Rouse-Bottom’s family owned the Daily Press in Newport News and she was an editor there from 1977 until 1986 when it was sold. She also served on the board of directors.
She had a great love for the history and culture of the Tidewater area, especially Hampton. She gave generously of her time, talent and money to support myriad heritage and arts organizations, including the Hampton History Museum, Fort Monroe National Monument and the Virginia Arts Festival.
Known as a scholar, Rouse-Bottom’s interests were far-ranging. They included raising championship dogs, gardening and sailing. She wrote the lyrics for two works celebrating the centennial celebration of then-Newport News Shipbuilding. She served on numerous boards including the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation, Virginia Opera and Virginia Symphony.
In Rouse-Bottom’s Daily Press news obituary, Hampton Mayor Molly Ward said, “Dorothy was a gracious, brilliant, funny and warm human being. She was that rare scholar who lit up every room she ever walked into.”
Rouse-Bottom graduated from Sweet Briar with a degree in religion and later earned a master’s in 16th-century English history from Columbia University. Early in her career, she worked in New York as a book editor at various publishing houses. Her marriage to theologian Langdon Brown Gilkey, with whom she had a son, Mark Whitney Gilkey, ended in divorce.
While living in New York in the 1960s, she met and married the American composer John Duffy. Although their marriage of many years eventually ended, the pair remained close friends and collaborators. Duffy helped care for her during the illness leading up to her death.
In 1988, Sweet Briar named her a Distinguished Alumna.