This oral history with Bertha Holt was conducted by Jim Strassmaier from November 4-17, 1992, for inclusion in the Trails to Oregon exhibit at the Oregon Historical Society. The interview was conducted in three sessions.
In the first session, conducted on November 4, 2017, Holt discusses her family background and early life on a farm in Iowa, particularly describing growing up in a large family, being brought up in the Plymouth Brethren branch of Christianity, and her education. She talks about studying nursing at the University of Iowa, including working in a hospital at the same time. She also discusses her social life and the diversity of the international student body. She then speaks more about her childhood, including games, household chores, and family trips. She talks about meeting Harry Holt and about their courtship and marriage, as well as his family background. She describes living on a farm in Firesteel, South Dakota, after their marriage, acting as the town's nurse, and her experience during the Dust Bowl drought.
In the second session, conducted on November 5, 1992, Holt continues discussing her experience during the Dust Bowl drought. She talks about relocating to Lane County, Oregon, where Harry Holt got involved in the timber business and started his own sawmill. She also revisits the topic of Harry Holt's family background and early life. She describes the community in Lane County, adapting to the Oregon climate, and getting involved with the Baptist Church. She talks about raising children and about Harry Holt's health, and how World War II affected his sawmill. She also discusses family trips to Alaska by boat. She speaks about a heart attack that Harry Holt suffered in 1950.
In the third and final session, conducted on November 17, 1992, Holt briefly revisits the topic of Harry Holt's early life, as well as her own. She then continues discussing a heart attack that Harry Holt suffered in 1950, his recovery, and his determination to dedicate his life to a higher purpose. She talks about Harry Holt's trip to South Korea in 1954, adopting eight South Korean children, and founding Holt International Children's Services. She speaks about the biblical passages that inspired their work, the orphanage that Harry Holt built in Daegu, South Korea, and her role in facilitating adoptions while in Oregon. She talks about raising eight children, and how it differed from raising her first four. She discusses the opposition the Holts faced, how racism affected their work, and how they matched children to families. She talks about lobbying Senators Dick Neuberger and Edith Green to change laws regarding international adoption; talks about teaching child evangelism classes; and shares stories about some of the children the Holts facilitated adoptions for. She talks about her biological children, their families, and their careers, particularly focusing on how they contributed to Holt International. She speaks at length about her oldest daughter, Wanda Holt, who died in 1961; talks about the final years of Harry Holt's life and his funeral in South Korea in 1964; and describes publishing her book, "The Seed from the East." She talks about operating Holt International after Harry Holt's death, including the staff, fundraising, and their annual picnics. She closes the interview by looking at and discussing family photographs with Jim Strassmaier.
The interview transcript includes a portion of the interview not present in the audio recording. In this portion, Holt talks about the Holt family home in Lane County, Oregon, and the wealth that Harry Holt's sawmill brought them.