Hypatia-in-the-Woods’ beloved founder and director, Dr. Elspeth Pope, died peacefully, surrounded by loving family members, on Saturday, May 18. She underwent emergency surgery two weeks earlier for an intestinal blockage and made a brave attempt at recovery but found that she simply did not have the strength to fight her way back as she had several years earlier after a debilitating stroke. She leaves a startling vacancy in the world she inhabited.

Elspeth 2-242x235

A gathering to celebrate her beautiful life will be held Saturday, June 8, 2pm at St. David’s Church, 324 W. Cedar, Shelton, Washington.  The gathering includes a reception in St. David’s Hall.

The board and volunteers of Hypatia are committed to continuing the program and vision to which Elspeth dedicated so much of her energy and her resources. Holly House remains a tribute to Elspeth’s beloved husband, Jim Holly; women will continue to come for their residencies in that place set apart for them to work uninterrupted.

Elspeth’s life was an inspiration. She put herself through her university studies, leaving her home province of Montreal, Quebec, to come to the U.S. in 1951. She worked in medical and university libraries before turning to teaching library and information science, frequently bumping into the “glass curtain” encountered by women in her profession. In 1983, she retired from the University of South Carolina, married Jim Holly, and moved to Olympia, Washington. The two built their home near Shelton in 1991, using windfall cedar trees from the extensive property.

Both letterpress enthusiasts, Jim and Elspeth planned to create a print shop in the cedar building that Jim had used as a workshop during their house-building project. That same year, at a book arts event in England, Elspeth met Dr. Melissa Hardie. Later, Dr. Hardie and her husband, Dr. Phil Budden, visited Jim and Elspeth and the dream of developing a U.S. branch of Hypatia Trust, which Melissa founded In Cornwall, was born.

In 1998, after Jim’s death, Elspeth decided to leave her press and printing equipment in the basement and to turn Jim’s workshop building into a cottage for residencies. She formed a board, establishing Hypatia-in-the-Woods as a nonprofit organization, and donated a portion of her property with the workshop building to the new organization. Her vision was a resource center and residency program for women in the arts, academia and business, and she knew well the need these women have to be able to complete creative or academic projects in a space away from the demands of home, work and family. She took delight in seeing a labyrinth created in memory of Melissa Hardie’s mother and a poetry trail featuring the work of Olympia poet Jeanne Lohmann, both constructed adjacent to the Holly House property.
Photo of the side of the Holly House at Hypatia-in-the-Woods showing the ramp entrance.
Photo of the back side of the Holly House at Hypatia-in-the-Woods
After her retirement, Elspeth still kept her hand in the library and information world as a freelance indexer, later teaching the profession through an online university.  The local Pacific Northwest chapter of the American Society for Indexing recognizes her as the “mother” of their chapter.   She also travelled to the Republic of Mauritius as a consultant to assist the island nation in establishing its national library system.
She was an expert knitter, and loved reading and music.  She supported literacy tirelessly, and until quite recently headed the Mason Orchard Bees team in Mason County Literacy/Sound Literacy’s annual spelling-bee frundraiser.  She loved music and played the recorder with a small consort in the Olympia area, attended the symphony and Harlequin Productions live theatre, and enjoyed an extensive collection recorded music including numerous Willie Nelson recordings.   Elspeth was a book artist, and taught letterpress arts and created a number of cards, poetry broadsides and books, many of them marketed to benefit Hypatia-in-the-Woods.  She adored her dogs and cats, all adopted through various rescue organizations, and all named after type fonts.
Jim and Elspeth

Jim and Elspeth

Photo of Melissa Harding and Elspeth Pope. Melissa and her husband founded the Hypatia Trust in Cornwall, England.

Melissa and Elspeth


A model for her board and volunteers, Elspeth was our lodestar and our challenger. We will strive to live up to the standard she set.
You are encouraged to add your memories of Elspeth and your comments to this posting.
Her family reqeusts that any gifts go to Hypatia-in-the-Woods to support its mission.   Gifts, cards and remembrances can be sent to
Elspeth Pope
c/o Hypatia-in-the-Woods
P.O. Box 58
Shelton, WA  98584