Elizabeth Agnes (Bessie) Dwyer, writer, librarian, and reformer, the youngest child of Judge Thomas A. and Annie (Croker) Dwyer, was born on September 29, 1866, at Bonita, the family country home in Nueces County. Another daughter of Judge Dwyer's married Capt. Nicholas Nolan of the Nolan expedition. As a child, Bessie traveled abroad for five years, then studied under a family governess until her father's death, when she was sixteen. For the next six years she worked for the post office and for G. W. Baldwin and Company, the largest book and stationery house in West Texas. During this time she also began to write short stories and poems.
In 1868 she moved west and for three years lived in Arizona and New Mexico with a sister. When she returned to San Antonio she worked for the Galveston News, which published her stories "Mr. Moore of Albuquerque" and "A Daughter of Eve." Using the pen name Heliotrope, she published stories in the Texas Baptist and Herald and also served as a correspondent for several southern journals. In 1890 she graduated from a San Antonio business college and in November 1891 moved east to become a "congressional reporter" for the National Economist. Dwyer wrote articles for the National Farmers' Alliance newspaper on such issues as flexible currency, liquor laws, workmen's insurance, national politics, and political campaigns. Governor James Hogg appointed her a commissioner to the Chicago Exposition of 1893. In that year she became the first woman appointed to the Library of Congress, where she served as an assistant librarian until 1903. She lived in Manila, Philippines, for the purpose of establishing library service from 1909 to 1911 and last appeared in a portrait made in San Francisco and dated 1915.
The Handbook of Texas Women project has its own dedicated website and resources.