A Guide to the Anella Dexter Papers, 1950-1986
Conservationist and naturalist Anella Wieber Dexter (1896-1988) was born in Wisconsin and trained as a chemist at the University of Wisconsin. She taught chemistry at Northwestern University in Illinois for two years before attending Iowa State University for her PhD. Though she never earned her doctorate, Anella met her husband Laurence N. Dexter while at Iowa State; they married in 1930. She worked as a research chemist until her husband, a geophysical consultant, was transferred to Texas in the mid 1950s. Both interested in nature, the Dexters photographed Texas wild life, marine life along the Gulf Coast, and areas in Texas of geological interest from the 1950s to the 1970s. Using these photographs and slides Anella gave talks on conservation to garden clubs and other groups. In the 1970s, she wrote a guidebook on Texas wildflowers, illustrated with her slides. Though Texas A&M Press agreed to publish the book, due to many reasons, including a fire at the press, the book was never produced.
In the late 1950s, Laurence and Anella Dexter helped organize Texas Beach Unlimited to lobby for free public use of all Texas beaches. They wrote letters, organized other groups in coastal cities, spoke at legislative hearings, and conducted extensive research. This work resulted in the passage of Robert Eckhardt’s Open Beach Bill in 1959. Upon the introduction of Eckhardt’s Padre Island Bill later that year, Texas Beach Unlimited incorporated as a nonprofit under the name Texas Conservation Council, Inc., to aid in the passage of the bill. The Council, governed by a board of sixteen, grew to include members from all parts of Texas. Often aided by Eckhardt and U.S. Senator Ralph Yarborough, the Council worked to increase public awareness of the urgent need for conservation in Texas. Anella Dexter served as the editor of the newsletter and Laurence Dexter as the chairman. The Council’s accomplishments include the passage of the Open Beach Bill in 1959, the establishment of Padre Island National Seashore in 1962, and the creation of the Big Thicket Preserve in 1974.
"Mrs. Emmott, Mrs. Dexter Conserve Area Beauty." The West Side Reporter 14, no. 7, April 14, 1966.
Plant Resources Center. "Wildflowers of Texas: About the Dexter Collection." University of Texas at Austin. http://www.lib.utexas.edu/exhibits/wildflowers/dexter.html (accessed August 10, 2010).
Correspondence, newsletters, printed material, news clippings, photograph albums, and books comprise the Anella Dexter Papers, 1950-1986, and document Anella Dexter’s environmental and ecological activities in Texas. The papers include conference material; bound reports and promotional material for use in the Texas Congress; and newsletters created by the Texas Conservation Council, Inc., relating to their work lobbying for the establishment and conservation of national parks, state parks, and other natural areas. The Council materials focus primarily on the work of Dexter but also document the organization’s work as a whole.
The collection also pertains to Anella and Laurence Dexter's ecological writings, including bound copies of their unpublished books: Wisconsin’s Geological Yesterdays and Today, a history of Wisconsin’s geology; Texas Wildflowers, a botany textbook; and A Texas Wildflower Odyssey, their ill-fated wildflower guidebook. Additionally, the papers contain two photograph albums of the Dexters’ wildflower photos with extensive captions meant to correspond to the their textbook, Texas Wildflowers.
The collection is open for research use.
Anella Dexter Papers, 1950-1986, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, The University of Texas at Austin.
Basic processing and cataloging of this collection was supported with funds from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) for the Briscoe Center’s “History Revealed: Bringing Collections to Light project,” 2009-2011.
This collection is unprocessed.
Detailed Description of the Papers