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Ellen Trueblood:
A Biographical Sketch


Ellen Trueblood (1911-1994) was a journalist, mycologist, environmentalist, and wife of outdoors writer Ted Trueblood.  Her papers document her career as a writer and reporter, her love of the outdoors, contributions to mycology (particularly the collection and identification of Idaho mushrooms), and her environmental activism.


Ellen Rose Trueblood was born in Boise, Idaho, on August 1, 1911, to Carl Cyrus Hinkson and Rosella Blunk Hinkson.  She attended Cole School, then on the outskirts of the city of Boise, and graduated from Boise High School in 1929.  While at Boise High, she worked on the staff of the student newspaper, "The Pepper Box."    During the summer following her graduation from high school, she married R. Lynn Michaelson, whose father was one of the owners of the Caldwell, Idaho, News Tribune.  Ellen went to work as a reporter for theNews Tribune, launching a career in journalism as well as starting a family.  She and Lynn Michaelson became the parents of a daughter, Mary Ellen.  Their marriage later ended in divorce.


After breaking in at the News Tribune, Ellen went to work for the Boise Capital News, the evening newspaper in Idaho's capital city.  It was in 1936, while working on the staff of the Capital News,  that she met Ted Trueblood.   Trueblood was also a writer for the paper, and their mutual love of the outdoors was one of the attactions that brought them together. Ted Trueblood soon moved to Salt Lake City, however, to accept a position with a Salt Lake newspaper.  By the time he returned to Idaho two years later, Ellen was a reporter and society editor for the Nampa Free Press.  The two were married on July 6, 1939, at Cascade, Idaho, and embarked on a four month-long camping and fishing honeymoon in the central Idaho wilderness.  Ellen chronicled their experiences in the wilds in reports sent back and published in the Free Press.


When Ted accepted a job with Field and Stream magazine in 1941, the Truebloods moved to White Plains, New York.  There Ellen tried her hand at freelance writing.  One of her articles, a feature story on Idaho, was published in the travel section of the Sunday New York Times.  The Truebloods' stay in New York was not a long one, however, for Ted lost his job in a staff reorganization only several months after arriving.  In the Fall of 1941 they moved to Raleigh, North Carolina, where Ted went to work for the Raleigh News and Observer. Ellen wrote feature articles for the newspaper, too.  Her hunting prowess was noted in the paper when, in November 1941, she joined her husband and some of his fellow members of the Outdoors Writers Association of America on a deer hunt. Even though it was her first deer hunt with shotgun and buckshot, she was the only member of the party to bag a buck.


The Truebloods lived in North Carolina for less than a year before they returned to Idaho; Ted to write and work on the family farm, and Ellen to work again for the Nampa Free Press.   They moved once more to New York in 1944, when Ted again accepted a position with Field and Stream.  They returned to Idaho for good in 1947, after Ted convinced the management of the magazine that he could write as well for them from Idaho.  Back home in Idaho they became the parents of two sons:  Dan, born in 1947 and Jack, in 1949.   In 19xx they bought a house on 8th Avenue South, in Nampa, which would be their home for more than thirty years.


Ellen Trueblood's interest in mushrooms dates from camping trips she took with her husband and sons in the early 1950s.  She learned to identify and cook edible mushrooms on their visits into the back country; this experience led to more formal study at the College of Idaho and eventually to communication with Professor Alexander H. Smith at the University of Michigan, once of the foremost mycologists in the United States.  He assisted her in identifying southern Idaho mushrooms; she in turn began supplying mushrooms and other fungi to the University of Michigan Herbarium.


In time Ellen Trueblood became an authority on Owhyee region mushrooms. Her fieldwork included grant-funded surveys of the Owyhee region, and she contributed articles to both amateur and professional journals.  One article, "Notes on Fungi of the Owyhee Region," summarizing two decades of her work, was published in 1975 in Studies on Higher Fungi, a festschrift in honor of Alexander H. Smith.  Ellen Trueblood identified more than twenty undiscovered species of fungi and assembled more than 6500 mushroom collections.  Two species,Hygrophorus ellenae and Rhizopogon ellenae, were named in her honor; a third, Leccinum truebloodii, discovered by her husband Ted, was named for him.  Ted and her children often accompanied her on her mushroom hunting expeditions, as did her grandchildren in later years.   In the 1970s she also cultivated fungi for Smith Kline & French Laboratories in Philadelphia, who were searching for potential sources of chemotherapeutic agents.


Following Ted Trueblood's death in 1982, Ellen continued to speak out on many of the environmental issues he espoused, particularly wilderness designation.  With her son Jack, she arranged the republication of a number of his articles.  In 1989 she moved to Seattle, where her daughter Mary Ellen and son Dan lived.  Ellen Trueblood died in Seattle, Washington, on May 17, 1994.  Her remaining mushroom collections were donated to the University of Michigan Herbarium, and her books and papers were presented to Boise State University.


                                                                                     --  Alan Virta

 

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