Johnson, Dorothy M.

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Catherine (Kay) Burnham was a clinical psychologist and close friend of Dorothy Johnson. The two women met while living in New York City and often traveled together. Dorothy Johnson dedicated The Hanging Tree to "Kay Burnham" and, according to Burnham's brother, Catherine helped select shooting locations for the film adaptation. Catherine Burnham died of a heart attack in June 1988.

From the guide to the Dorothy M. Johnson-Kay Burnham Correspondence, 1952-1977, (Maureen and Mike Mansfield Library Archives and Special Collections)

Dorothy Marie Johnson was born in McGregor, Iowa, on December 19, 1905. Her family moved to Great Falls, Montana, in 1909, and to Whitefish, Montana, in 1913. Miss Johnson graduated from Whitefish High School in 1922, enrolled that fall at Montana State University in Bozeman and transferred to The University of Montana in Missoula the following year. There, she studied creative writing under H.G. Merriam, one of the university's legendary teachers. She was married briefly with the last name of Peterkin.

After graduation in 1928, she found work as a stenographer in an Okanogan, Washington, department store. After another stenographer position in Menasha, Wisconsin, she spent fifteen years as a magazine editor in New York City at Gregg Publishing Company and Farrell Publishing Corporation. >From 1950 to 1953, she was news editor of the Whitefish Pilot . She returned to Missoula in 1953. She was the secretary-manager of the Montana Press Association and taught part-time in the university's School of Journalism. Miss Johnson retired from both her teaching and her Press Association jobs in 1967 because of poor health.

She wrote sixteen books, beginning with Beulah Bunny Tells All in 1941 and ending with All the Buffalo Returning in 1979. Her subjects include Native Americans ( Sitting Bull: Warrior for a Lost Nation ; Buffalo Woman ; All the Buffalo Returning ); stories for children ( Farewell to Troy ; Greece--Wonderland of the Past and Present ); and history ( Famous Lawmen of the Old West ; Some Went West ; Flame on the Frontier ; Western Bad Men ; Montana ; The Bloody Bozeman ). She also co-authored The Bedside Book of Bastards with Robert Turner, a professor of history at The University of Montana. She is perhaps best known for her three short stories made into movies: "The Hanging Tree," "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance," and "A Man Called Horse." Her short stories were widely anthologized in textbooks and other collections. Miss Johnson was also a frequent writer of letters to the editor of the Missoulian ; some of her letters influenced managerial decisions in Missoula city government.

Miss Johnson received numerous awards, including the Western Heritage Wrangler Award, 1978; The Golden Saddleman Award, 1976; an honorary doctorate from The University of Montana, 1973; a University of Montana Distinguished Service Award, 1961; and Montana's Outstanding Professional Woman of the Year, 1952. She died November 11, 1984.

From the guide to the Dorothy M. Johnson Papers, 1844-1984, (Maureen and Mike Mansfield Library Archives and Special Collections)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
creatorOf Dorothy M. Johnson-Kay Burnham Correspondence, 1952-1977 Maureen and Mike Mansfield Library Archives and Special Collections
referencedIn Benjamin Capps Papers AR363., 1946-1993 Special Collections, The University of Texas at Arlington Library
creatorOf Dorothy M. Johnson Papers, 1844-1984 Maureen and Mike Mansfield Library Archives and Special Collections
Role Title Holding Repository
Direct Relationships
Relation Name
correspondedWith Burnham, Kay person
correspondedWith Capps, Benjamin, 1922- person
associatedWith University of Montana corporateBody
Place Name Admin Code Country
West (U.S.)
Publishers and Publishing
American literature--Women authors
Indians of North America--Fiction
Women authors, American


Birth 1905-12-19

Death 1984-11-11





Ark ID: w61672cm

SNAC ID: 51233263