plaza of Heroines.

ISU Faculty Senate Memorial Resolutions.

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