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Elithe Hamilton Kirkland

A Guide to the Elithe Hamilton Kirkland Papers
1910-1922 (Bulk dates: 1940-1992)
Collection 030

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Administrative Information:

Access: Open for Research.

Preferred Citation: Elithe Hamilton Kirkland Papers, Southwestern Writers Collection, Texas State University-San Marcos

Acquisition Information: Donated by James Beal, 1998.

Processing Information: Processed by Mandy York Oates, 1998. Inventoried revised by Alan Schaefer, 2010.

Notes to Researchers: 

Additional Kirkland materials in the Southwestern Writers Collection can be found in the papers of Nancie Austin.

Additional Elithe Hamilton Kirkland papers can also be found at Texas A & M University at Commerce, in the James G. Gee Library.




Descriptive Summary

Creator:              Elithe Hamilton Kirkland
Title:                     Elithe Hamilton Kirkland Papers
Dates:                  1910-1992 (Bulk dates: 1940-1992)
Abstract:            Correspondence, drafts, typescripts, photographs, scrapbooks, artifacts,
                                ephemera and clippings document the writing career of Texas Women’s     
                                Hall of Fame writer, Elithe Hamilton Kirkland.
Identification:  Collection 030
Extent:                  59 boxes (30 linear feet)
Language:           English
Repository:        Southwestern Writers Collection, The Wittliff Collections, Alkek Library,
                                 Texas State University-San Marcos

Biographical Sketch

Perhaps best known for her bestselling historical romance novel, Love Is a Wild Assault, Elithe Hamilton Kirkland was also a poet, songwriter, playwright, schoolteacher, and journalist.  She was born a third generation Texan in 1907, in Coleman, Texas. Both sets of her grandparents were pioneers. Her father was a farmer, and Ms. Kirkland grew up riding a horse to Coleman's one teacher schoolhouse. She was very active in her high school years, participating in the Silver Valley School District debate team, and graduating as Salutatorian in 1924. She then went on to study English and history at North Texas State University, in Denton, Texas, where she received her B.A. and her Teacher's Certificate in 1928.

Kirkland then began her career in writing and teaching with a series of jobs which included teaching high school and writing for newspapers, often at the same time, through the 1930s. From 1928-1929, Kirkland taught high school English, drama, and journalism at Mineral Wells, Texas. At the Coleman Democrat-Voice, Coleman, TX, from 1929-1930, she edited news, features, the editor's front page column, and headlines, many of which dealt with the oil boom and bank robberies. In 1930, Kirkland served as Features writer for the Brady Standard, Brady, TX, researching and photographing major farm and ranch projects in McCulloch County. Also during this time period, from 1930-1932, she taught high school English and journalism in Crane, TX, a ranching center and oil boom town. In 1935, Kirkland served as the Austin correspondent for the Dallas based Texas Weekly.  From 1935-1936, she was the State Director of School Publicity (for the Texas Commission for Centennial Celebrations), authoring pamphlets on Texas history and editing the songbook, Songs Texas Sings.

From 1937-1939, she was a high school teacher in the State Laboratory School, Iraan, TX, teaching speech arts, journalism, and script writing for radio. Also while at Iraan, she was state correspondent in West Texas for the Fort Worth Star Telegram, writing news stories, often centering on the oil boom.

In 1931, Kirkland married Roy Folk Beal, an interior decorator. A year later, Kirkland's only son was born, James Benjamin Beal. This marriage ended in divorce in 1936. During the summers 1938 of 1939, and during the long term 1939-1940, she was Curriculum Assistant in Dept. of Educational Administration at the University of Texas at Austin, working with the state on high school curriculum revision. She also attended UT Austin, studying under J. Frank Dobie, and writing a folk-drama series for the Texas State (Radio) Network which was narrated by Dobie. In 1940, she earned a Masters degree from UT Austin in English and Educational Administration.

In the 1940s, Kirkland continued her work as a print journalist, and became very involved in radio journalism. She was the Austin correspondent for the business and financial section of the The Dallas Times Herald,  also writing business articles under the name L.E. Hamilton.

From 1940-1947, she was a script writer and acting director for UT Austin's radio department, Radio House, and wrote more than 500 dramatic documentaries for state and national radio networks, many of which were broadcast live from the studios on campus. At the time, Radio House was considered the only complete radio production facility in the southwest. Kirkland traveled to Mexico, among other places, to pursue stories. It was during her tenure at Radio House that Kirkland covered the story of Nazi intrigue surrounding Peck Woodside, an American pilot and businessman in Mexico, a story she would return to again and again over the years.

In 1944, she was the associate editor of Southwest Review,  a quarterly publication of University Press in Dallas at Southern Methodist University. In 1946, she wrote educational film scripts for the Commission on Motion Pictures in New Haven, Conn., including the films "Now is the Seedtime", on Tom Paine, and "Man with a Mission", on Samuel Gompers.  In 1948, she married Dr. R. D. (Roy Defoe) Kirkland, an osteopathic surgeon. Also in this year, she mailed her short story "The Realm of Silence" to Pearl Buck, who praised it but described it as ahead of its time and not yet commercially viable. In fact, this story did not come to light until 1984, when it was published as the ending of her novel, The Edge of Disrepute .   

