Finding a Voice Through Print: Baptist Women Mission Workers in Texas

This article was written by Amy Swanson, Rare Books Catalog Librarian

Southern Baptist women played a significant role in the missionary movement of the latter half of the nineteenth century.  The mission societies Baptist women created continue to thrive today, creating funding, education, and other opportunities for missionaries, and those who support them, at home and abroad.

Baptist women began organizing the first mission societies in Texas in the 1830s, though some of the work of these societies was already being done in more informal ways through groups such as female prayer societies (Hunt 4).  By 1880, following a resolution by the national Southern Baptist Convention two years prior, women from various local mission societies, as well as from the Baptist State Convention organized the Texas Woman’s Missionary Union in 1880, despite some male opposition.  This was followed by the formation of the national Woman’s Missionary Union in 1888.  Both the Texas and the national unions were an auxiliary to the Southern Baptist Convention. 

One of the goals of the Texas Woman’s Missionary Union (known as the Baptist Women Mission Workers (BWMW) by 1886) was to educate women and children on the importance of missionary and charitable work.  In doing so, the organization hoped to increase the chances of women collecting and contributing money to the organization’s causes and their getting involved in missions themselves.  Other goals were to provide information about ongoing missions, organize and connect mission societies, and aid in similar initiatives (Bullock).

A good way to promote these societies to Baptist women was with the distribution of publications.  One such publication was the newspaper, Texas Baptist Worker.  The monthly paper “published in the interest of woman’s work in Texas” (Texas Baptist Worker) was founded in 1889 by the first president of the BWMW, Fannie Breedlove Davis.  Davis was also the editor of the paper. 

Masthead of the Texas Baptist Worker
The cover of Volume 6, Number 5 (March 1895) of the Texas Baptist Worker. It includes the constitution to be used by each local mission society.

The paper was published in San Antonio by the Women Mission Workers of Texas and had an almost entirely female staff.  This is important to note as the Southern Baptist leadership structure at the time was male dominated.  Publications such as Texas Baptist Worker gave women the opportunity to lead and have a voice.

In keeping with the goals of the BWMW, the Texas Baptist Worker helped gain support for and provide information about domestic and foreign missions, highlight opportunities for female missionaries, and solicit contributions for missions and other charitable causes. 

This short article from the issue cited above highlights the need for money to support the Buckner Orphans’ Home in Dallas, Texas.

The paper also featured a section titled “Children’s Corner,” with stories to teach children about Christian principles and the value of missions.  The newspaper helped promote various events and meetings held by local societies and provided updates from mission societies around the state.  Advertisements for and articles related to Baptist institutions or organizations were often included.  The 1895 issue pictured above includes an article about the impressive education for women at Baylor College.

While certainly not the only means by which information was disseminated, publications such as Texas Baptist Worker played an essential role in helping to increase monetary contributions to missions in Texas.  In the span of the fifteen years from 1880 to 1895, mission offerings went from $35 to $23,193 (DeLoach).

Early organizational literature such as this paper set a precedent for the caliber of publication expected from the BWMW in the years to follow.  Today, the BWMW, now known as the Woman’s Missionary Union of Texas, has several publications: Bridge Magazine, as well as an active blog.  The Woman’s Missionary Union of Texas has grown and expanded over the past 143 years, but the core values of the organization established by Fannie Breedlove Davis and her contemporaries remain today.

Works Cited

Bullock, Karen O’Dell. “Texas Woman’s Missionary Union.” Texas State Historical Association, December 1, 1995; updated May 26, 2017. Accessed March 14, 2023.

DeLoach, Clyde M. “Davis, Fannie Breedlove (1833-1915).” Texas State Historical Association, December 1, 1994; updated August 31, 2016. Accessed March 14, 2023.

Hunt, Alma. History of Woman’s Missionary Union. Convention Press, 1964.

WMU of Texas. WMU of Texas, 2023, Accessed March 10, 2023.

