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Betty Beeby Papers

Identifier: DG1292

Scope and Contents

The collection contains materials related to Betty Beeby’s work as an author, illustrator, and artist. The materials are organized into 4 series: Biographical Information, Exhibit Catalog, Publication Information, and Illustrations. The first three series are arranged alphabetically; the fourth is a compilation of a variety of illustrations.


  • 1966
  • 2006 - 2009

Conditions Governing Use

The collection is protected by the Copyright Law of the United States (Title 17, U. S. Code). Reproductions can be made only if they are to be used for "private study, scholarship, or research." It is the user's responsibility to verify copyright ownership and to obtain all necessary permissions prior to the reproduction, publication, or other use of any portion of these materials.

Biographical / Historical

Betty Beeby (1923-2015) was a beloved and passionate artist. Growing up in Detroit, Michigan, she began drawing as a child, and often sketched people on her commute to and from school each day. Beeby never seemed to have enough surfaces to draw on, and even into her senior years would admit to hoarding scraps of paper so that she’d never be without. She once stated that “drawing puts a value on everything, and a price on nothing” (Women’s History, 2016, para. 21).

Beeby’s father was an elementary school principal, and her mother was a parliamentarian and civil defense director for women; these roles certainly had an influence on their daughter’s pursuits as an artist, children’s writer, and preserver of women’s voices in her book Breath Escaping Envelopes. She attended the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York, and received a diploma in 1943. The next year, she married James Addison Beeby, and was pregnant with the first of their four children when he was shipped out to the South Pacific.

Beeby went on to illustrate a number of books, both for children and adults, including Child’s Story Bible (1966), Whistle up the Bay (1966), and Minor Masterpieces: An Anthology of Juvenilia by Twelve Giants of English Literature (1983). She also wrote and illustrated Just Josie (1960). One of the more extensive projects Beeby conducted began in 1972. Having moved to her ancestral home with her husband, she discovered steamer trunks filled with photographs, several thousand letters, and 24 diaries dating from 1860 to 1940: Beeby’s efforts resulted in her work, Breath Escaping Envelopes: Letters and Photographs from the Grand Traverse Bay Region 1875-1905 (2000), which focuses on women living in the region and the difficulties they faced at that time. The items are now preserved in the Archives and Regional History Collections at Western Michigan University. Not only a meticulous archivist, Beeby restored the historic farmhouse, the Wilkinson Homestead, where she and her husband lived, and filled the rooms with her artwork, even covering the kitchen cabinets in her paintings.

Aside from illustrating and writing books, Beeby was also commissioned to paint an 11-by-50-foot mural of the Mackinac Bridge at Fort Michilimackinac in Mackinaw City, Michigan in 1975. She also illustrated film strips for Captain Kangaroo and was the staff artist for Time Life Magazine. Beeby won numerous awards for her illustrations, including the Chicago Book Clinic Award for three books, and the State History Award from the Historical Society of Michigan for Distinguished Volunteer Services. Jordan River Art Council continues to honor her with the Betty Beeby Art Scholarship.


.23 Cubic Feet

Language of Materials


Immediate Source of Acquisition

The collection was donated by Nita and Leo Bingley on February 18, 2010.

Betty Beeby Papers
In Progress
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Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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Repository Details

Part of the de Grummond Childrens Literature Collection Repository

118 College Drive - 5148
Hattiesburg MS 39406-0001