As she turned her attention toward creative writing, Kirkland chose Evelyn Oppenheimer, of Dallas, as her literary agent. Oppenheimer helped direct Kirkland to writing historical romance, a genre in which Kirkland would write bestselling novels. Two of these were published in the 1950s, Divine Average  (1952) and Love Is A Wild Assault, (1959), the latter being included in A. C. Greene's The 50 Best Books on Texas.

A prolific writer, Kirkland also wrote short stories, songs, poetry, musical dramas, speeches, and television scripts, on a variety of subjects. While her novels tended to be historical romances set in the Republic of Texas era, her other work reflects her broad interests in folk traditions and in the future. She described herself as a "futurist", and often wrote about space travel and parapsychology. She was a member of the Texas State Historical Association, and the national non-denominational Spiritual Frontiers Fellowship of Laymen and Clergymen. In 1982, her short story involving alien kidnapping, The Disappearance of Widow Ellen, was published in a collection of short stories by Texas women writers called Her Work, (Bryan, Texas: Shearer Publishing, 1982).

In 1984, Kirkland's last novel, The Edge of Disrepute, was published. In the next year, her husband, Dr. R.D. Kirkland, passed away, and she moved out of Austin to Wimberley.  She published "Leet's Christmas", a Christmas short story including songs and verse.  Kirkland remained a very sought after speaker, speaking around the state on the "Texas Voices" program for the Texas Sesquicentennial, as well as for groups such as Daughters of the American Revolution, MENSA, East Texas State University, and Western Writers of America.

In January 1987, her musical drama entitled Precious Memories was performed at the White Elephant in Fort Worth, TX, in collaboration with the Hip Pocket Theater and the Salt Lick Foundation. Kirkland wrote both the drama and lyrics, and acted as narrator. Shortly thereafter, her musical drama, Hear the Flute : An Untold Story of the Civil War in the Western Territories, was performed. Kirkland wrote the script and lyrics, Conrad Fath wrote the music.

On Nov. 12, 1987, Kirkland was inducted into Texas Women's Hall of Fame, one of many honors she received during her lifetime. Kirkland died at her home in Wimberly on Jan. 2, 1992, and was buried in her family cemetery at the David Allen Ranch known as "New Tracks", near the Blanco River, in Kyle, Texas.

Books Published

Divine Average. Boston, MA: Little Brown and Company, 1952. Reprinted Bryan, TX:
           Shearer Publishing, 1984.

Love Is A Wild Assault.  Garden City, New York: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1959.

The Edge of Disrepute.  Bryan, TX: Shearer Publishing, 1984.

Kirkland, Elithe Hamilton, and Porter, Jenny Lind. Trellis of Memory - A Psychic Journey
          Into PreHistory. New York: Carlton Press, 1971.

Scope and Content Note

Correspondence, drafts, typescripts, photographs, scrapbooks, artifacts, ephemera and clippings constitute this collection. The bulk of this material was created by Elithe Hamilton Kirkland, although a small amount was created or maintained by her son, James Beal, the donor of this collection. (For example, documents related to Ms. Kirkland's funeral, located in box 446, folder 7, were donated by Mr. Beal.) Drafts, notes, and correspondence in this collection document Kirkland's writing process, including published and unpublished works. Many working drafts of Kirkland's published work, as well as a wealth of unpublished poems, songs, plays, short stories, and essays are included. For her published works, working drafts are accompanied by notes, publicity material, and correspondence, rounding out the evolution of these works. For much of the correspondence related to and filed with specific published works, the carbon copies of Kirkland's letters are interfiled.

Her personal history is documented as well, through formats including awards, photographs, correspondence, scrapbooks, and resumes. Highlights include long runs of correspondence between Kirkland and her mother, her son, and her husband, Dr. R.D. Kirkland. Photographs document her life from childhood through her last years, including colleagues, friends, favorite dogs, and family members.

Kirkland's interest in J. Frank Dobie is also well represented here. Her first contact with Dobie is identified as a college paper written for Dobie's graduate class at UT Austin (see box 15 folder 6a). Her novel, Heather, For Luck, is a tribute to the Texas author, and the research and drafts for this book are located in the Books series. Correspondence with Dobie, articles written by and about Dobie, books inscribed to Kirkland from Dobie, can all be found in the J. Frank Dobie series. Kirkland helped develop the first Dobie Day, celebrated at Southwestern University, in Georgetown, TX; her research and correspondence related to this effort are also located in the J. Frank Dobie series.
Resumes, career summaries, autobiographical sketches are located in this series, as are school scrapbooks and Kirkland's booklet of favorite clippings and poems. Kirkland's extensive notes and subject files are included in this Personal series, recording the breadth of her interests. Material related to her many speaking engagements is also included.

