Tennessee Williams

Tennessee Williams

1937 - 1938
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Tennessee Williams performs at the University of Iowa

Theater Building
200 North Riverside Drive

By 1937, the idea of Iowa as a center for creative writing had made its way to Tom Williams, an aspiring playwright and transfer student a year short of a degree. He enrolled at the University of Iowa, earning his B.A. in 1938, and soon thereafter picked up the moniker “Tennessee.”

In this image, Tennessee Williams is seen performing as a student in a stage production of Henry VI, Part 1 at the University of Iowa, on April 1938. Williams stands in the center of the picture, on the rock cliff.

Literary Reference

Tennessee Williams: Iowa Ave Literary Walk

Tennessee Williams: Iowa Ave Literary Walk
Iowa Avenue Literary Walk

Tennessee Williams’ plaque on the Iowa Avenue Literary Walk reads

We’re all of us sentenced to solitary confinement inside our own skins, for life!

Williams, Tennessee. Orpheus Descending Two Plays. New Directions, 1958.


Tennessee Williams: Linn Street Apartment

Tom’s first lodgings were at 225 North Linn, and on his first day in Iowa City, he wrote home: “I am very well satisfied with this place. I get both board and room here.” He said that the ‘excellent’ meals cost twenty-one dollars a month and the room ten dollars in advance. He was also delighted with the city – “very much like Columbia…”

Leverich, Lyle. Tom: the Unknown Tennessee Williams. Norton, 1997.

Image and Place

Tennessee Williams: North Clinton Boarding House


In a letter he sent to his mother, Tennessee Williams announced the fact that he had moved again to a rooming house at 126 North Clinton Street and awaited her visit for his graduation:

…there is a big dinner for graduates at the [Iowa Memorial] Union. Guest are eighty-five cents if you want to attend that also. I have an extra bed, upper-deck in my room that Dakin could occupy free and the landlady says that she will have a vacant room after Friday morning that she would rent to you.

Williams also mentions his part in a play at the University of Iowa, and the amounts he owes in order to leave town:

I owe my landlady one dollar for the last week of the summer session […] I have a small part in the final play of the season, only two lines – as a page in Richard of Bordeaux.

Williams,Tennessee. The Selected Letters of Tennessee Williams, 1920-1945

Leverich, Lyle. Tom: the Unknown Tennessee Williams. Norton, 1997.




Tennessee Williams (1911-1983), was born as Thomas Lanier Williams in Columbus, Mississippi. He attended the University of Iowa from October 1, 1937 until August 5, 1938, and studied with Edward Charles Mabie, head of the Theater Department at the time. He graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English. Before coming to Iowa, Williams had completed most of his coursework toward the degree at the University of Missouri and some at Washington University.