From editor to devoted wife: Who was Elizabeth Waters Burbank?

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She is widely remembered as the widow of Luther Burbank, but Elizabeth Waters Burbank’s life extended far beyond her horticulturist husband’s famous gardens.

Born in Hastings, Michigan, to Crawford Waters and Josephine Gregory Waters, Elizabeth was said to be related to Eli Whitney, inventor of the cotton gin, through her maternal great-grandmother.

Elizabeth Waters attended Olivet College in Michigan and worked in the editorial department of an Eastern publishing house and as a proofreader and editor of authors’ manuscripts.

In 1912 she went west to live with her sister, Margaret Chryst, in Berkeley. When her brother-in-law’s business took him and his family up to Santa Rosa, Waters met Luther Burbank, whom she reportedly assisted in editing a collection of field notes. The project grew into a 12-book series called “Luther Burbank His Methods and Discoveries and Their Practical Application” and sparked a friendship that eventually resulted in their marriage.

In December 1916, Elizabeth Waters wed Luther Burbank. He was 67 and she was 28. They had no children.

Elizabeth Burbank continued to assist her husband in chronicling his work throughout their marriage and served as the go-to source for expertise on her husband’s horticultural research for years following his death.

She lived for the majority of years in “Old Homestead” on Santa Rosa Avenue, which has since become the Luther Burbank Home and Gardens, a historical garden and museum. She died June 19, 1977, at 89. Her ashes were scattered over the remains of her husband under the great Cedar of Lebanon tree that once towered over the Santa Rosa Avenue estate.

Click through our gallery above to explore the life and times of Elizabeth Waters Burbank.

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