Series Descriptions

Series I: Works (1918-1990, undated)
Boxes 1-22

Material relating to Kirkland’s writing career is arranged into subseries according to type of work: books; musicals; essays and articles; poetry; radio scripts; short stories; songs; and television scripts.

Books (1937-1990) Arranged in alphabetical order by book title, this subseries includes research material, notes, outlines, drafts, correspondence, publicity documents, and drafts of stage and film adaptations.

Musicals (1969-1990) Arranged in alphabetical order by the name of the musical, this subseries includes drafts, notes and correspondence documenting the creation and production of Kirkland's musicals.

Essays and Articles (1918 -1990) Material in this subseries includes essays written for college classes, and articles written for newspapers. Some published, many are unpublished. They are arranged in alphabetical order, with a special section for Kirkland's freshman year college papers.

Poetry (1944-1988, undated) Although Kirkland never officially published her poetry on its own, it appears in her novels and short stories. For many years, her Christmas cards featured her Christmas poems which are listed here in chronological order by year. Also of particular interest is a one of a kind handmade booklet of Kirkland's war poems written for World War II soldiers. Poems listed with quotation marks represent the first line of untitled poems.

Radio Scripts (1940-1952) Arranged in alphabetical order by the name of the series or show, these scripts date from Kirkland days at UT Austin's Radio House, ca. 1940-1947. Typescripts and working drafts are included, as well as some photographs of the Radio House staff, including J. Frank Dobie. Of particular interest is the series entitled "Guardians of Freedom", which includes documents related to the Peck Woodside story Kirkland covered in Mexico.

Short Stories (1936-1990, undated) This subseries includes detailed documentation on the creation of Kirkland's short stories "The Disappearance of Widow Ellen", "Peck Woodside", and "Leet's Christmas". Also included are drafts of many incomplete short stories.

Songs (undated) Kirkland wrote songs which appeared in her short stories and musicals, as well as many which have not appeared in any of her works. Her songs are arranged here in alphabetical order, and typically include one draft of the song only.

Television Scripts (1953-1964) This small subseries includes drafts of the 1953 script "Seminole Bill's Lost Mine", developed from a series Kirkland worked on with J. Frank Dobie, called "The Unfenced World".

Series II: Personal Papers (1910-1991, undated)
Boxes 22-61

Material relating to Kirkland’s personal life and interests are divided into several subseries: awards; biographical notes; clippings; correspondence; J. Frank Dobie material; notes; photographs; speeches; subject files; and speeches.

Awards (1953-1987) Kirkland won many awards during her lifetime, and was inducted into the Texas Women's Hall of Fame by Gov. Bill Clements in 1987. This subseries includes correspondence, photographs, and ephemera related to these honors. Awards are listed in alphabetical order.

Biographical Notes / Career Summaries  (1910-1991, undated) Resumes and other lists of Kirkland's accomplishments, degrees and certificates, scrapbooks of favorite sayings, and small amount of legal documents related to family issues are included in this subseries.  Also included is material added to Kirkland's collection by her son, James Beal, which includes information regarding Kirkland's funeral service. This material is arranged in chronological order.

Clippings (1934-1991. undated) These general clippings pertain to Kirkland's publications and public appearances, and are arranged in chronological order.

Correspondence (1920-1991, undated) Letters are arranged alphabetically by the last name of the correspondent, and relate to both personal and professional subjects. While correspondence most closely related to a specific work is filed with that work, more general material can be found here. Family correspondence, including letters between Kirkland and her parents dating back to 1924 are included, as well as letters between Kirkland and her husband, Dr. R.D. Kirkland. Fan letters, letters from friends and colleagues, and general business letters are also included here.

J. Frank Dobie Material (1944-1976, undated) This subseries documents Kirkland's long-standing interest in and friendship with J. Frank Dobie, whom she first met while a graduate student at UT Austin. Correspondence with Mr. Dobie, clippings of articles of and by Dobie, and books by Dobie inscribed to Kirkland, comprise the bulk of this group. Also included is Kirkland's research and correspondence related to the first "Dobie Day", a celebration she helped create to honor Dobie.

Notes (undated) Handwritten notes related to general topics and to Kirkland's dreams appear in this subseries, many on note cards filed according to Kirkland's own subject scheme. Topics include Texas history, land use, specific people.

Photographic Material (1910-1991, undated) Items in this subseries have been arranged in chronological order by decades, and represent Kirkland's childhood through her last years. Many members of her family, favorite dogs, and close friends are represented here.

Speeches (ca. 1940-1991, undated) Correspondence and publicity material related to speeches made by Kirkland, including drafts of several speeches, but not all. Many of these speeches were given at small town public libraries, and include photographs. This subseries also includes documents related to the literary speaking tour Kirkland participated in called "Texas Voices", a celebration of the Texas Sesquicentennial in 1986.

Subjects (1936-1991, undated) These files of clippings and notes collected by Kirkland document her wide ranging interests, from Colt Revolvers to Numerology to the Texas Institute of Letters.

Artifacts Small carved animals, stones, horseshoes, a Texas shaped bowl and a typewriter comprise this subseries.