The Life and Legacy of Elizabeth Miller Watkins: A Pioneering Philanthropist

The Life and Legacy of Elizabeth Miller Watkins: A Pioneering Philanthropist

The Life and Legacy of Elizabeth Miller Watkins: A Pioneering Philanthropist

The Life and Legacy of Elizabeth Miller Watkins: A Pioneering Philanthropist


    Qualifies for Free Shipping
    Choose Expedited Shipping at checkout for delivery by Thursday, March 7
    Check Availability at Nearby Stores

Related collections and offers


Few women have had a more significant impact on the development and growth of Lawrence, Kansas, and the University of Kansas than Elizabeth Miller Watkins.

Elizabeth Josephine Miller was born in Ohio in 1861 and moved with her family to Lawrence when she was a child. She attended the University of Kansas’s preparatory school in the 1870s but could not complete her education when a family financial crisis forced her to seek employment. She started working at the J. B. Watkins Land and Mortgage Company in 1887 as a secretary and in 1909 she married the company’s founder and owner, Jabez Watkins. Together the Watkinses dedicated themselves to philanthropy and were committed to giving all their wealth, as Elizabeth said, “for the good of humanity, chiefly here in Lawrence.” Jabez died in 1921, leaving Elizabeth to manage the family fortune alone.

Elizabeth wished to give women the opportunity for higher education that she herself had never received. In 1925, the Kansas Board of Regents approved her request to have a women’s scholarship hall built at KU. Watkins Hall, named in memory of her late husband, was constructed close to Elizabeth’s home—now the chancellor’s residence—and was followed a decade later by the construction of Miller Hall in 1936. As two of the twelve scholarship halls at the University of Kansas today, Watkins and Miller Halls are home to a vibrant cohort of young female scholars and an active alumnae community who continue the philanthropic vision of Elizabeth Miller Watkins.

In 1929, Elizabeth donated $200,000 for the new Lawrence Memorial Hospital to be built at 3rd and Maine, where it remains today. She also established the first on-campus healthcare provider, Watkins Memorial Hospital, at the University of Kansas (now Twente Hall) in 1931.

In this engaging biography, Mary Dresser Burchill and Norma Decker Hoagland’s extensive research successfully paints a portrait of a remarkable woman whose generosity endures at KU and in Lawrence and brings to light the astonishing legacy of one of the city’s leading philanthropists.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780700634231
Publisher: University Press of Kansas
Publication date: 03/17/2023
Pages: 240
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

Mary Dresser Burchill, author of was associate director of the Law Library at KU from 1979 until her retirement in 1995.

Norma Decker Hoagland is working partner and co-owner of J&N Ranch, Leavenworth, Kansas.

Table of Contents



1. Early Years

2. Coming to Lawrence

3. Working for JB

4. The Partnership Begins

5. The Watkins Bank

6. In Sickness and in Health

7. Mr. and Mrs. Watkins

8. Settling the Estate

9. Elizabeth’s Dream Come True

10. Building the City of Lawrence

11. Building the University of Kansas

12. Her Dream Come True, Part Two

13. The Real Mrs. Watkins: A Closer Look at Elizabeth

14. The Lasting Watkins Legacy



From the B&N Reads Blog

Customer Reviews