Texas Originals

Oveta Culp Hobby

January 19, 1905–August 16, 1995

Oveta Culp Hobby's fascination with government began when she was a young girl, and it continued through her long and interesting life. She was born in Killeen in 1905, the daughter of state legislator Ike Culp.

Oveta Culp received her law degree in 1925 from The University of Texas at Austin. While studying, she served as the state's legislative parliamentarian. In 1931, she married former Texas Governor William P. Hobby. The Hobbys published the Houston Post, and had two children. But when the United States entered World War II, Oveta Hobby was asked to organize a women's support section for the Army. She agreed, and through her efforts, more than 150,000 women served in the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps. In January 1945, Hobby was awarded the Army's Distinguished Service Medal for her work.

After the war, Hobby returned to Houston. But in 1953, President Eisenhower appointed her to lead the newly created Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, where she once again organized an entirely new agency of the federal government.

Oveta Culp Hobby died in 1995, leaving an inspiring record of civic service. Today, her words about women and the war effort are inscribed on the World War II Memorial on the National Mall in Washington. The inscription reads, "Women who stepped up were measured as citizens of the nation, not as women. . . . This was a people’s war, and everyone was in it."

For More about Oveta Culp Hobby

The National Portrait Gallery (NPG) displays Ernest Hamlin Baker's portrait of Oveta Culp Hobby. Listen to Claire Kelly, assistant director of exhibitions and collections management at NPG, discuss the portrait.

The Oveta Culp Hobby Papers, 1817–1995, at Rice University's Woodson Research Center detail Hobby's public life and include correspondence, newspaper and magazine clippings, speeches, photographs, reports, memos, and videos.

Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison included a chapter on Hobby in her book American Heroines: The Spirited Women Who Shaped Our Country.

Selected Bibliography

Crawford, Ann Fears, and Crystal Sasse Ragsdale. Women in Texas. Burnet, TX: Eakin Press, 1982.

Hobby, Oveta Culp. "Child Health Day, May 1, 1953," Public Health Reports (1896–1970) 68, no. 4 (April 1953): 396.

Hobby, Oveta Culp. "A Dedication to the Health of Future Generations," Public Health Reports (1896–1970) 69, no. 7 (July 1954): 627–629.

Hobby, Oveta Culp. "Federal-State Relations and Grants-in-Aid," Public Health Reports (1896–1970) 69, no. 1 (January 1954): 88–91.

Hobby, Oveta Culp. "Schools Remain a Local Responsibility," The Phi Delta Kappan 35, no. 5 (February 1954): 204–206, 210.

Hobby, Oveta Culp. "The Tyranny of Freedom," The Phi Delta Kappan 36, no. 6 (March 1955).

Oveta Culp Hobby Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.

Hobby, William P., Jr. "Hobby, Oveta Culp." Handbook of Texas Online.

Hutchison, Kay Bailey. "Oveta Culp Hobby" in American Heroines: The Spirited Women Who Shaped Our Country. New York: Harper, 2004.

Johnston, Marguerite. Houston, The Unknown City, 1836–1946. College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1991.

Pando, Robert T. "Oveta Culp Hobby: A Study of Power and Control." Electronic Theses, Treatises and Dissertations. Paper 2300.

Winegarten, Debra L. Oveta Culp Hobby: Colonel, Cabinet Member, Philanthropist. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2014.

Listen to the audio

Colonel Oveta Culp Hobby, First Director, Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps. U.S. Army Signal Corps Collection.
Eleanor Roosevelt and Oveta Culp Hobby in Des Moines, Iowa. National Archives and Records Administration.
Oveta Culp Hobby being sworn in as President Eisenhower's Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare, April 11, 1953. Social Security Administration.