Big and Small Ways that Mary Hunter Contributed to Texas History
A group of girls participate in a home economics course in 1938.
Public Domain photo
As Texas history goes, Mary Evelyn Edwards Hunter contributed her slice.
She achieved several personal and civic advances for women in the early part of the 20th century. Her efforts are part of the history of the state of Texas, the Texas Agricultural Extension Service and even Crockett, Texas.
Born in Alabama in 1885, Hunter enjoyed helping others, even as a child. She taught adults how to read and write. After marrying a high school principal, the couple moved to La Porte, Texas, and eventually Hunter enrolled in Prairie View Normal College (now Prairie View A&M University) to get a teaching certificate.
In 1915, Hunter was named one of two extension agents to focus for the first time on African-American citizens. She traveled the state, teaching health, nutrition and home economics courses to community groups and low-income families. Because of her efforts, the African-American arm of the extension service had 23 agents and 30,000 members.
She crossed many racial divides and was much in demand as a speaker, a home demonstration presenter and an advocate for the less fortunate in the state. She helped create other organizations to help with home ownership and improvement and to train other community leaders in social support.
Always a champion of education, Hunter got her own master’s degree in 1931. Her master’s thesis explored the impact of home economics courses for African-American families in Texas.
She was active in the Texas Federation of Colored Women's Clubs (later the Texas Association of Women's Clubs). Through those connections, Hunter wrote legislation in 1927 calling for a state training school for delinquent African-American girls.
Even though Hunter's future continued in Virginia and Ohio, the school she helped start was first based in Brady, Texas, in 1947. In 1950, the state moved the school to available ranch land near Crockett, Texas. It was called the Colored Girls Training School at Crockett and later the Crockett State School for Girls when it was integrated. In 1973, the school became co-ed and in 1975, it just served delinquent boys. It was closed in 2011 due to budget cuts.
Hunter retains her place in Texas history as a pioneer in women’s roles in society, in racial equality and in aiding the less fortunate through training.
[Information for this article primarily came from the Texas State Historical Association.]