Virginia Culin Roberts has contributed greatly to the understanding and awareness of Arizona and its histoy through both her writing and her teaching. The daughter of two Arizona pioneer families, Virginia was born on January 8, 1921, in Florida, a happenstance due to her father's military assignment. She was one of the first third-generation students to attend the University of Arizona. Perhaps this family history accounts for her interest in Arizona'shistory. In his nomination for the Sharlot Hall Award, Jarvis Harriman wrote:
As a third grade teacher in 1974, Virginia extended the required Social Studies curriculum for her students by developing classroom materials to teach the history of Tucson and southern Arizona. Feeling the need for reading materials at that grade level on that topic, and finding none suitable, she requested and was given a sabbatical leave to create them. The result was the publication, in 1976, of two companion juvenile books, which she carefully researched, wrote, and illustrated.
Thousands of Tucson's schoolchildren have since enjoyed Outpost in the Desert: The story of Tucson Under the Spanish Flag and Pioneers in the Desert: The story of Tucson, Arizona Territory. The books have been through numerous printings, taught adult foreign students conversational English, and inspired similar publications on Phoenix's history.
In 1978, Roberts retired from teaching in order to pursue further Arizona history research. Her resulting publications and papers have won numerous awards, including two awards for Best Paper at the Arizona Historical Convention, and the Westerners International Phillip Danielson award for Best Paper in 1987. Her book, With Their Own Blood: A Saga of Southwestern Pioneers, traces the lives of the pioneer Pennington family from 1857 to 1913 and earned the Second Prize for nonfiction in the Westerners International Cofounders Award competition.
Roberts continues to give talks and workshops about Arizona's history and about teaching with history. As both a writer and a teacher, Virginia Culin Roberts has helped a great many children and adults share her understanding of Arizona's history.