Pioneering in Medicine and Business: Waco's First Female Pharmacist and Drugstore Chain Owner

By Geoff Hunt, Audio and Visual Curator

Pauline Pipkin, Baylor University, Class of 1923

Pauline Pipkin’s pictures from the 1923 “Baylor Round-Up.” The caption with Pauline Pipkin’s cap-and-gown images read: “Sociology-History; President Fine Arts Club ’21; Graduate in Piano ’21; Round-Up Staff…”

Pauline Pipkin Garrett studied music at Baylor in the 1920s, but then the family business came a-calling. Under her leadership, W.P. Pipkin Drugs became one of the Southwest’s largest independently owned drugstore chains. The story of the businesswoman who carried on her father’s work and progressive ideas contains many “firsts” for a Waco business and women in the workplace.

Begun by her father, William P. Pipkin in 1898, the store started out as W.P. Pipkin Drugs, with its first store located at 418 Elm Avenue. After graduating from Baylor University in 1923 with a BA in music, Pauline’s interests turned to the family business. She went on to the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy, where she excelled. The Waco News-Tribune on December 21, 1924, reported that she made the “highest grades in her class in a competitive examination.” The article also stated that the college had 3,000 men and only 100 women enrolled at the time.

Pipkin Drug Store, Waco, Texas, circa 1950s

A typical scene in one of Waco’s seven Pipkin Drug stores. Notice the signage—the company placed a strong emphasis on bold advertising in-house and in the local newspapers. Ava Storey and Dixie Anderson Butcher collection #3779, box 3, folder 6.

In 1926, Pauline received a BA in pharmacology, became a licensed pharmacist, and joined her father in his business. William Pipkin was the first drugstore owner in Waco to hire women. In a recollection published in the May 26, 1957, Waco Tribune-Herald, Pauline recalls a customer asking, “‘You reckon that’ll do—a girl selling cigars?’ He [W.P. Pipkin] said, ‘They’ll do better than some of these jelly beans.’ They called the boys ‘jelly beans’ in those days.”

Pauline worked in several departments, including the soda fountain and washing dishes. In doing so, she got to know more about her employees and work practices. This would help in later years when she took over management after her father’s death in 1935, and full ownership when her mother, Irene, died in 1953. After Pauline took over full operations, the Pipkin chain then grew from three to seven stores and was recognized nationally as an award-winning seller of Rexall products—Pipkin’s main product line.

Pipkin Drug Store, Waco, Texas, circa 1950s (tobacco counter)

In the days when tobacco sales were more prevalent, this section was an important part of any drug store. Ava Storey and Dixie Anderson Butcher collection #3779, box 2, folder 18.

By 1957, the firm had a staff that included 50 women holding duties in all departments. The Pipkin chain’s leadership and quantity of female staff was not the norm, nationally—men dominated the field of licensed pharmacists. Even in the mid-1960s, only 8% of pharmacists were women. Women who owned and operated stores were even fewer in number.

In 1961, the Pipkin Drug Store chain was also one of Waco’s first establishments to desegregate their lunch counters and serve African-Americans. Their first store to do so was the 700 Elm Street location near Paul Quinn College. The company already had a well-established number of African-Americans working in various positions throughout the company.

Pipkin Drug Store, Waco, Texas, signs on windows read: "Another Pipkin Drug Store Opens Here Soon," circa 1950s

The confidence of the Pipkin’s chain is evident in the signage of this store–just “another Pipkin Drug Store opens here soon.” Competitors in Waco included Walgreen’s and Williams Drugs, so success was not a given. Ava Storey and Dixie Anderson Butcher collection #3779, box 3, folder 2.

Life wasn’t all about work for Pauline—she did maintain her love for music.  While in pharmacy school, according to the December 1924, Waco News-Tribune article, “she made several vocal and cello records for the Victor Company at Camden, N.J.” Back at home, she played the cello in various Waco orchestras. In 1930, she was given the opportunity to go to Europe and play with a symphony.

Pauline married Waco attorney, Barney Garrett, on January 15, 1936. They purchased one of Waco’s most distinctive homes—the Cottonland Castle, on 3300 Austin Avenue. She dedicated one of the rooms to music, filling it with a grand piano and several string instruments.

Pauline passed away at home in 1963. Her husband sold Pipkin Drugs to a firm in Garland, Texas, and it became a Rexall drugstore. By 1967, all but one of the former seven Pipkin stores had closed, with the last location at 3900 Bosque Boulevard.

Love the photos above? Check out our Flickr set below to view a few more photos featuring Pipkin’s, mostly from the Ava Storey and Dixie Anderson Butcher collection.  (Click on the crosshairs in the bottom right corner to make it full-screen).

Works Consulted

“Waco Girl Wins Honors.” The Waco News-Tribune (Waco, TX), Dec. 21, 1924.

“Pipkin Firm is Marking Fiftieth Birthday in Waco.” The Waco News-Tribune (Waco, TX), March 26, 1948.

“Couple of Floods Direct Pipkin Firm Toward Success, Now in its 60th Year.” The Waco Tribune-Herald (Waco, TX), May 26, 1957.

“Firm’s Owner ‘Just Grew’ Into Business.” The Waco Tribune-Herald (Waco, TX), May 26, 1957.

“Firm Claims Many ‘Firsts’ In Business.” The Waco Tribune-Herald (Waco, TX), May 26, 1957.

“Death Takes Pipkin Drug Chain Owner.” The Waco Times-Herald (Waco, TX), Dec. 4, 1963.

“Garland Firm Buys Pipkin Drug Chain.” The Waco News-Tribune (Waco, TX), April 20, 1964.

“Pipkin Will Close Store on Austin.” The Waco News-Tribune (Waco, TX), April 9, 1965.

Jay Fitzgerald, “Pharmacy and the Evolution of a Family-Friendly Occupation,” The National Bureau of Economic Research, accessed March 7, 2014.

Annalyn Kurtz, “Pharmacist: Most equal job for men and women,” CNNMoney, A Service of CNN, Fortune and Money, accessed March 5, 2014.

Sheri Robertson, “Pauline Pipkin Garrett: A Life of Commitment” (Term Paper, Baylor University, 1980). Vertical Files: Garrett, Pauline Pipkin. The Texas Collection, Baylor University, Waco, Texas.

Joe L. Ward, Jr., “Quiet desegregation of Waco’s public facilities,” Waco History Project, accessed March 7, 2014.

Patricia Ward Wallace, A Spirit So Rare: A History of the Women of Waco (Austin, Texas: Nortex Press, 1984), 209-214.

This entry was posted in Ava Walkup Storey, Baylor University, Dixie Anderson Butcher, Historic Waco, Pauline Pipkin Garrett, Pharmacies, Pipkin Drug Store, Rexall Drugs, Waco, William P. Pipkin. Bookmark the permalink.

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