In 1929 Annie Webb Blanton founded Delta Kappa Gamma, an honor society for women teachers. She stressed professionalism to the group, calling for leaders “of strong personality, unimpeachable honor, unselfish nature and fine professional attitude.” Here is her story:
On August 19, 1870 in Houston, Texas, my sister Fannie and I were born to Thomas & Eugenia Webb Blanton. We were part of a family of seven children! When I was eight my mom passed away. Shortly thereafter I moved to Lagrange, Texas to live with my grandmother. There, in a tall Victorian house, with its spiral staircase leading to a secret tower, I stayed until I graduated from high school. Since I was too young to enter the University of Texas (I was only seventeen) I began my teaching career in a country school at Pine Springs in Fayette County.
It was a great distance from my home to school, eighteen miles! So, it was necessary for me to board in a farm home near the Pine Springs School. I will never forget the day my brother took me in the buggy to my first day of teaching. As my brother was preparing to leave, I burst into tears. He urged me to return home with him, but I straightened up and said, “No, I came here to teach school and I must carry out my agreement.”
After that teaching experience I moved to Austin. There I taught both elementary grades and high school. In my free hours and during vacations, I attended classes at the University of Texas. I received my Bachelor of Literature in 1899. Two years later I left Austin High School to join the first faculty of North Texas State Normal in Denton, Texas. I stayed for seventeen years.
I not only taught English, but I also helped establish the student publications and guided extra-curricular activities. The students thought me to be the “fairest and squarest” professor on campus!
While at Normal College, I enjoyed watching football games. Since there were no bleachers, I arrived early so I could find a place on the benches along the playing field. I loved sitting on the front row!
Those were busy days for me. I taught five classes a semester, wrote two textbooks, sponsored student clubs, and became an active member of the Texas State Teachers Association. In the 1916, with my prominence in the association and my views on the status of women in the teaching profession, I was elected as the first woman president of the State Teachers Association.
“This occasion was perhaps remarkable not because I am the first woman to fill this office, but for the first time it is held by a member of the rank and file of the teaching profession. This is a hopeful sign of the progress of democracy” (Anonymous).
In 1918 I ran for the office of State Superintendent of Public Institution and I won! A Dallas paper even reported that I had an Annie Webb Blanton club and I quote: “The women met in the Neiman-Marcus restroom and enthusiastically endorsed Miss Blanton’s work and pledged themselves to work unceasingly for her nominations and election.”
I was the first woman to be elected to a statewide office in Texas. My, the attention this office brought me! I never lost sight of my priorities to education. “I’ve put into this undertaking all I have and all I am for the sake of the school, other women, and myself.”
While in office, I worked for many educational measures, particularly for improvements to rural education. “The most important business in which a state can engage is education of her future citizens” (Anonymous).
In 1928 I earned a Masters degree from the University of Texas and became Adjunct Professor of School Administration. Three years later earned a Doctor of Philosophy degree from Cornell University. In 1931 I returned to the faculty of the University of Texas, and 1933 I advanced to the rank of Professor of Rural Education.
Let me tell you a few things about myself personally. My favorite color is blue. All shades! I love beautiful jewelry. I got some charming and unusual pieces on some of my various trips. One thing that has gotten me through my over-crowded schedule is the ability to sleep! If I got some sleep I wake refreshed and ready to go! My favorite outdoor activity is working with my flowers. My rose gardens are quite famous. Red roses are my favorite!
I could never refuse to help a loved one or a friend. I’ve even been known to give money to my favorite organization, Delta Kappa Gamma, when funds were low.
One of my greatest achievements came in 1929 when I resolved to form an organization to help remove the barriers limiting the advancement of women educators. I have had an aversion to discrimination for years. I believe that women, if united by bonds of an organization, could fortify one another in accomplishing worthy endeavors.
I studied for a long time what the framework for such an organization should be. In studied for a long time what the framework for such an organization should be. I set a pattern of finances, outlined purposes and policies, wrote the ignition ceremony and the lyrics for the official song. I even selected a name for the organization. I then convinced eleven other women of the potential of such an organization.
On May 11th, 1929, when the Founders, dressed in evening attire, with red candles and red roses displayed in the drawing room, a small brass tray holding bows of crimson and gold, the banquet before the initiation itself and the first election of officers. Thus began the national organization of the Delta Kappa Gamma Society.
By the end of the first year I realized that the expansion of Delta Kappa Gamma must be one of my main responsibilities. By 1945 Delta Kappa Gamma embraced all forty-eight states and the District of Columbia. I saw Delta Kappa Gamma grow from twelve to 23,000 members, from one state group to forty-nine state organizations with 625 chapters.
In 1939, as part of my 10th anniversary letter to the members, I wrote “as the ‘Mother” of the Delta Kappa Gamma Society, I would say this to you. It is not the number of our members, nor the degrees and titles which they hold, that really count-it is the quality of these members-their leadership, their ideals, and their sprit, that have made Delta Kappa Gamma what it is today. And the ‘torch’ which the Founders exhort each member to hold aloft is the ideal of service to humanity- a daily and constant service through making ourselves better teachers, and giving our best efforts to the education of youth.
Presented by Gamma Mu President
Nancy Davis at the May 2003