Dodson, Viola Ruth (1876–1963)

By: Agnes G. Grimm

Type: Biography

Published: 1976

Updated: May 29, 2020

Viola Ruth Dodson, folklorist and historian, was born on the Perdido Ranch in Nueces County, Texas, on September 3, 1876, the daughter of Milton and Susan Dodson. According to some sources, her great grandfather Bradley brought his family to Texas with the Old Three Hundred. Her early schooling took place on the family ranch and, for one year, in the public schools of Corpus Christi. She attended Lagarto College in 1883–84. Ruth learned to speak fluent Spanish from Mexican ranchhands, through whom she developed a lasting interest in Mexican culture. In 1935, at the insistence of J. Frank Dobie, to whose work she contributed stories and information, she wrote a volume of Southwest Texas folklore in Spanish, Don Pedrito Jaramillo (1934). Pedro Jaramillo was a faith healer and doctor, and the book contains many of his healing remedies. The library of the College of Physicians in Philadelphia acquired it as a reference book in the history of medicine, and it became a folklore classic. It was later published in 1951 as The Healer of Los Olmos and Other Mexican Lore, by the Texas Folklore Society, with a preface by Dobie. Dodson's other writings include an unpublished novel about migrant workers entitled Cock Crows, which won a prize at the Southwest Writers Conference in Corpus Christi. She also wrote pieces for the Texas Folklore Society, for which she was a counselor, that were published in the Southwest Review and Frontier Times. Her aim was to present a true picture of the area between the Nueces and Rio Grande. Dodson lived at Alice, Texas, and on Catalina Island in California before moving to Mathis, Texas, when she was fifty. She died at Corpus Christi on July 19, 1963, and was buried in the Old Mathis Cemetery.

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Florence Elberta Barns, Texas Writers of Today (Dallas: Tardy, 1935). Agnes G. Grimm, Llanos Mesteñas: Mustang Plains (Waco: Texian Press, 1968). Lael Moore, "Ruth Dodson, South Texas Folklorist," Texas Historian, May 1971. Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.

  • Writers, Authors, Publications, and Literature
  • Literature
  • Folklorists
  • Dramatists and Novelists
  • Fiction
  • Women

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Agnes G. Grimm, “Dodson, Viola Ruth,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed June 24, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

May 29, 2020

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