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Scaling Walls by Lisa Woods
time tracks

Looking Ahead

Scaling Walls

Down the Corridor


Gender barriers creaked, caved and crumbled in 1901, when Annie Webb Blanton took up residence as one of the first women professors at North Texas State Normal College. In her own words, she scaled the “solid wall of sex prejudice” and then spent her life “stretching out [her] hands” to others who could flatten the wall for good.

Blanton earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Texas in 1899, a time when women’s enrollment at the nation’s universities lagged far behind men’s. She joined the predominately male faculty at North Texas as an English professor in 1901 and remained until 1918. She wasn’t satisfied with just teaching; she rallied for equal rights for women and supported improvements in rural education.

After writing a series of grammar books, she formed a reputation as a leader among Texas educators. In 1916 she became the first woman president of the Texas State Teachers Association. Two years later, Texas suffragettes won the right to vote in primary elections, and Blanton defeated incumbent Walter F. Doughty for the seat of state superintendent of public instruction. She was the first woman in Texas elected to statewide office. photo of Annie Webb Blanton

During her term, Blanton made sweeping reforms. She instituted a free textbook system, revised teacher certification laws, reformed rural education and raised teachers’ salaries. In 1920, Texas voters re-elected her and passed the Better Schools Amendment, which she had proposed to aid in the removal of constitutional limitations on tax rates for school districts.

Blanton made an unsuccessful bid for the U.S. Congress in 1922 and turned her attentions to furthering her own education. She returned to UT for her master’s and in 1926 took a leave of absence from teaching there to earn her Ph.D. at Cornell University. In 1929, she founded the Delta Kappa Gamma Society, an honorary society for women teachers.

For Blanton, education was not about elitism; it was a tool for the betterment of society.

“Everything that helps wear away age-old prejudices contributes toward the advancement of women and of humanity,” she said.


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