Elizabeth “Betty” Brown Beard Losey (1912-2005) was an ornithologist, a self-described “biological historian”, and the first female field biologist for the National Wildlife Service. As a young woman, her work was praised by Rachel Carson, but Betty Losey did not know until decades later. It was only in 2003 that she received a copy of the private memo Rachel Carson had written about her work, which had almost been thrown away decades before. Three years after starting her job in the Seney National Wildlife Refuge, she was told that she was to be transferred West. Betty decided to quit her job because “in the meantime, romance had crept in and I had to make a decision. So I reluctantly took the romance, although I am very happy I did”. (Read the full interview here.) She would later receive grants to write about wildlife management and conservation in layman’s terms and also taught graduate courses at the University of Michigan.
In her spare time, she traveled all over the United States and Canada with her husband, Everett, collecting photographs and information on fur trading posts. Out of more than two decades of traveling came a book, Let Them Be Remembered: The Story of the Fur Trade Forts, as well as many friendships across the continent which lasted decades. During her travels, she collected Native American art and artifacts which she donated to the DeVos Art Museum at Northern Michigan University. The items in the collection can be viewed here.
After her husband Everett died in the mid-1990s, she started to volunteer at Seney National Wildlife Refuge, where she had worked many years before. She wrote a book for them entitled Seney National Wildlife Refuge: Its Story. This remarkable woman continued to volunteer at the refuge into her nineties, participating in waterfowl surveys and studies. She was also putting together a photo essay on the fur trade, which she sadly never completed.
The Archives recently finished processing an addition to the Losey collection. Previously, it contained data and notes from her professional work as well as notes about the fur trade for her aforementioned book. We now have some of her personal records. This includes the records from her travels and correspondence, sometimes spanning decades, with the friends she and her husband made on those trips. Other personal correspondence as well as professional correspondence relating to her books and work have been added as well as articles which she collected over the course of her lifetime about topics that she was interested in. It also contains copies of the title pages of her collection of biology-related books, which were frequently written upon or autographed. One, a copy of Aldo Leopold’s A Sand County Almanac which she originally gave to her mother, reads “To my darling mother on Mother’s Day from Honey. This book will explain much better than I can how I feel about the outdoor world and why I love the work I am doing”. Betty Losey’s papers are filled with that love for the outdoor world and an enthusiasm for life that is really quite remarkable and inspiring.
Prepared by Annika Peterson