This finding aid was digitized with funds generously provided by the Smithsonian Institution Women’s Committee.
The Doris Holmes Blake papers consist of correspondence, diaries, photographs and related materials documenting in great detail Blake's personal life and, to a lesser
degree, her professional career.
The heavy correspondence she maintained with her mother and daughter, her essays and children's books, and the 70 years' worth of daily journals all attest to her infatuation
with the written word and preoccupation with her inner life. Blake's diaries and family papers stunningly illuminate the contrasts in the daily lives of herself, her mother,
and her daughter.
The papers relating to her professional life are less complete. Although she spent almost 60 years (1919-1978) in association with the entomological staffs of the U. S.
Department of Agriculture and the Smithsonian Institution, published numerous professional papers, produced all of her own illustrations, and illustrated many of her husband's
botanical works as well, this collection contains only a very limited amount of material documenting those activities. The papers do, however, include her extensive correspondence
with fellow entomologists, both in the United States and abroad.
In the course of transferring her husband's papers to the University of Texas, some of Blake's own papers were included as well. They are presently in the collection of
the Humanities Research Center of the University of Texas at Austin and include letters to her parents, 1906-1950; school and college notebooks, papers, essays and drawings;
and clippings, genealogical notes, and miscellaneous family letters and papers.
Doris Holmes (1892-1978) was born in Stoughton, Massachusetts, to a middle-class grocer and his wife. Essentially an only child (two siblings died in early childhood
and infancy), her natural intelligence, stubbornness, and extremely competitive nature were well fostered by her parents, who steadily encouraged and supported her determination
Holmes left Stoughton for Boston University's College of Liberal Arts and Sciences in 1909, where she pursued studies in business and the classics, earning her A.B. in
1913. Her business skills led to her association with the Boston Psychopathic Hospital in 1913, initially as a clerk, and later as aide to Dr. Herman Adler. Her interests
in science and psychology led her to an A.M. from Radcliffe College in zoology and psychology in 1917.
After a short time as a researcher at Bedford Hills Reformatory for Women, Holmes married her childhood sweetheart, botanist Sidney Fay Blake. Early in 1919, Doris Blake
found work as a clerk for the Department of Agriculture's Bureau of Entomology under Frank H. Chittenden, and began the entomological studies that would continue for the rest
of her life.
Blake worked her way up to junior entomologist and, when Chittenden retired, continued her work under Eugene A. Schwarz at the United States National Museum. The birth
in 1928 of daughter Doris Sidney (an infant son had died shortly after birth in 1927) was not a sign for her to slow down -- Blake hired a nurse to watch the baby while she
continued to watch beetles. In 1933 her official employment came to an end with the institution of regulations prohibiting more than one member of a family from holding a
government position (Sidney Blake was then working for the Department of Agriculture).
Although no longer on the payroll, Blake continued her taxonomic work on the family Chrysomelides for almost 45 more years, first as a collaborator and then as a research
associate of the Smithsonian Institution. Shortly after her husband's death, Blake traveled to Europe in 1960 on a National Science Foundation grant to revise the genus Neobrotica
Jacoby. She ultimately published 97 papers in various journals (see "Doris Holmes Blake," Froeschner, Froeschner and Cartwright, Proc. Entomol. Soc. Wash., 83(3), 1981, for
a complete bibliography) and continued her active research until shortly before her death on December 3, 1978.