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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.

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(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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Posted by on May 28, 2020 in biography, films, texas women, Uncategorized

 

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Lady Bird Johnson

Lady Bird Johnson was born Claudia Alta Taylor in Karnack, Harrison County, Texas in 1912.  Her father was Thomas Jefferson Taylor II, who owned a general store and used the profits to acquire farmland that he used to plant cotton.  At one time he owned 12,000 acres of land dedicated to raising cotton.  Claudia’s mother was the former Minnie Pattillo.  Thomas and Minnie were married in 1900 and both had originally come to Texas from Alabama.  Claudia was the youngest of three children and the only daughter born to Minnie and Thomas.  The family legend is that a caretaker had given the nickname Lady Bird to her, saying that she was as pretty as a lady bird.

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Posted by on November 7, 2019 in biography, texas women

 

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Ann Miller

Ann Miller was the stage name of Johnnie Lucille Collier, born April 12, 1923 in Chireno, Nacogdoches County, Texas.  Her father was John A. Collier, a criminal defense lawyer known for representing clients such as Baby Face Nelson, Machine Gun Kelly and the Barrow Gang. Her mother was the former Clara Emma Birdwell.  As a young girl, Johnnie suffered from rickets and took dance classes to help strengthen her legs.  She also studied piano and violin.  The family moved to Houston, Texas where she lived until she was nine years old.  Eventually her parents divorced and she moved with her mother to Los Angeles.

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Posted by on September 19, 2019 in biography, entertainers, texas women

 

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Sarah Horton Cockrell

Sarah Horton was born in Virginia on 13 January 1819 to Enoch and Martha Stinson Horton.  She moved with her family to Dallas County, Texas near Eagle Ford in 1844, becoming one of the pioneer families in the area.  In September of 1847, she married Alexander Cockrell.

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Posted by on June 27, 2019 in biography, texas women

 

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Babe Didrikson Zaharias

Mildred Ella Didrikson was born June 26, 1911 to Ole and Hannah Marie Olsen Didriksen in Port Arthur, Texas.  Her father was a carpenter in the maritime industry.  When she was three years old, the family moved to Beaumont, Texas where she went to public school.  She was a gifted athlete and excelled at about every sport she participated in.  She picked up her nickname “Babe” (after Babe Ruth, the baseball star) after slugging five home runs in a baseball game, though her mother said her nickname had been “Baby” earlier on.  She adopted the spelling Didrikson when she was an adult.

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(Image credit: ancestry.com)

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Posted by on May 2, 2019 in biography, texas women

 

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Belle Starr

Belle Starr, the famous “female outlaw” was born Myra Maybelle Shirley on February  5, 1848 to John and Elizabeth Shirley in rural Missouri near the town of Carthage.  It was a time when bandits, either male or female, were celebrated in some ways.  Her family lived on a farm.  Reportedly, they were also slave owners in a time when strong attitudes for or against slavery divided residents especially in so-called border states.  Her family later sold their rural property and moved into Carthage where they ran the inn and several other businesses.  The civil war came and a brother joined the Confederate army and more specifically the controversial outfit known as Quantrill’s Raiders.  Her brother Bud Shirley was killed in Missouri in a skirmish between Union and Confederate troops.  The economy had generally deteriorated in Missouri because of the war and the Shirleys packed up and moved to near Scyene, Texas, at the time located southeast of Dallas, around 1864.

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Posted by on April 4, 2019 in biography, outlaws and crimes, texas women

 

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Minnie Lou Bradley

Minnie Lou Ottinger Bradley was born December 15, 1931 to Thomas and Zulema Young Ottinger in western Oklahoma.  At an early age, she showed a strong interest in livestock as she grew up on the family wheat farm.  She joined the 4-H Club and actively participated, although the Future Farmers of America (FFA) was then limited to male members.  While in 4-H, she exhibited Angus cattle, sheep and swine.  At age ten, she won a blue ribbon at the Oklahoma State Fair for sheep raised on her ranch.  After graduating from high school in Hydro, Oklahoma she enrolled at Oklahoma State University, first chartered as Oklahoma Territorial Agricultural and Mechanical College in 1890 and then commonly known as Oklahoma A&M.  She was the first female student to enroll in animal science, graduating in 1953 and minoring in agricultural journalism.

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Posted by on March 7, 2019 in biography, cattle breeds, texas women

 

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