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Pioneers in TWU History: Jessie Humphries

Inside TWU is taking a look at the people who shaped Texas Woman’s University in a new series called “Pioneers in TWU History.” There are many who made a mark on the university since its founding more than 120 years ago, and we’ll learn more about them in this occasional series.


When the Girls Industrial College opened for classes in 1903, a total of 14 faculty members greeted the 186 original students. One of those faculty members would leave her mark on the college in a special way.

Born in Alabama, Jessie Humphries came to Texas with her parents and siblings after the Civil War. She went on to become the first female graduate of Howard Payne College in 1896 and later taught in Dallas. She read about the founding of the Girls Industrial College but did not apply for a job until the college president, Cree T. Work, visited her class searching for a history teacher. 

Arriving for the first class at the college, she would remain a valued member of the college’s faculty for 41 years. In addition to her role on the faculty, she served as associate dean of the college. Humphries also advocated for changing the name of the college to the Texas State College for Women (TSCW), which became official in 1934.

In 1937, a statue was to be placed on campus in honor of the Texas centennial. TSCW President L.H. Hubbard proposed that the statue honor the state’s pioneer women. He chose Humphries to write the inscription at the base of the statue because he saw her as “a modern pioneer in the field of education.” The inscription reads:

“Marking a trail in a pathless wilderness, pressing forward with unswerving courage, she met each untried situation with resourcefulness equal to the need; with a glad heart, she brought to her frontier her homeland’s cultural heritage; with delicate spiritual sensitiveness, she illumined the dullness of routine and the loneliness of isolation with beauty; and with life abundant and withal, she lived with casual unawareness of her value to civilization. Such was the Pioneer Woman, the unsung saint of the nation’s immortals.”

Humphries read her words at the statue’s dedication ceremony in 1938. The inscription even drew the attention of First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt.

Another writing of Humphries’ was uncovered in 2020 during renovations of Old Main, the original building for the college. A letter addressed “To the Future Generations of C.I.A.” was found when a wall was removed to create what now is the Sue S. Bancroft Women’s Leadership Hall. The letter was part of a time capsule Humphries placed in the wall in 1927.

Texas Woman’s honors Humphries and her contributions to the university in a faculty award presented each year. The Humphries Award for Dedication to TWU is presented to TWU faculty who have through their loyalty and actions proved to be a model to all and a treasure to TWU.


Information for the article is gathered from online searches and Marking A Trail: A History of the Texas Woman’s University.