Down the Corridor
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 bachelors degree from the University of
Texas in 1899, a time when womens enrollment at the nations
universities lagged far behind mens. She joined the predominately
male faculty at North Texas as an English professor in 1901 and
remained until 1918. She wasnt 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.
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 masters 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.