Whitehouse, Eula (1892–1974)

By: Debbie Mauldin Cottrell

Type: Biography

Published: August 1, 1995

Eula Whitehouse, botanist, artist, and Texas wildflower specialist, was born in Cleburne, Texas, on August 1, 1892, the daughter of John Thomas and Lillie May (Wylie) Whitehouse. She was educated in Cleburne and entered the University of Texas in 1910, where she subsequently received bachelor's (1918), master's (1931), and doctoral (1939) degrees. She taught school in several Texas towns intermittently with her university work. She also received a degree as a registered nurse from New York City Hospital School of Nursing in 1920, and, although she ultimately pursued other career options, she served on the Texas State Board of Nurse Examiners, in the Reserve Red Cross Nursing Corps, and as a nursing teacher briefly in Houston in the 1920s. By 1928, when Whitehouse returned to Austin for graduate school, she had started a collection of botany books and soon was working on several hundred drawings of Texas flora, after study in this area with Dr. Benjamin Carroll Tharp at the university. After completing her master's degree, with a thesis on vegetation at Enchanted Rock, Whitehouse taught botany and zoology at the College of Mines and Metallurgy (now the University of Texas at El Paso) before returning to Austin in 1932 to work on her doctorate. While she was a doctoral student she served as an instructor at the university and published several articles on Texas flora and fauna. In 1936 she wrote and illustrated one of the first books on Texas wildflowers, entitled Texas Flowers in Natural Colors, a collection of some 200 pencil and brush watercolor drawings. She first published the book privately in Austin, then reissued it through Cokesbury Bookstore in Dallas in 1948; a later edition was published in 1967 by the Dallas County Audubon Society. The book was designed to help the amateur learn more about the state's most common wildflowers, and it became immensely popular with travelers, gardeners, and teachers.

In 1939 Whitehouse completed her doctoral dissertation on phlox species. While working on this degree, she was in charge of the university's botany exhibit for the Texas Centennial in 1936. She later served as curator of botany and zoology for the new Texas Memorial Museum on the UT campus from 1938 to 1943. While at the museum she painted backgrounds for two large buffalo and mountain lion dioramas that have remained part of the museum's permanent exhibits. Whitehouse returned briefly to public school teaching in Texas from 1943 to 1946 and during this time published an article on Sophia Hammann, an early Texas midwife and herbalist. In 1946 she joined the staff of the Southern Methodist University herbarium as a technical assistant. For the next twelve years, until her retirement in 1958, Whitehouse remained at SMU, in the posts of botany professor, head of the herbarium, and curator of cryptogams. Throughout her career in Dallas she traveled extensively in the United States and other countries to collect plant specimens for her work at SMU. She assisted in organizing the Dallas County Audubon Society in 1954. Upon her retirement she remained active in botanical work by leading field trips for the Audubon Society, continuing an interest in ornithology that began in 1948, and adding books to her collection on birds and flora. In 1962 the Rob and Bessie Welder Wildlife Foundation and Refuge published Common Fall Flowers of the Coastal Bend of Texas, which Whitehouse wrote and illustrated with line sketches. Whitehouse maintained her active membership in numerous organizations, including the Ornithological Society of Texas, the World Wildlife Fund, and the Texas and National Audubon societies. Eula Whitehouse, who never married, died in a Dallas hospital on September 6, 1974. After a funeral service in Dallas, she was buried at Cleburne Memorial Cemetery in Cleburne. She was survived by two brothers, two sisters, and several nieces and nephews.

Visit the Texas Women Project's standalone website

The Handbook of Texas Women project has its own dedicated website and resources.

Visit Website
Dallas Morning News, January 9, 1949, December 13, 1959, September 8, 1974. Dallas Times Herald, June 27, 1958, September 8, 1974, May 7, 1987. Who's Who of American Women, 1958–59.
  • Education
  • Educators
  • Sciences, Agriculture, and Engineering
  • Museums, Libraries, and Archives
  • Museums
  • Museum Administrators, Curators, and Directors
  • Visual Arts
  • Painting
  • Women
  • Science
  • Scientists and Researchers
  • North Texas
  • Dallas/Fort Worth Region
  • Dallas

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

Debbie Mauldin Cottrell, “Whitehouse, Eula,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed August 10, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/whitehouse-eula.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

August 1, 1995

This entry belongs to the following Handbook Special Projects: