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Julia Ideson
Photograph, Julia Bedford Ideson. Image courtesy of the Houston Metropolitan Research Center. Image available on the Internet and included in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107.

IDESON, JULIA BEDFORD (1880–1945). Julia Bedford Ideson, pioneer librarian and civic activist, daughter of John Castree and Rosalie (Beasman) Ideson, was born on July 15, 1880, in Hastings, Nebraska. She moved to Houston as a child and later attended the first program in library science offered by the University of Texas. She was appointed librarian of the new Houston Lyceum and Carnegie Library in 1903 and held this position for more than forty years. By the time of her death in 1945, the collection had increased from 13,228 to 265,707 volumes, and annual circulation had risen from 60,000 to 600,000. Her efforts to improve physical facilities had resulted in the addition of five branches, a new Central Library in Spanish Renaissance style, and the first municipal bookmobile in the state.

Julia Ideson served as secretary (1907–09) and president (1910–11) of the Texas Library Association, president of the Southwestern Library Association (1932–34), and first vice president of the American Library Association (1932–33). She served on the Legislative Committee of the Texas Library Association, where she helped to prepare an amendment to the County Library Law of 1915 and opposed a bill that would have abolished the Texas State Library in 1933. Providing library services for blacks in the South was the topic of her address at the American Library Association meeting at Hot Springs, Arkansas, in 1923.

American Library Association Volunteers
Photograph, American Library Association volunteers are helping in the war effort. Julia Ideson is second from right and she served in France. Image courtesy of NPR. Image available on the Internet and included in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107.

Throughout her career, she remained an active supporter of various civic causes and organizations. As a member of the Women's Political Union, she spoke at the first open-air woman suffrage rally in Texas in 1915 and helped to arrange a reception for the visiting Emmeline Pankhurst. Like many suffragists, she turned her attention to the war effort; she campaigned for Liberty Bonds and served eight months at a field library in Brest, France. In later years she was active in such groups as the League of Women Voters, the Houston Open Forum, the Foreign Policy Association, and the Texas Interracial Commission. Her professional and civic achievements brought her recognition in 1929 as the Torchbearer of the Year and in 1932 as the first Houston woman included in Who's Who in America.

Julia Ideson died on July 15, 1945, while on a visit to Pennsylvania. The Central Library building, erected in 1926 and later named in her honor, was renovated and reopened in 1979 to house the archives, special collections, and Texas Room of the Houston Public Library.


Houston Public Library Collection, Houston Public Library. Julia Ideson Collection, Houston Public Library. Mary Brown McSwain, Julia Bedford Ideson, Houston Librarian, 1880–1945 (M.L.S. thesis, University of Texas, 1966). Ruth West, "Throwing the Torch," Houston Gargoyle, April 21, 1929. Who Was Who in America, Vol. 2.

Sharon Bice Endelman

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

Handbook of Texas Online, Sharon Bice Endelman, "Ideson, Julia Bedford," accessed October 28, 2016,

Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Modified on June 8, 2016. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.