The History Articles of Nita Thurman.
From the Denton Record Chronicle.

Texas Womans University

The already were a few schools for women that offered more than the traditional "finishing" in the late 19th century, but it took ten years before the Texas legislature approved a girls' industrial school for the state -- the school we now know as Texas Woman's University.

At the turn of the century, there were basically three types of colleges -- academic schools, Normal schools that prepared teachers; and industrial schools that trained students in vocations and other job skills. The University of Texas had opened officially in 1883, offering courses in the literature, arts and science for men and women. Texas A&M had opened in 1876 as a male-only industrial school to train young men in agriculture and mechanics. Noticeably missing was an industrial school for young women.

Dawn Letson, coordinator of special collections, at Texas Woman's University, collected newspaper clippings, legislative reports and other writings of those times to compile the history of the ten-year debate that eventually led to a women's college in Denton. Her papers are in the university archives. Apparently there was general discussion in some circles about establishing an industrial school for women. But the idea didn't get off the ground until A.J. Rose, worthy master of the Texas State Grange and Patrons of Husbandry, took up the fight. In a speech at the annual Grange conference in 1899, Mr. Rose asked rhetorically? "Do (girls) not need an industrial college, too, where they can receive a practical education which will prepare them for some vocation in life, in order that they may not have to work in the cotton fields from necessity? … Let the State Grange stretch forth its strong arm in woman's behalf to the next Legislature and ask that an industrial college be provided for girls."

The first bill to establish a girls' industrial school was introduced to the Texas legislature in 1891, with Grange support. The Austin Daily Statesman reported: Mr. Lewis objected to the bill on constitutional grounds. Mr. Selman made an enthusiastic speech in favor of the bill. The discussion waxed warm." It passed the Senate but failed in the House. In 1893, Helen Stoddard, president of the Women's Christian Temperance Union, began petitioning legislators for a girls' industrial school. "Let our daughters be taught all the labors necessary to a well-kept, hygienic home and also be trained to some business … Let us stop the embroidery and piano lessons long enough to send them to a scientific cooking school." The Texas Women's Council and the Texas Press Women's Association took up the battle. Pauline Periwinkle of the Dallas Morning News supported the school on grounds that industrial training would prevent poor young women from becoming prostitutes. That was the only other money-making alternative available to women at the time, she wrote.

Opponents argued that an industrial school would simply train low-income women to be servants for "the aristocratic classes." Another opponent didn't like the bill because it had "Female Rights written all over it." One lawmaker was offended at the idea that women needed to be training in homemaking skills. "Instinct will make a woman a perfect housekeeper, a model wife and a wise mother," he said.

The arguments raged for ten years., fueled by continuing debate over where the school would be located, if it was established. Some wanted it attached to Texas A&M. Others wanted it in their town. Only after the location was removed from the bill would it eventually pass. Legislators continued to debate the bill -- and vote it down. In 1897, the Senate again passed it by a vote of 70 to 37;. Again, it failed in the house. In 1899, both houses voted it down. Texas has a "wheel-barrow government" that only goes forward "when irresistibly pushed from behind," said Mrs. Stoddard, and she continued pushing.

In 1900, the state Democratic Party platform called for an industrial school for girls. In 1901, ten years after the first bill was filed, the Texas Legislature voted to establish an industrial school for girls. A seven-man board would be appointed to review proposed locations and select a site for the school. The board visited 14 sites including Denton, which offered about 70 acres for the school, $16,050 as a "money bonus" and agreed to dig an artesian well to provide water to the school. Denton was chosen on the 76th ballot.

An Experiment in Education

One hundred years ago this month, the first school term at the Girls Industrial College of Texas was coming to a close. The bold new experiment of educating young women in non-traditional fields was up and running. The idea was to "fully prepare girls for the practical industries of the age," said the school's first catalogue. What was unsaid but seems obvious is that young women who completed this training could be much more reliant and independent and educated well beyond former finishing school boundaries.

The English-Science and Fine Arts Departments offered the more traditional English, languages and the sciences, painting and photography. In addition to the fine arts, however, the young women were offered a wide range of practical training. If they planned to be homemakers, then they were expected to learn sanitation, science, cooking, sewing. and hygiene. The Domestic Art Department also offered classes in laundry, and housekeeping. If they wanted to move into the male bastions of commerce, there were classes in bookkeeping, telegraphy, political economy, stenography and commercial law in the Commercial Arts Department. The Industrial Arts Department offered courses in dressmaking, illustrating, design, modeling, carving and engraving. Then there was the Rural Arts Department. Students could learn dairying, poultry keeping, beekeeping, horticulture and floriculture. Within the first few years, nursing, care of the sick, and the culture of children were added to the curriculum.

