Pioneer Woman Educator
The Progressive Spirit of Annie Webb Blanton
Texas History - Education
5.5 x 8.5, 208 pp.
5 b&w photos.
Pub Date: 08/01/1993
Centennial Series of the Association of Former Students, Texas A&M University
Price:        $28.50 s

Price:        $12.95


Published by Texas A&M University Press

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1994 Liz Carpenter Award, presented by the Texas State Historical Association

Pioneer Woman Educator

The Progressive Spirit of Annie Webb Blanton

By Debbie Mauldin Cottrell

"In 1918 Annie Webb Blanton broke the gender barrier in Texas politics when she was elected to head the state's public school system. This victory came despite the fact that women in Texas could not vote in the general election that elevated her to office." Debbie Mauldin Cottrell thus begins the story of a pioneering woman educator, a story of accomplishments on behalf of education and of women that includes years of teaching in public school and university classrooms, the first female presidency of the Texas State Teachers Association, and the founding of an international sorority for teachers, Delta Kappa Gamma.

In this biography of Texas educator Annie Webb Blanton (1870-1945), author Cottrell traces Blanton's rise from teaching in a rural schoolroom in Pine Springs, Texas, to her service as the state's top administrator of public schools and, subsequently, her tenure as a professor of education at the University of Texas. Drawing on archives and interviews with Blanton's surviving relatives and associates, Cottrell depicts Blanton's devotion to Texas schools and to the professionalism of women and analyzes her success in professional and state politics. She places Blanton's accomplishments within the context of Progressive-era reform and of gender issues as they defined and contributed to her work.

In the several phases of her public career, Cottrell demonstrates, Annie Webb Blanton combined traditional and Progressive values in her own distinctive feminist call to her colleagues. By forging one of the first professional networks and articulating a model for reform that was acceptable within the prescribed limits of her day, Blanton opened the higher ranks of the education profession to women across the nation and made a lasting mark on the quality of education in the state of Texas.

DEBBIE MAULDIN COTTRELL, an assistant instructor and doctoral candidate in the Department of History at the University of Texas at Austin, received a Texas Sesquicentennial Scholarship for her research on Annie Webb Blanton, which involved extensive work in several archives around the state, including those of the Delta Kappa Gamma Society International. Cottrell, who has worked previously for both the Texas State Historical Association and the Texas Historical Commission, was co-compiler with Nancy Baker Jones of Women and Texas History: An Archival Bibliography.

What Readers Are Saying:

"Meticulously researched, the biography traces Blanton's efforts throughout her career to improve education in Texas, particularly in rural areas, and to increase opportunities for women in the field. At each stage of Blanton's career, Cottrell provides the reader with a full discussion of the `context,' so to speak, within which Blanton had to operate." --Texas Libraries

"This book tackles the impossible and achieves it. It focuses on a fascinating woman of `firsts' . . . Cottrell . . . manages to explicate Blanton's role in the Progressive political movement in Texas. And Cottrell also continuously extends a critique of Blanton's somewhat elitist and racist approach to educational and feminist issues without making the mistake of viewing Blanton outside of the social context in which she lived." --Review of Texas Books

"The politics of education in Texas is the context for the life of reformer Blanton (1870-1945). Bucking the male-dominated system, she rose to become the State's superintendent of schools, then a professor of education at the University of Texas. Though narrow in scope, this is a yeomanly piece of scholarship." --Books of the Southwest

" . . . an important milestone in the study of Texas history. This biography of Annie Webb Blanton . . . jumps headfirst into the waters of Texas Progressivism in which others have only waded . . . Her life embodied the spirit of the Progressive era in Texas. . . . [Cottrell's book] should be required reading for students of Texas history, and college professors and instructors would be well advised to add it to their lists of recommended reading." --Southwestern Historical Quarterly

"Between 1901 and 1940, Blanton joined an increasing number of women who secured faculty appointments in coeducational institutions of higher education. Historians of academic women encourage additional studies of this diverse group. Cottrell's analysis of Blanton represents a worthy contribution to that goal. . . . a valuable addition to a neglected portion of the history of academic women in coeducational institutions." --History of Education Quarterly

" . . . an outstanding contribution to the field of southern women's history." --Journal of Southern History

" . . . this intensely interesting and particularly well-written work introduces a worthy role model who, until now, was probably unknown to all but a few historians and the members of Delta Kappa Gamma. . . . The author has revealed the feminine/feminist tension within the context of Blanton's belief that women should maintain proper decorum for ladies while engaging in public activism on behalf of equal rights for women and reform of government and education." --Pacific Historical Review

" . . . a noteworthy achievement. . . . [Cottrell] is clear in documenting the degree to which Blanton embodied the biases of her era with respect to race relations. Regardless, Pioneer Woman Educator is a valuable initial inquiry into the history of education and gender studies in Texas." --Great Plains Quarterly

"Along with Minnie Fisher Cunningham and Jane Y. McCallum, Annie Webb Blanton was among the Texas women who opened up politics in the state for their gender during the early years of this century. Debbie Cottrell's biography is a well-researched, gracefully written, and fascinating account of Blanton's role as an educator and politician. Anyone interested in Texas women and their history will want to own Cottrell's book." --Lewis L. Gould


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