Emma Kyle Burleson, preservationist, was born in August 1869 near San Marcos, Texas, the daughter of Lucy Emma (Kyle) and Edward Burleson, Jr. Her father was a Confederate veteran, a Texas Ranger, and a delegate to the Constitutional Convention of 1875. His father, Gen. Edward Burleson, came to Texas in 1830 and fought in the battle of San Jacinto before serving as vice president of the Republic of Texas. Emma's maternal ancestors included Hays County pioneers and politicians Claiborne and Fergus Kyle. Her parents both died in 1877, leaving her and her nine siblings to be raised by an uncle. She attended St. Mary's Academy in Austin and Augusta Female Seminary (now Mary Baldwin College) in Virginia. After completing her education and traveling in Europe, she made Austin her home. Maintaining an ongoing interest in Texas history from her family heritage, she closely followed the state's purchase of the Alamo in 1905, carried out at the request of the Daughters of the Republic of Texas with a bill sponsored in the Texas legislature by Fergus Kyle. The following year Emma Burleson joined the DRT, an organization in which she remained active for the rest of her life.
She was also active in the Daughters of the American Revolution and the United Daughters of the Confederacy and served for many years on the Texas Historical Commission. She helped preserve the old General Land Office building and was a founding member in 1911 of the Texas Fine Arts Association. In this organization she was involved in preserving the studio of her friend, artist Elisabet Ney. During World War I Burleson served as secretary-treasurer of the State Council of Defense and as a volunteer nurse at Texas army camps. In 1936 she chaired the official historical contest of the Texas Centennial Central Exposition. She was also a member of the Philosophical Society of Texas.
Emma Burleson died in Austin on June 16, 1941. Her funeral was held in St. Mary's Catholic Church (now St. Mary's Cathedral), and she was buried in Kyle. She was survived by one sister; her brother, Albert Sidney Burleson, postmaster general of the United States in Woodrow Wilson's administration, had died in 1937.