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Kirkley, Bertha (1868–1949)

Mary S. Estill Biography Entry

Bertha Kirkley, teacher, daughter of James Ellison and Elizabeth (Hollis) Kirkley, was born in San Augustine, Texas, on January 10, 1868. Her family later moved to Beckville, Panola County, where she attended high school. She graduated in 1889 from Sam Houston Normal Institute (later Sam Houston State University) and in 1891 began to teach history there. She spent summer vacations earning college credits from Harvard University and the universities of Chicago, Tennessee, and Colorado, as well as Colorado State Teachers College. By the early 1920s she had completed the requirements for the bachelor's degree, which she received from Sam Houston State Teachers College. During a leave of absence from her teaching, she attended Alabama Polytechnic Institute; she received a master's degree in 1924. She retired from teaching in 1937 as an associate professor. Kirkley began the movement for the purchase of the Huntsville home of Sam Houston and its perpetuation as a historic shrine. From 1937 to 1941 she was curator of the Sam Houston Memorial Museum. She was a member of the Texas State Teachers Association, Pi Gamma Mu (a national social-science honor society), and Sigma Tau Delta (a national English honor society). She was also a member and vice president of the East Texas Historical Association. She was an active member of the Presbyterian Church and served as president of the Brazos Presbyterial Union for two years. She died in Huntsville on August 14, 1949, and was buried there in Oakwood Cemetery.

Augusta Lawrence, comp., Faculty of Sam Houston Normal Institute and of Sam Houston State Teachers College, 1879–1940 (Huntsville: Sam Houston State University, n.d).


  • Education
  • Educators
  • Social Sciences
  • Museums, Libraries, and Archives
  • Museums
  • Women

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

Mary S. Estill, “Kirkley, Bertha,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed February 25, 2021,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

This entry belongs to the following Handbook Special Projects: