Edna Gladney

Edna Browning Kahly was born on January 22, 1886 to Maurice (or Morris) and Minnie Nell Jones Kahly in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  Nothing is easily found about her father, but by 1900, Minnie Nell, her mother, Edna and her sister were living with Minnie’s mother in Milwaukee.  Around 1903 Edna was sent to Texas to live with relatives in Fort Worth and about three years later in 1906, she married Samuel William Gladney.  Sam was born in 1877 in Commanche County to Thomas Lacy and Joyce Cathron Bowdon Gladney in 1882.  Tom was a rancher there in West Texas.  By 1900, Sam was 22 and living with the family in Gainesville, Cooke County, Texas.

Sam was in the flour milling business and first bought a flour mill in Wolfe City, Texas and eventually another one in Sherman, Grayson County, where Sam sold milled wheat flour under the now-familiar brand name of Gladiola Flour.  In 1921, Sam sold out to Fant Milling Company and the couple moved to Fort Worth.  The explanation for the sale was that Sam’s business had run up large losses and debts due to wheat speculation, a common industry practice designed to insure that the mill would always have an adequate supply of product to mill.  This caused Sam to be forced to sell the mill and he reportedly worked for years to pay off the debts.  The Gladiola brand seems to have since disappeared, but continued to be marketed at least up through the 1990s by its successor owners.

Perhaps growing out of her own experience as the child of a single mother, Edna had shown a burden early on for underprivileged children and while living in Sherman had worked to improve the county poor farm.  She also established a free day care facility for children of Sherman workers and financed it from her own funds.

Once the couple to Fort Worth, Sam continued to work to pay off his debts from the flour mill and Edna began to work for the Texas Children’s Home and Aid Society, which had been run for many years by Rev. Isaac Zachary Taylor Morris, a Civil War veteran and an ordained Methodist minister.  Morris had died in 1914 and his last wish had been that his wife Isabella would be allowed to succeed him as superintendent, which she was allowed to do.  During his sixteen years as superintendent, Morris had found homes for over 1,000 orphaned children.  Edna began to work for the Home and Aid Society and after Isabella Morris’ death in 1924, was named as superintendent of the organization in 1927.

Sam died of a heart attack in 1935 and Edna continued to devote her energy to running the Home.  In addition, she increased her role as an activist and advocate for orphaned children.  She worked to influence the Texas legislature to have the word “illegitimate” left off birth certificates.  The well known expression “There are no illegitimate children, only illegitimate parents.” is attributed to her.  Gladney lobbied for legislation to give adopted children the same inheritance rights as other children.  Her work was successful and the State of Texas instituted the policy of issuing second birth certificates in the names of adoptive parents.  Edna continued to work at the Home until her retirement in 1960.

In 1941, the film “Blossoms in the Dust” was released, directed by Mervyn LeRoy.  Loosely based on Edna’s life, the screenplay was written by Anita Loos, perhaps the first female screenwriter to be widely employed in Hollywood.  Loos also wrote the screenplay for the comedy “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes,” among others,  “Blossoms” starred Greer Garson and Walter Pidgeon.  Though it varies from some of the actual facts as we now know them, it tells the compelling story of Edna’s life of advocacy for orphaned children.  Along with “Goodbye Mr. Chips,” released in 1939, it is considered one of the springboards for Garson’s long and successful career.  It was MGM’s most successful film of the year.  The film was also a critical success, winning an Oscar for Best Art Direction and being nominated for three more awards, including Best Picture and Best Actress.


(Image credit: blog.adoptionsbygladney.com;
Greer Garson-left and Edna Gladney-right)

The film helped Gladney’s reputation spread throughout the country, and Garson and Gladney are said to have become close friends.  In 1948, the organization was renamed the Edna Gladney Home.  In 1957, Gladney received an honorary doctorate from Texas Christian University, which she had attended as an undergraduate.  She retired in 1960 due to health issues and died on October 2, 1961.  Edna is interred in Fort Worth’s Rose Hill Cemetery with her husband Sam.

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7 thoughts on “Edna Gladney”

  1. Ironically I spoke about Mrs. Gladney last night. A man is looking for his grandmother’s birth family. He said she was left at an alter of a church in Fort Worth. I told him that was going to make the search a bit easier. He wanted to know why and I explained that she went through Mrs Edna’s place. She has blessed countless parents and babies. ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Please inform me how to leave information about a child who was adopted thru your agency in Texas about 1990-1991. I am his Great aunt and I am interested in contacting him or getting the info to him so he can contact me. We still love him and want him to know we never forgot him. we want him to know we still want him as part of our family. Thank you Brenda Gephart

    Liked by 1 person

  3. The legacy left by Edna Gladney is one of defrauding children of their original identities. How anyone can find this practice acceptable is outrageous. Adoption cannot happen without profound loss of one’s entire family, ancestry, medical information, and true identity; it is the only trauma for which those who subject to it are expected to be grateful.


  4. Mr./Ms. Longsworth;

    Were you adopted? Did you place a child for adoption? Did you adopt a child? The laws, regulations and rules are there for all parties concerned and are not to be disregarded lightly.

    There are a lot of reasons and emotions involved in the adoption process, but it doesn’t defraud anyone of anything. A lot of thought, prayer, research and work go into the process.

    If an adopted child wants to know about their biological heritage, there are avenues they can pursue to find that information. But one should be cautious in the pursuit of truth because it sometimes comes with heartache and pain.

    I was adopted as a baby and was raised in a good and loving home. My parents told me at a young age they had adopted me. It wasn’t until after their deaths that I began to seek my biological background.

    Eventually, I found it. My biological father had died decades before and my birth mother was still alive. When I initially reached out to her, she did not respond. After some time and research I found out the truth.

    My birth mother was young and unmarried when I was born so she put me up for adoption. She had also had another child three years before me that she placed for adoption. She then had two more children after me by the same man.

    The two parents were never married and the biological father was already married and had seven children from that union. My birth mother raised the two younger children and she eventually married and that man adopted her two younger children as his own. She never told her husband or children about the two older children she placed for adoption.

    When I did finally meet her (unwillingly on her part), she asked me not to tell her younger children. She was very hesitant at first, but warmed up to me. My older sibling and I have been in touch and will finally meet next year. We all live in different parts of the country so close relationships are not practical.

    I write this so you won’t dump all adoption cases in the same bucket. Maybe you had a bad experience. I don’t know. What I do know, is that not all agencies are fraudulent and only wish for the best outcome for all concerned.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well said. I’m so happy you experienced the love of family. I help friends and family search for, in this stage of our lives usually birth siblings. A few still has birth mother’s alive. I’ve had the reunification go both ways. I don’t charge, I just have a knack for helping both sides come together. But I have one rule and pretty much one concrete rule. I always do the initial reaching out. If at any time the birth family says no, then it’s no. It’s been 100% on siblings and more distant relatives. I’ve had 2 no’s from birth mothers. Their situations were similar in secrecy. One was a teen sent away and went on to marry and have children. The other was a separated wife who went away, had the baby and eventually reconciled with their husband. He never knew about the secret child. This is mainly why I do the initial reaching out. The orphan has already realized the rejection at birth and another is awfully hard on them.

      Liked by 1 person

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