These young women also shared their modern ideas with the outside community. Once a week, the school offered free lectures to the women of Denton and the surrounding area on such subjects as Economics of Cooking; Harmful Bacteria; Home Sanitation; Care of Milk; Care of the Young; What Happens in Cooking; Kitchen Equipment; Home Decorating; and Home Laundering. The lectures were so popular they had to be moved from a classroom that would hold 80 people to the auditorium. One more lecture was added, a demonstration of new X-rays.

Old Main was the only building on the campus. A 600-feet deep artesian well was located in the back of the building to provide a "bounteous supply" of pure water. In the basement were located the boiler room, a heating plant, an air compressor that forced water from the well, and a gas machine to provide gas for the kitchens and laboratories.

That year's catalogue described the building as located in a grove of oak trees -- many of which still exist -- with orchards and berry gardens that would be "turned to account in the domestic arts department." Plans already were underway and were completed within the next two years to add a poultry yard, a dairy - with a herd of nine registered Jersey cows -- a green house, vegetable gardens and grain fields to the campus. The Rural Arts Department was, in effect, an experimental farm. The girls cared for animals, plants and fowl as well as what they produced.. They hoed the gardens, milked the cows, hauled hay, made butter and cheese.

State legislation that established the new women's school also required free enrollment for about 200 students, apportioned county by county. County school superintendents in each Texas county recommended the young women. They paid room and board -- $12 to $13 a month which included light and fuel -- but tuition and fees were waived.

The Pioneer Woman

As the 100th anniversary of Texas' independence approached, the state and the nation planned to celebrate. Committees organized to coordinate the celebration set aside large chunks of a $3 million appropriation to restore historic old forts and buildings and to create monuments recognizing Texas history. One of the planned monuments became the Pioneer Woman on the Texas Woman's University campus -- but only after a statewide swirl of controversy.

After L.H. Hubbard, president of what was then Texas State College for Women, proposed a statue honoring women on the college campus, the Texas Centennial Commission sponsored an open competition for sculptors to design the statue. A jury of professionals unanimously chose the plaster model submitted by New York sculptor William Zorach. (FC) However, Zorach's model remained only a model. -- a three-dimensional plaster depiction of a pioneer family. The mother was seated, reading to a child. A father and boy stood behind her. They were stylized figures, thick-bodied -- and they were all nude.

An article about Zorach by John I.H. Baur (FC) published for the Whitney Museum of American Art describes the "anguished protests from Texans." Ann Barton, assistant librarian at the Mary Evelyn Blagg Huey Library at TWU located the article while researching the Pioneer Woman statue. "One astute observed noted that the woman wore no wedding ring," the article said, "while another quibbled that it was a memorial to a pioneer family not to the pioneer woman as specified." A chapter of the Daughters of the Republic of Texas declared it "the greatest insult that could be offered to these women who believed and practiced the virtue of modesty." Other critics said the figures "looked like apes" and that a "nude statue was not appropriate to a woman's college."

The director of the Dallas Museum of Fine arts defended Zorach and his work. Zorach himself tried to salvage his design with another model with lightly draped figures. "But Texas was having none of this particular work of art," the article continued. The commission then chose Leo Friedlander's (FC) model. His design shows a sturdy woman, striding forward on a 22-ton monolithic base. The larger-than life-woman was carved from another 30-ton monolith. The entire statue is of Georgia white Cherokee marble.

Interestedly enough, Ms. Barton's research unearthed some other credits due. Friedlander designed the statue, but it was carved by the Piccirilli (FC) brothers and axe-finished. And, architect Donald Nelson designed the entire memorial. Both Zorach and Friedlander were well-known sculptors whose works can be found on buildings and in museums across the United States. Zorach carved the huge figure of Benjamin Franklin for the Franklin Post Office in Washington D.C. in 1937. He also has works at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the Smithsonian Institution and many other art museums.

Friedlander, who became known for monumental works, did relief designs at the Bank of America in New York and later on the RCA Building at Rockefeller Center. His biography calls a pair of enormous equestrian statues that flank the entrance to the Arlington Memorial Bridge in Washington D.C. "his most important and best-known commission." He later designed "The Four Freedoms," another set of colossal figures that represent freedom of speech, press, assembly and religion for the New York World's Fair in 1939. He also continued to do sculptural relief designs for churches and other buildings. His studio in New York was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982.

NITA THURMAN, a Shady Shores resident and journalist, is a member of the Denton County Historical Commission. Her e-mail address is