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Zwiefka family dance papers

Identifier: Dance-MS-Zwiefka

Scope and Content of the Collection

The Zwiefka Family Dance Papers chiefly contain dance notations and the accompanying musical scores for specific dances used by Evelyn Zwiefka, Grace Zwiefka Thuis, Diane Lewandowski, as well as other teachers in the Chicago Public School District and the Chicago Park District, like Beulah E. Meuhlhausen. Relatedly, the papers include dance notations without sheet music and sheet music without dance notations, with a special emphasis on ballet, folk, Polish, and Spanish dances. Additionally, the papers consist of schedules and notes for dance classes taught by Evelyn Zwiefka, clippings, personal finance records, photographs, sound recordings, and miscellaneous items.


  • Creation: 1890-1987
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1906 - 1960



Materials are in English and Polish.

Conditions Governing Audiovisual Access

Audiovisual recordings in this collection have not been digitized and are unavailable for use at this time.

Conditions Governing Access

The Zwiefka family dance papers are open for research in the Special Collections Reading Room; 1 box at a time (Priority III).

Ownership and Literary Rights

The Zwiefka family dance papers are the physical property of the Newberry Library. Copyright may belong to the authors or their legal heirs or assigns. For permission to publish or reproduce any materials from this collection, contact the Roger and Julie Baskes Department of Special Collections.

Biography of Zwiefka family members

Chicago area family of dance teachers specializing in ballet, folk, Hawaiian, Polish, and Spanish dance.

The Zwiefka Family Dance Papers concern the four youngest daughters and their families: Clara, Helen, Grace, and Evelyn. The sisters’ parents, Wojchiech “Albert” and Michaelana Zwiefka (née Grzeca), immigrated to Chicago around approximately 1881 and 1892 respectively, from German-Polish territory. The 1910 Census gives the earliest and most complete list of Albert and Michaelana’s children: Paul (20), Kathryn (12), Irene (8), Clara (6), Helen (4), and twins Grace and Evelyn both a few months old. The family and their boarders, who in the earlier years included additional family members, lived in Jefferson Park – a thriving German-Polish neighborhood.

Born on September 30, 1909, Grace and Evelyn Zwiefka both graduated from Carl Schurz High School and went on to flourish as physical education teachers in Chicago. Evelyn graduated from Chicago Normal College in 1930, and the yearbook chronicles her impressive athletic and collegiate accomplishments: Student Council, Diving Champion, All Star Volleyball, All Star Baseball, Swimming Manager, Hockey Champs, Swimming Champs, Volleyball Champs, and Life Saving Corps. Evelyn went on to teach physical education in the Chicago Public School District at Wells High School and Foreman High School, until her retirement in 1975. She received her M.S. in Physical Education from George Williams College in 1968, and wrote her thesis on “Décor and Costume as an Expression of the Ballet.” Her passion and legacy as a physical educator rests on her commitment to dance, which she also taught outside of school. She died in July 1980.

Grace Zwiefka Thuis worked for the Chicago Park District for more than 60 years, first as a Physical Instructor and later as General Supervisor of Physical Activities. As General Supervisor, she headed women’s recreation for the entire city of Chicago. She married Edward B. Thuis on June 12, 1940. Grace died on September 7, 2000 in Placentia, California. In 2005, the Chicago Park District named a park in Jefferson Park in her honor.

Born on August 19, 1903, Clara married Joseph E. Lewandowski in 1919. Their daughter, Diane, born in 1932, went on to teach dance and she assisted Evelyn for many years. Awarded a grant through the United States International Exchange Program in 1960, she taught in Sussex, England for one year.

The Zwiefka family resided together throughout their lives. While many of the siblings moved out after they married, some did not immediately leave like Clara and Joseph. After Albert died in September 1934, Irene, Helen, Grace, and Evelyn continued to live with their mother. A move did occur to a different residence in Jefferson Park, but the sisters continued to live together (at least Helen and Evelyn), which is why the papers include Helen’s tax information.

Although not a Zwiefka relative, the Zwiefka Family Dance Papers include manuscripts owned and penned by Beulah E. Muehlhausen. Born on November 23, 1891, she worked for the Chicago Park District for over 40 years, most notably as the district’s first woman recreation supervisor. She married William G. Paulick and died in August 1973.


12.7 Linear Feet (14 boxes and 1 oversize box)


Materials related to Evelyn Zwiefka's, Grace Zwiefka Thuis's, and Diane Lewandowski's dance instruction in Chicago primarily through the Chicago Park District and the Chicago Public School District. The women specialized in ballet, folk, Hawaiian, Polish, and Spanish dance.


Papers are organized in the following series

Series 1: Classes, 1950-1977
Box 1-1a
Series 2: Clippings, 1929-1963
Box 1a
Series 3: Dances and Sheet Music, 1890-1962
Box 2-11
Series 4: Financial, 1965-1987
Box 12
Series 5: Miscellaneous, 1928-1981
Box 12
Series 6: Photographs, 1928-1968
Box 13
Series 7: Sound Recordings, 1937-1959
Box 14

Collection Stack Location

3a 53 1


Gift of Diane Lewandowski, 1991 and 1997.

Processed by

Samantha Smith, 2016.

Inventory of the Zwiefka family dance papers, 1890-1987, bulk 1906-1960
Samantha Smith
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the The Newberry Library - Modern Manuscripts and Archives Repository

60 West Walton Street
Chicago Illinois 60610 United States