New Year, new processing project for the Archives of Women of the Southwest. Archival processing is a crucial element of collections care; it’s how we begin to know what materials are included in a collection, how we ensure preservation, and the first step in making our collections available to the public.
This year I am kicking off with the papers of Natalie Ornish. During a research appointment last fall, it became apparent that I did not know as much about Mrs. Ornish or her work as I would need to in order to assist patrons with accessing her materials. With only a brief catalog record available I set out to understand her life and career. I took a deep dive into the unprocessed boxes in order to put together a more descriptive and accessible record of her papers.
Natalie Ornish was a Jewish Texas businesswoman, philanthropist and historian. Ornish did years of research to uncover the history of Jews in Texas and published several texts on the subject. Daughter of George Israel and Bess Moskowitz, Natalie Gene Ornish was born on February 14, 1926 in Galveston, Texas. She was 14 when she graduated from Ball High School in Galveston, 17 when she earned a bachelor’s degree in English from Sam Houston State Teachers College, now Sam Houston State University. She earned a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., the youngest person at the time to receive a graduate degree from Northwestern.
She was an editor for The Associated Press in Omaha, Neb., before returning to Galveston, where she worked in public relations. In 1949 she married Dallas dentist, Dr. Edwin P. Ornish. Following her stint in PR, Ornish founded Dallas Records and Natwin Creative Productions. As she raised her family, Ornish worked on an array of projects, beginning with lyrics for two long-playing records, Songs for Suburban Children, released in 1957, and The Ages of Childhood, in 1966. She also wrote a musical, Just Twelve, about the angst of being a preteen, which was produced at Dallas’ Theatre Three and Casa Mañana Theatre in Fort Worth.
Ornish also produced a multimedia presentation, Texans All, as part of the 1976 Bicentennial celebration. In 1988, she founded Texas Heritage Press, which she used to publish Pioneer Jewish Texans: Their Impact on Texas and American History for 400 Years 1590-1990. The book was republished by Texas A&M Press in 2011. She published Ehrenberg : Goliad survivor, Old West explorer in 1997, a translation of Ehrenberg’s memoir originally published in 1844: Der Freiheitskampf in Texas im Jahre 1836. In addition, she contributed 61 entries to the Handbook of Texas.
Natalie Ornish died on May 16, 2016.
For access to these collections or to learn more about the women of the southwest, be sure to visit the DeGolyer Library and check out our books, manuscripts, pamphlets, and photographs.