Finding Aids

Dobie, Bertha McKee Collection

Manuscript Collection Number:
Bertha McKee Dobie [1899-1986]
Bertha McKee Dobie Collection
Data Span:
10.5 Linear Feet

Processed by: King, Holly M.
Date Processed: 12/2002

  • 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.

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

  • 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.

  • Box and Folder
    Box 1: Biographical Materials
    1.Biographical items
    Item 1. Birth certificate
    Item 2. McKee family history
    Item 3. Parents’ wedding invitation (1889)
    Item 4. “Womanalities” (from Naylor’s Pic-Century, 1938)
    Item 5. Texas Senate Resolution in memory of BMD (1975)
    2.Biographical/autobiographical notes
    4.Memorial book (1974)
    5.Memorial cards (1974)
    6.Memorial gifts/donations (1974)
    8.Embroidered bookmark (1969)
    9.Crayon sketch of Dobie home [by Gillis King?]
    10.Green grape cobbler recipe (1973)
    11.Engraved notecards
    12.“The Peach” (Alexander Collegiate Institute 1914 yearbook)
    13.Velasco materials

    Box 2: Writings and Publications – Post-graduate Work
    1. English themes (1914-26)
    2. Master’s thesis (1918)

    Box 3: Writings and Publications – Gardening articles
    1. Gardening articles (drafts)
    2. Gardening columns (drafts and final versions)
    3. Gardening columns, cont. (drafts and final versions)

    Box 4: Writings and Publications – Gardening articles (cont.)
    1. Nature Magazine articles (1930, 1942)
    2. Texas Parent-Teacher articles (1938)
    3. Gardening articles (drafts and final versions)
    4. Gardening articles, cont. (drafts and final versions)

    Box 5: Writings and Publications – General
    Note: Materials include articles, speeches, short stories, poems, and children’s stories.

    1. “All the Cacti That Bloom in Five States” (book review, 1970)
    2. “The American Girl on Trial”
    3. “At First Sight”
    4. “Dobie-Paisano Project”
    5. “Dobie, Webb, and Bedichek” (1968)
    6. “Dobie’s Sunday Pieces” (1965)
    7. “Fashions in Women”
    8. “Garden on Waller Creek”
    9. “A Garden Party”
    10.“Good Times at Aunt Kate’s House”
    11.Growing Up in Texas (chapter)
    12.“Happy Times on a Ranch”
    13.“Isak Dinesen and Her African Farm”
    14.“Lifting the Curtain on Mexico” (from New York Herald Tribune, 9/2/34)
    15.“Little Audrey”
    16.“The Lucky Traveler”
    17.“The Mind of a Child”
    18.“Mr. Bud Tarleton”
    19.Out of the Old Rock (preface)
    20.“The Pleasure Frank Dobie Took in Grass” (1971)
    21.“The Slave Ship’s Requiem”
    22.Untitled (book review)
    23.Untitled (children’s story)
    24.Untitled (The Soldier’s Mother)
    25.Untitled (A Visit to D.C.)
    26.“Ways of Pioneer Life in Texas”
    27.“Yardman by the Day”

    Box 6: Writings and Publications – Mexico (1932-33)
    1. “Tarahumara Journey” (drafts)
    2. “Notes on Journey Through Chihuahua (drafts, 1934)
    3. Mexico notes (1932-33)
    4. Mexico publications

    Box 7: Writings and Publications – Children’s Book on Mexico (1936)
    Note: Includes notes and drafts. Many of the drafts are written on verso of J. Frank Dobie drafts and correspondence. No evidence that book was ever published.

    1. Mexico book (chapter drafts)
    2. Mexico book (cont.)
    3. Mexico book (cont.)
    4. Mexico book (cont.)
    5. Mexico book (cont.)
    6. Mexico book (notes and draft letters)

    Box 8: Nature/Texana
    Note: Includes gardening, botany, and ornithology materials.

    1. Audubon Camp, Kerrville (1949-51)
    2. Birdwatching notes and publications
    3. Nature diary (1929-38)
    4. Botany notes/sketches (1929-30)
    5. “Garden Party” radio show transcript (1949)
    6. Memberships/certificates
    7. Miscellaneous items
    8. Newsletters
    9. Notes

    Box 9: Nature/Texana (cont.)
    1. Publications
    2. Seeds
    3. Texana
    4. Violet Crown Garden Club

    Box 10: Correspondence (1913-16)
    1. 1913
    2. 1914
    3. 1915
    4. 1915 (cont.)
    5. 1916
    6. 1916 (cont.)
    7. 1916 (cont.)

