Elizabeth Ann Bartholomew, 1912-1985

Compiled by Roy B. Clarkson, West Virginia University, Morgantown, WV

Reprinted from Castanea 50:125-127 (1985).


     Elizabeth Ann 'Betty' Bartholomew, was born in Wheeling, West Virginia, June 14,1912 the eldest of three children of Henry and Minnie Bartholomew.  Her early life was greatly influenced by her father, an ardent fisherman and naturalist.  At the age of twelve years she became interested in Girl Scouting and wanted to earn all the badges."  She did earn all of the nature badges.  

Her first job was summer counselor at Camp Giscowheco, a Girl Scout Camp near Wheeling. Her scouting interests and abilities led to a scholarship with which she attended West Virginia University.  During her freshman year she took a class from Dr. P.D. Strausbaugh, and her lifelong interest in plants was firmly established.  

She earned an A.B. degree in Botany from WVU in 1936 and started working for the Botany Department.  Her main responsibility was taking me of the West Virginia University Herbarium.  At that time there were about 30,000 specimens in the collection.  During Betty's tenure the herbarium grew to 140,000 specimens.  She personally mounted typed labels for and filed about 90,000 of these.

In 1936 the Southern Appalachian Botanical Club was formed.  Betty became Secretary of SABC in 1946 and for the next 35 years she handled the addressing and mailing of Castanea and the many other tasks associated with this job. 

Betty received a M.S. degree in Botany from WWU in 1948.  Her thesis, "The Flora of Wirt County, West Virginia" was directed by Dr. Earl L. Core.

She was appointed Herbarium Assistant of the West Virginia University Herbarium in 1938. During the same year she initiated the Distribution of South- eastern Plants. This exchange between dozens of botanists in the southeast was coordinated, sorted, and mailed by Betty for almost 40 years.

During this time there was a steady stream of people coming to the her- barium with plants. A weed causing a problem in a golf course, a plant suspected of poisoning cattle, or just curiosity led people to send or bring plants to the herbarium for identification. Betty was always ready to spend five minutes or a day if necessary to identify the specimen. Many of the dozens of graduate students in the Biology Department came to Betty for assistance in plant identification, help in making collections or for advice and counsel.

In the 1950's workers in wildlife management at WVU began studying the food habits of quail. In the quails' crops, they found seeds that they were unable to identify. These were brought to Betty. This led her to initiate a seed collection to help in identification. Often, when attending a seminar or faculty meeting, Betty sat shelling seeds. Her collection now numbers almost 2,000 species.

She was a charter member of the West Virginia Chapter of Phi Epsilon Phi botany honorary started at West Virginia University. For many years Betty was the faculty sponsor and kept the chapter active.

Betty had a great interest in nature but her greatest joy was in creating a love of nature in others, especially children. For many years Phi Epsilon Phi, with her supervision, sponsored an annual Wildflower Day when hundreds of grade school children submitted poetry, pictures, and projects for judging. The high- light of the day was the wildflower identification contest.

For many years she worked with the Oglebay Nature Camp, Terra Alta, West Virginia, at various church camps, at Camp Giscowheco, and at other nature study camps. During the past 23 years she was a leader at the annual Wildflower Pilgrimage at Blackwater Falls, West Virginia.

Her secretarial abilities led her to become secretary of the West Virginia Academy of Science in 1972, a position she held for thirteen years.

These activities led Arch Moore, Governor of West Virginia, to give her an award as Outstanding West Virginian in 1974.

In 1974 she was appointed Assistant Professor of Biology at WVU. She re- tired in 1977 but continued to work almost every day on her seed collection and her secretarial duties.

The West Virginia Academy of Science gave her an appreciation award in 1983.  A plaque honoring her is planned for the West Virginia University Herbarium.

Betty lived a simple life devoted to a love of nature and her friends. She died on March 15,1985. Those of us who were fortunate enough to have known Betty are better people because of her.


1948. Flora of Wirt County, West Virginia. Unpublished Masters Thesis, West Virginia University. 166 p.

1939. Spring foray in the Alleghanies of West Virginia. Castanea 4:131-132.

1940. Three spermatophytes new to West Virginia. Castanea 5:111.

1941. Galium pedemontanum in North America. Castanea 6:141-142.

1948. The flora of Wirt County. Castanea 13:145-167.

1950. The family Hypericaceae in West Virginia. Castanea 15:102-110.

1951. The genus Botrychium in West Virginia. Castanea 16:135-137.

1957. Euonymus alatus established West Virginia. Castanea 22:139.

1957. Spring wild flowers-No. 1. West Virginia Univ. and The U.S. Dept. of Agriculture.

1960. Summer and fall wild flowers. West Virginia Univ. and The U.S. Dept. of Agriculture.

--(Photograph by Vic Haines, WVU Publications)

Source: http://www.newberrynet.com/sabs/Awards/BarObit.htm