Margot Rinehart Swovelan (1942-2011). Margot Rinehart began learning Arabic at Carleton, and following graduation, she joined the Peace Corps for a two-year assignment in Tunisia. She taught English as a second language at the high school level, developing in the process an enduring interest in the Arab world and its problems.
She’d grown up in New Mexico and Colorado, and when she returned to the U.S. from North Africa, she enrolled at the University of Denver. There she received a Master’s degree in library science and met her future husband, Edward Swovelan.
Margot worked as a cataloger at the University of Utah while Edward completed his military service. They then married and moved to Kansas City, where Margot obtained a cataloging position in the Kansas City municipal library.
After seven years, she became a research assistant at the Kansas State Historical Society in Topeka, specializing in newspaper archiving, and remained there until her retirement in 2009. In declining health during the last decade of her life, Margot died following a brief illness in 2011.
Her family established an endowment at the Kansas State Historical Society in her honor to bolster and facilitate the organization’s newspaper research program that had become her professional home. “She was devoted to the early newspaper clipping program that provided a wealth of information to the researcher,” commented her brother, Eric J. Rinehart. “The delivery method was not important….it was the purpose that was important.”
Throughout her life, Margot maintained a broad-based interest in the Middle East, including everything from its music to its politics. She did additional graduate work in Middle East Studies at the University of Kansas City.
Recalled her husband, Edward: “Margot was a critic of most Arab governments and their authoritarianism. She believed strongly in women’s rights. But she also felt that the Arab side of political controversies was often not portrayed accurately in western news media.”
A death notice in the Topeka newspaper, written by her surviving family, described her in loving terms. “Margot worked hard at important things, and she spent much of her time understanding social issues and injustices against the common person,” her relatives wrote. “Margot will be remembered as one of the most generous persons known.”