Margret Hofmann Papers
An Inventory of the Collection
Margret Hofmann (1925 - 2012) was an Austin City Council member known for her commitment to environmentalism and peace efforts. Born Margret Schultze, Hofmann grew up in Germany during the rise of the Nazis, and even heard Hitler speak when she was a teenager. Her mother, who was Jewish, died in the Theresienstadt concentration camp. Hofmann survived five allied bombings, including the bombing of Dresden in February 1945, before she immigrated to the United States in 1946. Hofmann lived in Detroit, Michigan, for several years, where she attended Wayne State University before relocating to Connecticut, where she worked at a children's hospital. In 1949, Hofmann hitchhiked from Connecticut to Aspen, Colorado to attend a lecture by Dr. Albert Schweitzer, at the bicentennial celebration of the birth of Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe. There, she met her future husband, Otto Jürgen Hofmann (1918 - 2001), an organ builder from Kyle, Texas. Influenced by Schweitzer's 1906 pamphlet "Deutsche und Französische Orgelbaukunst und Orgelkunst" (translated as "The Art of Organ Building and Organ Playing in Germany and France"), Otto was one of the earliest practitioners of the Organ Reform movement in Texas, which advocated a return to classic, as opposed to factory, organ building techniques. In 1956, he installed America's first post-World War II tracker organ in a modern case in Albany, Texas, and would go on to build and maintain organs in Texas and surrounding areas until 1988. Both Margret and Otto were advocates for peace, and converted to Quakerism shortly after marrying in Berlin in 1950. The Hofmanns moved to Austin, Texas three years later, where they raised a family of five children, divorcing in 1977 but remaining lifelong friends.
Margret Hofmann became involved in politics as a young mother in South Austin, where she campaigned to have sidewalks installed around city schools, earning her the nickname "the Sidewalk Lady." She served on several local councils and boards-including the Energy Conservation Committee and the Citizens' Board of Natural Resources and Environmental Quality-before being elected to the Austin City Council in 1975. During her campaign, she would not accept donations over $100, as she did not want to feel as though she owed any constituents special favors. The first Quaker and the first foreign-born naturalized citizen to serve on the Austin City Council, Hofmann served one term from 1975 to 1977 under Mayor Jeff Friedman.
During her time on the Austin City Council, Hofmann focused on environmental efforts. Because of her efforts to preserve the city's trees, she became known as Austin's "Tree Lady." She encouraged citizens to identify the tallest and oldest trees in their neighborhoods, and then had many of these trees tagged as landmarks. This effort culminated in a registry of Austin's "heritage trees," and led to Austin's 1983 Tree and Natural Area Protection Code. In January 1974 the first "Think Trees Week" event took place, which Hofmann organized and chaired for the next five years. In March 1976, Hofmann presented the "Economic Implications of the South Texas Nuclear Project" report, encouraging the city to withdraw from the South Texas Nuclear Project based on its expense and inefficiency. She also sponsored a resolution for an energy conservation study on the Municipal Auditorium, as a demonstration of energy savings possibilities in Austin's large buildings. In December 1976, the council passed a controversial amendment to the city code proposed by Hofmann, which mandated that dogs must be on a leash at all times when not in the owner's yard.
After her term on the City Council, Hofmann remained engaged with local, state, and federal politics. She had a lifelong interest in peace efforts, publishing numerous articles, pamphlets and books on the subject. Her publications included A Key to Survival (1962) about her experience in the bombing of Dresden, and Vietnam Viewpoints: A Handbook for Concerned Citizens (1968) in which Hofmann compiled quotes and statistics to provide context and justification for ending the War. Her articles appeared in the Saturday Review, the Ladies Home Journal, the Texas Observer, the Austin American-Statesman, and The Friends Journal, among others.
In 2010, a cluster of live oak trees facing the Austin City Hall was named "Margret Hofmann Oaks" in honor of her work for the city. Hofmann died in 2012 at age 86.
Austin (Tex.) City Council Margret Hofmann Records (AR.0.017), Austin History Center, Austin Public Library, Texas
Buchholz, Brad, "Margret Hofmann, Austin's 'Tree Lady,' devoted her life to peace, conservation," Austin American Statesman, February 2, 2012
Hofmann, Margret Biographical File, Austin History Center, Austin Public Library, Texas
Margret Hofmann Obituary, Austin American Statesman, February 12, 2012. Accessed May 20, 2013.
The Margret Hofmann Papers (1938-2011) consist of newspaper clippings, periodical articles, correspondence, essays, pamphlets, poetry, photographic material, and artifacts. The largest series, Subject Files (1938-2011, undated) contains material related to her many civic and political interests and pursuits spanning primarily the 1960s through 2011. Given that the original file order and the majority of file headings were created by Hofmann herself, it becomes apparent that her interests and activities as a council person (1975-1977) reflected much broader, long-term interests in areas such as energy use and conservation, campaign finance, and war and peace. Local topics encompass tree conservation, dog leash ordinances, the South Texas Nuclear Project, campaign finances, and airport and infrastructure development. Tree Activities (1943-2010, undated) includes planning documents, news clippings and publications specifically related to conserving Austin's trees, including her pivotal role in establishing Think Trees Week in 1974, Austin's Tree Registry, and an unpublished manuscript entitled The Austin Tree Book. A prolific writer throughout her adult life, Creative Works (1945-2011, undated) includes a large amount of source material and correspondence related to her two self-published writings, Vietnam Viewpoints, (1968) a collection of quotes and essays on Vietnam from various sources, and A Key to Survival, (1962) a pamphlet about the firebombing of Dresden during World War II. There are also original manuscripts and final publications for several essays and poetry centered around themes of Quakerism, the importance of historical preservation, aging, and war and peace. Photographs (1974-1988, undated) contain a substantial number of color photos and slides related to her tree conservation activities. The Otto Hofmann series (1941-2001) contains correspondence, biographical information and a small number of personal photographs. Correspondence and newspaper articles document the development of his long career as a much sought after organ builder in central Texas. There is also a biographical piece which appeared in June, 2001 of the Houston Chronicle Texas Magazine following Mr. Hofmann's death about end of life issues, his simple burial, and the rising costs of funeral services in Texas. Addtional Material (1947-2007, undated) includes Hofmann's writings in defense of her friend, 82-year-old Alice Herz, who, in 1965, became the first U.S activist to immolate herself in protest of the Vietnam War. There are also copies of Satyagraha, a column Hofmann wrote for the Daily Texan from 1961-1962. "Satyagraha" is a civil resistance termed coined by Mahatma Gandhi which is loosely translated as "insistence on truth". A small amount of material is devoted to her receiving the first Human Rights Award from the Church of Women United in October, 2006. The last box contains submissions by department for the City-Wide Suggestion Box, a project established by acting City Manager, John L. Ware on August 4, 1988. It's aim was to encourage city employees to make anonymous suggestions in order to improve city efficiency during that year's budgetary process. Hofmann was one of five panelists appointed by Ware. Members met once per week to review suggestions and presented them to Council on August 25, September 1 and September 8, 1988.
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The collection was donated to the Austin History Center in 2003 by Margaret Hofmann and in 2012-13 by Margret Hofmann's daughter, Heidi C. Veselka.
Margret Hofmann Papers (AR.2012.034). Austin History Center, Austin Public Library, Texas.
Donor #: DO/1977/094
Donation Date: 4/2003, 10/2012, 6/2013
Preliminary Processing and Finding Aid by Mandy Sutton, Erin Donohue, and Justin Kovar/2013. Final processing and encoding by Susan Rittereiser/2013.
Detailed Description of the Collection