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Elizabeth Ogren Rothra Papers

Identifier: MSS 0391

Scope and Content

The Elizabeth Ogren Rothra Papers contain materials related to the publication of Rothra's books, On Preserving Tropical Florida and Florida's Pioneer Naturalist: The Life of Charles Torrey Simpson. The collection includes clippings about Rothra and reviews of her books; photocopies of research material on Simpson and Gifford; photographs that were included in Rothra's two books; and Rothra's correspondence with her publishers and research inquiries.


  • Creation: 1967-1997
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1972-1976


Biographical/Historical Note

Elizabeth Ogren Rothra was born in Jamestown, New York in 1923. She graduated from Jamestown High School in 1941 and attended West Virginia University. During the 1940s, in her native Jamestown, Rothra had a radio program, "Cathy Comes Calling," for a local department store. After moving to New York in the 1950s, she worked in public relations for Fred Waring and His Pennsylvanians and Prentice Hall. In 1952, Rothra went to work for Radio Free Europe, becoming assistant public relations director, a position she held for seven years. She also worked as the summer publicity director for the Chautauqua Institution in the 1960s.

In 1962, she married Dann Rothra, and they moved to Miami where she worked as a freelance writer. Rothra became interested in the life of John C. Gifford after visiting his widow in the late 1960s. Gifford, the first person in the United States to earn a Ph.D. in forestry, started his career at Swarthmore College and Cornell University. He moved to Coconut Grove, Florida, in 1903 and was involved in banking, land development, and drainage of the Everglades. He became a professor of tropical forestry at the University of Miami, and is known for introducing the Melaleuca tree to the area. Rothra put together a compilation of Gifford's writings, along with her biography of him, published as On Preserving Tropical Florida (University of Miami Press, 1972).

In 1995, the University Press of Florida published a second book by Rothra, Florida's Pioneer Naturalist: The Life of Charles Torrey Simpson. Simpson, a writer and naturalist interested in tropical horticulture, studied the endangered Florida tree snail and pushed for the creation of a national park in the Everglades. He received the University of Miami's first honorary doctorate.

In addition to writing, Rothra was a volunteer for several organizations, including the Jamestown Audubon Society, serving as both a program chairman and vice president. She divided her time between Florida and New York for twenty years before retiring in Rainbow Springs. She passed away in 2014 at the age of ninety.


.42 Linear feet (1 Box)

Language of Materials



Research materials, clippings, photographs, and correspondence related to the publication of Elizabeth Ogren Rothra's books On Preserving Tropical Florida and Florida's Pioneer Naturalist: The Life of Charles Torrey Simpson.

Physical Location

University of Florida Smathers Library Building

Acquisition Information

Elizabeth Ogren Rothra donated the collection to the Department of Special and Area Studies Collections in 2013.

Related Material

The University of Miami Special Collections holds the Charles T. Simpson Papers.


Sources consulted by Bridget Bihm-Manuel while writing this finding aid:
  • Gifford, John C. On Preserving Tropical Florida. Compiled and with a biographical sketch by Elizabeth Ogren Rothra. Coral Gables: University of Miami Press, 1972.
  • Rothra, Elizabeth Ogren. Florida's Pioneer Naturalist: The Life of Charles Torrey Simpson. Gainesville: University of Florida Press, 1995.
  • "Naturalist's Old Home a Font of History." Miami News, 22 September 1972.
  • "Former Jamestown Woman Compiles Book of Writings by Florida Conservation Pioneer." Post-Journal, 22 April 1972.
  • "Living the Good (Tropical) Life in Miami." Miami Herald, 27 April 1972.
  • Review of "Florida's Pioneer Naturalist: The Life of Charles Torrey Simpson." Stuart News, 3 March 1996.
  • "Star of the Week: Elizabeth Rothra." Palm Beach Post, 30 January 1996.
  • "At Last, Naturalist's Story is Told." Miami Herald, 5 November 1995.
  • Obituary for Elizabeth Ogren Rothra, Post-Journal, 18 March 2014.
  • The Senior Annual, Jamestown High School, 1941.
A Guide to the Elizabeth Ogren Rothra Papers
Finding aid created by Bridget Bihm-Manuel
May 2017
Description rules
Finding Aid Prepared Using Dacs
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Description is written in English.

Repository Details

Part of the Special and Area Studies Collections, George A. Smathers Libraries, University of Florida Repository

George A. Smathers Libraries
PO Box 117005
Gainesville Florida 32611-7005 United States of America