Elizabeth Ann Bartholomew - A Tribute

Earl L. Core
Reprinted from Castanea 46(1): 1-3 (1981).

To Betty, Secretary of SABC from its beginning to the present, we gratefully dedicate this issue of Castanea.

One day in the autumn of 1935 I was talking with Elizabeth Bartholomew in the Herbarium of West Virginia University, where she was working as a graduate student, and asked her, casually, if she thought we could prepare a sufficient list of interested botanists in the Southern Appalachians to justify organization of a society and publication of a journal. She replied, "Why don't we try?"

We did try and came up with a list of about 200 names. With perhaps undue courage, we solicited memberships and in January 1936, published the first issue of the journal, later named Castanea. Miss Bartholomew helped with mailing out the first issues, and for most of the years from that time until today has kept the records of the Southern Appalachian Botanical Club and has seen to the mailing of the journals. The list at first was small, only about 200 names; now it comprises about 1,000 names, but she still does it.

Who is Elizabeth Ann Bartholomew?

She was born June 14,1912, in Wheeling, West Virginia, the daughter of Henry and Minnie Bartholomew and studied in Wheeling schools, graduating from high school in the spring of 1930. She entered West Virginia University that fall, as a student in education, but interested in natural history. She had been a Girl Scout and had enjoyed fieldwork in summer camp, observing flowers, trees, birds, and other living things.

She graduated from the University in 1934 but continued as a master's candidate, winning by 1936 a teacher's certificate and a master's degree in botany. After a year or two as a part-time teacher, she returned to the University botany department in 1938 as secretary, and, in one capacity or another, has been there ever since.

During these more than four decades she never sought prestige for herself nor increased financial remuneration. Although serving at first as departmental secretary, then as herbarium curator, never teaching a formal course, she was intensely interested in students and their welfare. And students apparently found her ears and heart often more open and more sympathetic to their problems than were their own advisers. Returning alumni frequently visited her before seeing the head of the department or their former teachers.

It was during these early years that, without additional remuneration, she assumed the extra task of maintaining the Southern Appalachian Botanical Club's mailing lists and seeing to it that the journals got in the mail. Presidents and treasurers of the Club came and went-the secretary seemed to go on forever. In a way it was a thankless job, because the members expected it was going to be done-without it the Club would soon have expired.

It is, therefore, highly appropriate that at last we take time to express our appreciation for her work and it is also, perhaps, appropriate that I serve as spokesman for the Club, because, for most of these years, I was editor of the journal, and, for many of the years, Chairman of the department that employed her. It is a great pleasure to offer these words of tribute.

She has now, inevitably, passed the age of retirement and draws a pension rather than a salary, but continues her work with the Club the same as before without additional remuneration. So dependent, really, is the Club's membership upon her work, that it is frightening to speculate what will happen when she is finally unable to do it.

These membership routines have, however, been only a relatively small portion of her activities. She has for years served in somewhat the same capacity for the West Virginia Academy of Science with respect to its own membership list and the mailing of its own journal. Academy members owe her the same debt of gratitude for the unpaid work she does for them, also.

Although caring for the University's collection of dried plants for many years, she always maintained a greater interest in living things, and was an inspirational leader for young people in field trips, much sought throughout the State of West Virginia (and in other States, too) as a natural history guide. She never wrote a book and very few technical papers but she lives in the hearts of hundreds of people who have worked with her, and have known her as Betty.

I have tried to express my appreciation to her through the years, personally and informally, and it gives me great pleasure at this time to be saying the same things more formally and speaking for hundreds of people. We are grateful for all you have done for us, Betty, and we wish you well for years to come. You have left footprints in the sands of time that will never be erased.