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Bertha M. Fritzsche Collection

Identifier: M289

Scope and Contents

This collection consists of biographical data and personal diaries that provide insight concerning the career, lifestyle, and personality of Dr. Bertha Maude Fritzsche. The material begins in 1929 when Fritzsche began teaching home economics at the University of Southern Mississippi (USM), known then as the State Teacher's College, and continues until her death in March 1990. The collection is divided into two series: Biographical Data (1929-1987) and Diaries (1937-1990).


  • Creation: 1929-1990


Conditions Governing Access

Noncirculating; available for research.

Conditions Governing Use

This collection may be protected from unauthorized copying by the Copyright Law of the United States (Title 17, United States Code).

Biographical / Historical

Bertha Maude Fritzsche, daughter of Edward Frederick and Alice Jobst Fritzsche, was born on April 24, 1901, in Primghar, Iowa. She had two older brothers, Carl and Ernest, and a younger sister, Jessie. From an early age Bertha felt her vocation in life was to teach. In pursuit of her dream, she earned a Bachelor of Science degree from Iowa State University in 1922. After completing her undergraduate degree, Fritzsche taught home economics in Humboldt, Iowa (1922-1925), then instructed vocational home economics in Savannah, Missouri (1925-1928). In 1928, she left Savannah to become head of the Department of Home Economics at Graceland College, Lamoni, Iowa. The following year (1929), Fritzsche was awarded her Master of Science in Home Economics from Iowa State, and joined the home economics faculty at State Teachers College (now the University of Southern Mississippi).

In 1937, Miss Fritzsche was named the sixth head of the Department of Home Economics, following Loyette Webb's resignation from that position in December 1936. Coupled with her duties as a department head, she continued her education, and received her Ph.D. from Ohio State University in 1950. Among her accomplishments as head of the Home Economics Department was the development of a Master of Arts degree in home economics in 1952. Dr. Fritzsche remained as chairman of the Home Economics Division until 1966, when she retired as Dean Emeritus.

During her career at USM, several honors were bestowed on Fritzsche. In 1963, the Mississippi Home Economics Association named her home economist of the year. In 1966, the same organization honored her with a certificate for life membership in recognition of her service in the field of home economics. Also in

1966, the Forrest County Chapter of the Home Economics Alumni Association honored Dr. Fritzsche with a "Bertha Maude Fritzsche Day" when the chapter established the "Bertha M. Fritzsche Graduate Fellowship," which is presented annually to an outstanding person working toward the master's degree in home economics. Two years later, the USM Alumni Association named her Distinguished Professor of the Year, and on October 24, 1969, during the homecoming ceremony at USM, the university honored Fritzsche by naming the home economics building for her. During her long teaching career, Dr. Fritzsche was involved in numerous organizations. Among them were Delta Kappa Gamma (honorary education society), Altrusa Club, Bueno Vecino Club, Mississippi Association of Home Economics, and the National Association of Home Economics.

After retiring, Fritzsche continued to teach graduate courses at USM until 1968 and instructed home economics equipment courses at William Carey College in Hattiesburg, Mississippi from 1969 until 1971, when she had the first of three hip replacement surgeries. After her first hip replacement, she continued to have difficulties, and in March 1975, she underwent a second hip operation. With no further complications, Fritzsche began to travel extensively and became involved in numerous organizations in the community such as, The American Association of Retired Persons, the Wesley Club at Parkway Heights Methodist Church, and the Arthritis Foundation.

Unfortunately, in 1986, Dr. Fritzsche had to undergo a third hip replacement. When she left the hospital, she was unable to care for herself. Consequently, she hired a sitter to assist her at home (i.e. cooking, cleaning, bathing, dressing, etc.). Throughout the year, her health rapidly declined, and on April 6, 1987, her doctor diagnosed her with hardening of the arteries. A few months later, Fritzsche's nieces, Lucille Petras and Doris Ihde, of Fort Dodge, Iowa, decided to move their aunt to a nursing home near them. Fritzsche left Hattiesburg on July 11, and arrived at the Friendship Haven Nursing Home in Fort Dodge five days later. She remained there until her death on Saturday, March 3, 1990.

Funeral Services were held on Tuesday, March 6, 1990, at Guardian Funeral Home in Primghar, Iowa. Coinciding with the service in Iowa, a memorial service was held in Fritzsche's honor at Danforth Chapel on the University of Southern Mississippi campus. At that time, faculty and friends gathered to remember Fritzsche's accomplishments at the University and in the community.


