When Annie Webb Blanton, an early twentieth-century Texas feminist and educational reformer, moved to Denton in 1901 to join the faculty of North Texas State Normal College (a predecessor to the University of North Texas), the town had 4,000 residents. Over the next seventeen years Blanton witnessed Denton’s population double in response to the opportunities afforded by North Texas State Normal College and the Girls Industrial College (now Texas Woman’s University), the establishment of new businesses, and the introduction of a railroad connection to Dallas and Forth Worth.
Before accepting a teaching position at North Texas, Blanton spent seven years earning a Bachelor of Literature from the University of Texas while teaching full-time at an Austin elementary school. She graduated from UT in 1899 at the age of 29.
North Texas hired Blanton to teach English grammar and composition at the rank of Associate Professor. She taught five courses a semester and met with each course five times a week. This was the standard teaching load at North Texas at the time. Blanton also coached the North Texas debate team and helped establish both the North Texas State Normal Journal and the women’s Current Literature Club on campus. The 1908 North Texas yearbook, The Yucca, was dedicated to her “justice, impartiality, and interest in the students.”
Blanton’s time at North Texas was a catalyst for her future career. She learned the importance of participation in educational organizations from President Joel Sutton Kendall, a former state superintendent, and was encouraged to participate in the Texas State Teachers Association by Kendall’s successor Dr. William Herschel Bruce. It was also at North Texas that Blanton established a close friendship with Emma Mitchell, a fellow North Texas teacher, who became Blanton’s trusted advisor.
Blanton held many prominent positions throughout her lifetime. Fed up with women’s second-class position within the Texas State Teachers Association, Blanton called for more opportunities for female members at the 1916 TSTA annual meeting in Fort Worth. Blanton asked the assembled TSTA members, “How long are the functions of the women of the State Teachers’ Association to be limited to paying a dollar to support its activities and to that of acting as audience and applause?” Blanton left the meeting as an unexpected President-Elect (until her speech she hadn’t been nominated). Blanton began her term as President of the Texas State Teachers Association in 1917 while still retaining her position at North Texas. During her year as TSTA President Blanton battled sexism but was still able to pass constitutional revisions that made TSTA a more democratic organization. In September 1918 Blanton resigned from North Texas and moved back to Austin after being elected Texas State Superintendent of Public Instruction. Blanton was not only the first person to hold the position, she was also the first woman elected to a statewide position in Texas. Blanton held the position for four years.
Schools are named in Blanton’s honor in Denton, Dallas, and Argyle, Texas.
– by Julie Judkins, Principal Archivist