    Box 11: Correspondence (1917-39)
    Noteworthy: JFD’s letter from Camp Meade (1919); correspondence re The Scarlet Letter (1928); letters from Mexico (1932-33); letter to Governor Miriam Ferguson (1934); letter re state presidency of Texas Federation of Garden Clubs (1936).

    1. 1919
    2. 1920
    3. 1925
    4. 1926
    5. 1927
    6. 1928
    7. 1929
    8. 1930
    9. 1931

    Box 12: Correspondence (1940-59)
    Noteworthy: BMD’s letter to Edgar Kincaid, Jr. re JFD’s firing from the University of Texas (1947); correspondence during BMD’s trip to Europe (1948).

    1. 1940
    2. 1941
    3. 1942
    4. 1943
    5. 1944
    6. 1945
    7. 1946
    8. 1947
    9. 1948

    Box 13: Correspondence (1960-65)
    Noteworthy: letter from Lulu Daniel Ames (1962); BMD cards sent from White House (1964); correspondence re death of JFD (1964); letter from Harry Ransom re gift of Dobie letters to UT (1964).

    1. 1960
    2. 1961
    3. 1962
    4. 1963
    5. 1964
    6. 1964 (cont.)
    7. 1965
    8. 1965 (cont.)

    Box 14: Correspondence (1965-66)
    Noteworthy: letters from the White House (President Lyndon and Lady Bird Johnson, 1965); Senator Ralph Yarborough and John Henry Faulk (1965-66); letters re Dobie-Paisano project (1965-66); letter re lariat-braiding (1965).

    1. 1965
    2. 1966
    3. 1966 (cont.)

    Box 15: Correspondence (1967-70)
    Noteworthy: letter from President Lyndon Johnson (1967); letters from Senator Ralph Yarborough (1967-70); correspondence re Dobie-Paisano project (1967, 1969); correspondence re Isabel Dobie Gaddis collection (1969-70); letters from Lady Bird Johnson, John Jenkins, and Bob Armstrong (1970).

    1. 1967
    2. 1967 (cont.)
    3. 1968
    4. 1969
    5. 1970

    Box 16: Correspondence (1971-84 and Undated)
    Noteworthy: letters from Elizabeth Prothro (1971), Isabel Dobie Gaddis (1971-73), Senator Ralph Yarborough (1972-73), Lulu Daniel Ames (1973), John Jenkins (1973), Lady Bird Johnson (1974, 1976, n.d.); letters re Capital Eye/Public Information Corporation (1971-74).

    1. 1971
    2. 1972
    3. 1973
    4. 1974
    5. 1975
    6. 1976
    7. 1977
    8. 1978
    9. 1980

    Box 17: Correspondence (Postcards)
    1. Postcards (various dates)

    Box 18: Clippings
    1. Bertha McKee Dobie
    2. Bertha McKee Dobie writings: garden columns
    3. Bertha McKee Dobie writings: other
    4. J. Frank Dobie
    5. Edgar Kincaid, Jr.
    6. Gardening/horticulture
    7. Texana
    8. Velasco
    9. Women’s issues

    Box 19: Photographs
    Note: Some photographs housed in Oversize series.

    1. Bertha McKee Dobie
    2. Bertha McKee Dobie at Southwestern University
    3. J. Frank Dobie
    4. Dobie home (Austin)
    5. Family
    6. Family (cont.)
    7. Garden/plant life (some with Bertha McKee Dobie)
    8. Mexico
    9. Miscellaneous

    Box 20: Southwestern University – Books
    1. English Poetry (1170-1892) (1907), ed. by John Matthews Manly
          (Bertha McKee’s signature on flyleaf; includes penciled notes.)
    2. Scrapbook (1913) [compiled by Fannie Dobie?]
    3. Sou’wester 1965
          (Photos of Dobies and inscription by Durwood Fleming, p. 52-53.)
    4. Sou’wester 1910
          (Inscription from J. Frank Dobie to Bertha McKee on flyleaf; includes photos of both.)