2 Cubic Feet

Language of Materials



Series I: Biographical Data

Series II: Diaries

Subseries I: The Early Career Years (1937-1944)

Subseries II: The Middle Career Years (1!45-1950)

Subseries III: The Late Career Years (1951-1965)

Subseries IV: The William Carey Years (1965-1972)

Subseries V: The Retirement Years (1972-1987)

Subseries VI: The Nursing Home Years (1987-1990)

Series I: Biographical Data, 1929-1987 (Box 1)

This series consists of personal data (1929-1967), newspaper clippings (1937-1987), photographs (1937-1976), diploma from Ohio State University (1950), certificates of honor (1940-1975), a World War II ration card, Dr. Fritzsche's dissertation from Ohio State University entitled "Implications for Teacher Education suggested by the Responsibilities and Limitations of Homemaking Teachers in the Total School Program for Education for Family Living in Fifty-seven Public Schools in Mississippi" (1950), and a bound volume of tributes from friends and alumni of the USM Home Economics Department, lauding Fritzsche's accomplishments (1966). Of particular interest is a biographical sketch which discusses Fritzsche's activities and achievements beginning when she joined the faculty at State Teacher's College in 1929, and ending with her retirement from USM in 1967. Also of interest are the photographs in the collection which include pictures of Dr. Fritzsche with Dr. William D. McCain; a Vocational Teacher's Meeting (1964); faculty members of the Home Economics Department (1958); and a 5 x 7 color portrait of Dr. Fritzsche (1976). News clippings in the series (1937-1987) highlight Fritzsche's achievements in Delta Kappa Gamma (an education honorary society), her leadership in the American Home Economics Association, and her involvement with the Home Economics Department of USM.

Series II: Diaries: 1937-1990 (Boxes 2 - 6)

Fritzsche began her diaries in 1937 because she desired to "pass things down" to another generation. She began keeping a journal on January 1, 1937, which coincided with her added responsibilities as acting head of the Home

Economics Department. The entries are brief accounts of her daily routine and contain references to such historical events as the death of Franklin D. Roosevelt (1945), the assassination of John F. Kennedy (1963), and the launch of Apollo 11 (1969). Dr. Fritzsche's terse writing style reveals little concerning her innermost thoughts, however, the diaries reveal a dedicated professional, involved in campus and community activities. It is also evident from the diaries that she was a well-bred and responsible individual, admired and respected by many.

Fritzsche wrote in her diary daily, except when she went on vacation (July 1974 and September 1976) and was hospitalized (April 1987). While she was hospitalized, her nieces wrote entries for her.

The diaries are separated into six subseries: The Early Career Years(1937- 1944), The Middle Career Years (1945-1950), The Late Career Years (1951-1967), William Carey Years (1967-1972), The Retirement Years (1972-1987), and The Nursing Home Years (1987-1990). At the end of each subseries are photocpoies of news clippings found in the diaries.

Subseries I: The Early Career Years (1937-1944): This subseries is composed of materials related to Dr. Fritzsche's activities as the newly appointed head of the Home Economics Department at State Teacher's College (STC, 1937). The data is devoted primarily to her efforts to advance the department, such as instituting a household equipment course (required for the bachelor's degree, 1940) and a consumer education class (an elective, 1941). The department was further enhanced by placing home economic students in local schools for a quarter of student teaching, and by developing a curriculum for home economics classes in elementary schools (1937). There is also a significant amount of material concerning the activities of former STC president, Dr. Jennings Burton George. Among the other information included are notations of historical events such as the name change of STC to Mississippi Southern College (1941) and meeting Mrs. Elizabeth Huay of New Orleans in 1938 (Mrs. Huay was the daughter of Captain William Harris Hardy, founder of Gulfport and Hattiesburg). The final items in the series are newspaper clippings which address such topics as the need for home economics to be taught in the community; Fritzsche's nomination to Dean of Women at STC; and her appointment as head of the Home Economics division.

Subseries II: The Middle Career Years (1945-1950): These dairies relate to Fritzsche's activities as the School of Home Economics Division Head after STC changed its name to Mississippi Southern College (1940). In addition, many of the entries during these years are devoted to other developments at Mississippi Southern College, such as approving Library Science as a major (1949), adding physical education (1949), and improving the nursery school in the Home Management House (1945). There is also a significant amount of material pertaining to MSC politics. For instance, in March 1945, the appointment of Dr. R.C. Cook as president of the college is discussed. The diaries also highlight national home economics news such as the founding of a high school club entitled, "Future Homemakers of America." Also included are notations of historical events such as the death of Adolph Hitler in 1945. The final items in the series are newspaper clippings which address the return of Fritzsche's nephew, George, from World War II.

Subseries III: The Late Career Years (1951-1965): Diaries comprising this subseries relate to Fritzsche's activities in her final years as dean of the School of Home Economics. The material emphasizes Fritzsche's involvement with the School of Home Economics, Delta Kappa Gamma, American Home Economics Association, and Altrusa Club. Regarding the School of Home Economics, Fritzsche notes the strengthening of the curriculum by the addition of clothing manufacturing as a required course for undergraduate students (1954). Other entries concern the resignation of Dr. Cook (1954); the presidency of Dr. William D. McCain (1956); and the name change of MSC to the University of Southern Mississippi (1962). Also included are notations of historical events such as the Civil Rights Act of 1965. The final items in the series are newspaper clippings which address such topics as the Altrusa club, Delta Kappa Gamma, MSC being accredited by the American Association of University Women, and Dr. Fritzsche's retirement from USM.

