Throughout her acting career, Nancy Kulp was usually typecast as an intelligent, yet lovelorn "spinster" due to her age and non-stereotypical appearance.
Like her onscreen characters, Kulp in real life had an academic bent. She recieved her B.A. in Journalism from Florida State University and later studied towards her master's degree in French and English at the University of Miami. She left graduate school for the Naval Reserve, and became a WAVE in 1943. Kulp reached the level of junior-grade lieutenant before leaving the service in 1945.
Kulp was initially interested in a career in television broadcasting, and spent several years working as a radio and television publicist. In 1951, she married Charles Dacus (a little-discussed union which would end in divorce about ten years later). During the same year she moved from Florida to Hollywood--where after only three weeks, she was discovered by movie director George Cukor for a co-starring role in his film, "The Model and the Marriage Broker."
More small roles in such films as "Sabrina," "The Three Faces of Eve," and "The Parent Trap" followed. Then in 1954 producer Paul Henning hired her to play bird-watcher Pamela Livingston in his sitcom, "The Bob Cummings Show." When Henning created "The Beverly Hillbillies" in 1962, the role of the bright, yet often exasperated, secretary Jane Hathaway was written especially for her. Kulp would play Miss Hathaway during the show's entire nine year run, until its cancellation in 1971.
After "Hillbillies," Kulp spent several years touring the country in dinner theater and repertory company productions. During the 1970's she had a regular role in the short-lived "Brian Keith Show," and guest-starred on numerous shows, including "The Love Boat," "CHiPs," and "Sanford and Son." In 1982 she appeared on Broadway in Paul Osborn's "Mornings at Seven."
In 1984, Kulp's interest in politics led her to run as the Democratic candidate for the House of Representatives in the Ninth Congressional District in Pennsylvania. She lost the election after a hard-fought campaign which turned ugly when her former "Hillbillies" co-star, Buddy Ebsen, recorded a thirty-second radio commercial endorsing her Republican opponent. Ebsen and Kulp did not speak for years afterwards, although they are said to have reconciled shortly before her death.
After her foray into the political arena, Kulp became an Artist in Residence at Juanita College in Huntington, PA. She served on the Board of Directors for the Actors Screen Guild and continued to act onstage. In 1989, she was interviewed by author Boze Hadleigh, during which she revealed that she was a lesbian. The interview was published posthumously, and Kulp never formally came out during her lifetime. It is unknown (to me, at least) whether she had a surviving partner at the time of her death in 1991.
*Most biographical information was gathered from the following sources: "The Beverly Hillbillies" by Stephen Cox (1993) and "Hollywood Lesbians" by Boze Hadleigh (1994).