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Bertha McKee Dobie Collection

Identifier: MS-0027

Scope and Contents

The Bertha McKee Dobie Papers (1889 – 1986; 10.5 linear feet) include writings, publications, correspondence, clippings, photographs, and other items documenting Mrs. Dobie’s life and work as an author, editor, and naturalist, as well as her role as the spouse of author J. Frank Dobie.

The collection is organized in eleven series. Highlights of each series are listed.

• Biographical Materials (1 box): Mrs. Dobie’s birth certificate, family history, and autobiographical notes. • Writings and Publications (6 boxes): Handwritten and typed drafts of Mrs. Dobie’s newspaper columns and articles about gardening, Mexico, and Frank Dobie, as well as speeches, short stories, poems, and children’s stories. Some of the drafts are written on the verso of discarded correspondence and drafts by Frank Dobie. • Nature/Texana (2 boxes): Notes and publications illuminating Mrs. Dobie’s interests in gardening, botany, ornithology, and the natural world, especially in Texas. This series also contains flower seeds collected by Mrs. Dobie. • Correspondence (8 boxes): Letters to and from Mrs. Dobie dating from 1913 to 1984. This extensive series, comprising almost one-third of the collection, also includes some correspondence to Frank Dobie and to Edgar Kincaid, Jr. (Mrs. Dobie’s nephew), who lived with the Dobies for many years. Letters from Lyndon and Lady Bird Johnson, Senator Ralph Yarborough, and John Henry Faulk are part of the collection. • Clippings (1 box): Pieces written by and about the Dobies, and well as articles collected by Mrs. Dobie on gardening, Texana, Velasco (her hometown), and women’s issues. • Photographs (1 box): Photos of the Dobies, their family members, and their Austin home, as well as photos taken in Mrs. Dobie’s garden, at Southwestern University, and in Mexico. • Southwestern University (2 boxes): Mrs. Dobie’s senior yearbook (1910) and materials relating to her Distinguished Alumna Award (1973). • European Trip of 1948 (1 box): Her passport and itinerary, ocean liner memorabilia, and souvenir publications and postcards. • J. Frank Dobie (1 box): Publications and notes about Dobie, copies of pages from his family Bible, and copies of nine Christmas booklets (1948-63) containing reprints of Dobie articles. • Assorted (1 box): Publications by and from Mrs. Dobie’s friend, Senator Yarborough, as well as materials from President Johnson’s 1965 inauguration. • Oversize (1 box): Oversize certificates, photographs, and publications, as well as the plaque Mrs. Dobie received when named a Distinguished Alumna by Southwestern University in 1973.


  • Majority of material found within 1890 - 1974

Biographical / Historical

Bertha McKee Dobie (Southwestern University class of 1910) was born on July 8, 1890, and spent her childhood chiefly in Velasco, Texas. After graduating from school at age 14, she entered Southwestern University. In some of her classes at Southwestern, she noticed a young man named James Frank Dobie, but did not meet him until February of their last year, when rules were changed to allow senior girls to date. Six years later, after a lengthy exchange of letters, Bertha McKee and Frank Dobie were married in the McKee home in Velasco on September 20, 1916.

When Bertha Dobie was given Southwestern’s Distinguished Alumnus Award in 1973, she said her sole claim to fame was as a helpmeet to her famous husband. But she had become a writer in her own right, contributing a series of articles on gardening to Texas newspapers, and writing articles and stories for numerous periodicals, including Nature Magazine, the New York Herald Tribune Magazine, Garden Digest, Holland’s Magazine, Southwest Review, and Publications of the Texas Folklore Society. After J. Frank Dobie died in 1964, she edited his posthumous works, including Rattlesnakes (1965), Some Part of Myself (1967), and Out of the Old Rock (1972).

But Bertha Dobie by no means spent all her time helping her husband or completing his projects. In fact, she thought of her own life as centering on plants and the world of nature. For many years an active member of the Texas Federated Garden Clubs, she also syndicated a garden column in Texas newspapers and gave talks in many Texas towns and cities on gardening. She took botany courses and collected specimens for the University of Texas herbarium. She was a member of the Audubon Society and an interested participant in the formulation of plans for Paisano Ranch, a Hill Country retreat for Texas writers and artists. She also was famous for her lovely rose garden at the Dobie home at 702 Park Place in Austin, known as “the house on Waller Creek.”

Bertha McKee Dobie – helpmeet, author, and Texas naturalist – died on December 18, 1974, at the age of 84, and was buried alongside her husband in the State Cemetery in Austin.

Source: Norma Siviter Assadourian and Jon D. Swartz, “Bertha McKee Dobie: An Exhibition at Southwestern University” (1988).


10.5 Linear Feet

Language of Materials


Language of description
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Repository Details

Part of the SU Special Collections & Archives Repository

1001 East University Avenue
Georgetown TX 78626 United States