    Box 21: Southwestern University – Other
    1. Bertha McKee Dobie papers 
          Item 1. Martha Dobie note (n.d.) re donated letters 
          Item 2. Clipping (1986) re donation of papers to Southwestern University 
    2. Distinguished Alumna Award (1973) 
          (Framed award found in Oversize series; photos in Photographs series.) 
          Item 1. Clipping (1/11/73) 
          Item 2. Program (1/26/73) 
          Item 3. Introductory remarks (Dr. Charles N. Prothro) 
          Item 4. Letter from Barbara Seever (2/5/73) 
    3. Southwestern University Ex-students’ Newsmagazine (1958) 
          (Photo of Bertha McKee Dobie at Homecoming on p. 12.) 

    Box 22: European Trip (1948)
    1. Passport, itinerary, receipts
    2. Ocean liner memorabilia
    3. Publications
    4. Postcards

    Box 23: J. Frank Dobie
    1. Christmas booklets (reprints of articles)
          Item 1. “The Seven Mustangs” (1948)
          Item 2. “The Writer and His Region” (1950)
          Item 3. “A Plot of Earth” (1953)
          Item 4. “As the Moving Finger Writ” (1955)
          Item 5. “His Looks and My Ways Would Hang Any Man” (1956)
          Item 6. “James Bowie, Big Dealer” (1957)
          Item 7. “Tom Gilroy’s Fiddler” (1958)
          Item 8. “A Schoolteacher in Alpine” (1962)
          Item 9. “Hunting Cousin Sally” (1963)
    2. Publications about J. Frank Dobie
    3. Notes on J. Frank Dobie (by Bertha McKee Dobie)
    4. J. Frank Dobie family Bible (copies of four pages)
    5. Lawrence C. Hodgson’s “A Prayer” (1911) in Dobie’s handwriting
    6. Dobie-Paisano Project
    7. Post office/school dedications

    Box 24: Assorted
    1. Bertha McKee Dobie gifts and donations
    2. “Grown-up Party Fun” booklet
    3. “In Fact” (5/31/48)
    4. Invitations
    5. Library Systems Act (1969)
    6. Miscellaneous publications
    (How the War Came to America (1917) and The Idealist (1948); placed in Special Collections main collection.)
    7. Hyder E. Rollins’ “Notes on the Shirburn Ballads” (1917)
    8. Phi Mu sorority
    9. President Lyndon B. Johnson inauguration (1965)
    10. Public Information Corporation/KLRN-TV (Channel 9)
    11. Theatre programs and libretto
    12. Ralph Yarborough publications
    13. University of Texas publications (1930)

    Box 25: Oversize
    1. Southwestern University Distinguished Alumna Award (1973)
    2. American Forestry Association life membership certificate (1968)
    3. Photographs
    4. Publications
          Item 1. “A Swing Through Texas” by BMD (from Travel, October 1936)
          Item 2. “The Trial of Col. Monroe Edwards” (reprint from John Jenkins, 1970)

    Separation Record: Items removed:
    1) Southwestern publications

          Original location: BMD Papers; box: Southwestern University
          New location: SU Archives (ProCite search: #43 = “McKee Dobie”

    2) Miscellaneous publications:

          How the War Came to America (1917) 
          Original location: BMD Papers; box: Assorted 
          New location: Special Collections 940.311 Un32h 

          The Idealist (1948) 
          Original location: BMD Papers; box: Assorted 
          New location: Special Collections 943.086 Id22 

    3) Journal of the Royal Horticultural Society (1963-66, 1968-70; some issues missing)

          Original location: BMD Papers; box: Nature/Texana
          New location: Sent to Periodicals

    4) Southwestern alumni photos (c. 1910)

          Original location: BMD Papers; box: Photographs
    New location: Alumni Photo Archives (folder: “Removed from Bertha McKee Dobie Papers”)

    5) Texas maps: Jefferson County (1929) and Kerrville (c. 1950)

          Original location: BMD Papers; box: Nature/Texana
          New location: Map Collection

    6) Clippings: 3” misc. with general information on gardening, Texas, birds, travel, Mexico, and art

          Original location: BMD Papers; box: Clippings
          New location: Discard

    7) Correspondence: 3” misc. re charities, Christmas greetings, invitations, requests for information, etc. Includes mundane correspondence (e.g. subscription status) from Friends of Texas Libraries, Texas Wildlife/World Wildlife Fund, Texas Ornithological Society, Texas Institute of Letters, and Travis Audubon Society.

          Original location: BMD Papers; box: Correspondence (various dates)
          New location: Discard

    8) Misc. items: 4” misc. publications, cards, unidentified photos, notecards, etc.

           location: BMD Papers; box: various
          New location: Discard

    9) Items specifically related to Austin, Austin gardening clubs, groups, etc. were donated to the Austin History Center.