Subseries IV: The William Carey Years (1965-1972): These diaries pertain to Fritzsche's retirement from USM and her subsequent work in the home economics department at William Carey College. She began teaching there in 1969, and assisted in the USM-William Carey home economic's conference which emphasized the implementation of the Mississippi Action Program in targeted counties and the use of television in higher education (1968). A number of entries for these years continue to pertain to USM. For instance, she recalls Gale Dickerson's appointment as assistant dean of women (1969) and the establishment of the Bertha M. Fritzsche Graduate Fellowship (1966). On a local and regional level, she devotes several entries to hurricane Camille's devastation in 1969. Also included are notations of historical events such as the launching of Apollo 11 (1969), and the 1972 presidential election between Richard Nixon and George McGovern. The final items in the series are newspaper clippings which address such subjects as the renaming of William Carey's home economic's building as Crawford Hall (1969), Bertha Maude Fritzsche Day (1966), the Distinguished Professor Award (1968), and miscellaneous items pertaining to Dr. Fritzsche's honorary awards at Iowa State (1971).

Subseries V: The Retirement Years (1972-1987): These volumes document Fritzsche's activities following retirement from academic life. Unlike the previous subseries, the data is devoted to her personal life. On a local level, she becomes involved with the United Methodist Women's Group, the Forrest County Chapter of the Mississippi Safety Council, the American Association of Retired Persons, and the Arthritis Foundation. During this time she traveled extensively to such locales as Alaska, Central and Eastern Europe, the Philippines, and the U.S. West Coast. Several entries pertain to USM, such as the naming of Bennett auditorium and the J.B. George Commons. Also included are notations of historical events such as the Reagan/Gorbachev summit (1986) and Mississippi's first gas chamber execution in nineteen years (1986). The final items in the series are newspaper clippings which address such topics as United Way, Mississippi Safety Council, American Association of Retired Persons, Delta Kappa Gamma, and miscellaneous items concerning USM.

Subseries VI: The Nursing Home Years (1987-1990): The final subseries is composed of diaries relating to Fritzsche's life in Friendship Haven Nursing Home in Fort Dodge, Iowa. Entries are devoted to her daily routine such as combing her hair and therapy for her legs and arms. It is important to note that her handwriting becomes poor during this period, and at times her nieces make entries in the diaries for her. Daily entries begin with the weather, what she ate, and when the nurse arrived with her medicine. Occasionally, she mentions having her hair shampooed and set and reading the Methodist daily devotional "The Upper Room". The last entry, dated March 2, 1990, (the day before her death) states "I am fortunate this morning to see the beautiful bright sky."

This collection provides insight into the history of USM and the School of Home Economics from 1937-1987. More specifically, the diaries demonstrate how Fritzsche molded the Home Economics department into a respected school among home economists throughout the state of Mississippi. For those interested in Home Economics, USM history, or the activities of a professional woman in Mississippi, this collection will be useful.


Donated by Lucille F. Petras, niece of Dr. Bertha Maude Fritzsche, via Dr. Aubrey K. Lucas, April 1990.

Related Materials

RG 4 USM Faculty/Staff Biographies

RG 115 Home Economics Education Department

Photograph Log

M289-1 Dr. Bertha M. Fritzsche with Dr. William D. McCain 8 x 10 B & W circa 1958 Dr. Fritzsche and Dr. McCain are standing, with a brick wall in the background. Both are smiling

M289-2 Dr. Bertha M. Fritzsche 5 x 7 Color 1976 Head and shoulders portrait

M289-3 Vocational Teachers Meeting 8 X 10 B & W 1964 Dr. Fritzsche and five other women at the Vocational Teachers Meeting, held at the Buena Vista Hotel, in Biloxi, Mississippi

M289-4 Faculty Meeting 8 X 10 B & W 1958 Dr. Bertha M. Fritzsche and the faculty of the Division of Home Economics at their last meeting for the 1957-1958 academic year. Subjects are identified on back of photograph

M289-5 American Vocational Association 4 X 5 1/2 B & W 1959 Dr. Bertha M. Fritzsche receives the life membership certificate from the American Vocational Association, at its annual meeting held in Jackson, Mississippi on March 20, 1959

M289-6 Group Photograph of former USM faculty members 8 x 10 B & W ca. 1960s Twelve former USM faculty members, possibly at a retirement celebration

M289-7 Loyette Webb and Family 3 1/2 x 4 1/2 B & w ca. 1930 Loyette Webb was Dr. Fritzsche's predecessor as chairman of the Division of Home Economics at State Teachers College. She is pictured here with her mother and sister

M289-8 Toddy and Anna Louise Wilgus 3 1/2 X 3 1/2 B & W 1954 Two small children decorating a Christmas tree. The little boy is standing on a chair

M289-9 Jessie Pearl Fritzsche 1 1/2 X 2 B & W 1974 Head and shoulders snapshot of Bertha Fritzsche's sister, Jessie
Bertha M. Fritzsche Collection
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Repository Details

Part of the Historical Manuscripts and Photographs Repository

118 College Drive - 5148
Hattiesburg MS 39406-0001