Texas Baptist Worker. San Antonio, Women Mission Workers of Texas, vol. 6, no. 5, March 1895.

Research Ready: January-February 2023

The Texas Collection posts newly accessible resources each month. If you have any questions or would like to use these materials, please let us know and we would be happy to assist!

Manuscript Collections

Acree Family papers #2986

The Acree Family papers contains notes, correspondence, and photographs related to the family’s genealogical research into the Acree, Grimes, and McLeod family lines, and the history of McGregor and Moody, Texas.

W. F. and J. F. Barnes Lumber Company records #3870

The W. F. & J. F. Barnes Lumber Company records document over sixty years of the company through trade catalogs, correspondence, tax, and financial documents.

Ellen Beasley Independence, Texas Research collection #724

The Ellen Beasley Independence, Texas Research collection includes research materials, project files, and media from preservation consultant and historian Ellen Beasley, documenting her historic preservation work for Independence Preservation Trust in the community of Independence, Texas.

Viola C. Corley papers #2150

The Viola Corley papers document the literary career and personal life of a writer of various published books and poems. The materials include manuscripts, poems, letters, short stories, sketches, and poetry books.

Architectural Drawings for the Skandinaviske Evangeliske Ebenezer Menighed, later First Luthern Church of Waco.

James Edward and Miriam Amanda Wallace Ferguson papers #1913
The James Edward and Miriam Amanda Wallace Ferguson papers contain correspondence, lists of pardons, petitions, motions, and other legal documents regarding several cases with which the Fergusons were involved.

First Lutheran Church of Waco Architectural drawings #741

The First Lutheran Church of Waco Architectural Drawings include copies of building and site plans from creation and renovations in 1916, 1956, 1988, 1997.

Ruby Bell Hall McCormick papers #861
The Ruby Bell Hall McCormick papers include materials regarding genealogical research, societies and organizations, and information about Georg Schlumbach in Germany during World War II.

Julius Flake McDonald papers #15

The Julius F. McDonald papers include materials documenting McDonald’s career as a teacher, plus his interest in the town of Hubbard, Texas.

Georgia Newsom papers #2438

The Georgia Newsom papers consist of three scrapbooks, containing daily writings, travel mementos, postcards and photographs, and news clippings from Newsom’s trips across the United States.

David Z. Nowell papers #649

The David Z. Nowell papers contains materials documenting a writing project coordinated by Baylor University and John F. Baugh in response to the Southern Baptist Convention Conservative Resurgence in the late twentieth century.

Eleanor “Nell” Jurney Pape papers #2313
The Eleanor “Nell” Jurney Pape papers contains documents relating to Nell Pape’s life in Waco after her return from Europe. The papers include letters, planning documents, clippings, photographs, and records relating to civic projects, garden clubs, and a bound manuscript of Nell Pape’s unpublished memoir, Hideaway. The collection also includes personal documents from those close to Pape including letters written to her father, Richard Jurney, letters written by her husband, Gustav Pape, and financial documents from Gustav Pape’s business.

Porter Family papers #546

The Porter family papers contain correspondence, photographs, and literary materials from two generations of Johnson and Porter families. The collection includes correspondence from World War I and life as Baptist missionaries in Brazil from 1922-1962.

[Waco] Les Nouvelles Amies records #2989

The collection includes the records of the Waco Les Nouvelles Amies. Records cover founding of the club and more than two decades of minutes, reports, financial documents, newsletters, and scrapbooks.

Baylor University Records
Show poster form BU Records: Baylor Theatre #BU/310

BU Records: Baylor Theatre #BU/310

The Baylor Theatre collection mainly encompasses publicity and press materials including proofs and programs that document influential faculty such as Paul Baker as well as performances from 1899-2019.

BU Records: Commencement Activities #BU/76

BU Records: Commencement Activities contains materials regarding the planning and execution of commencement from 1873-2021. The collection includes correspondence, materials regarding commencement marshals, programs, logistical layout of space, commencement committees, graduating students, awards, regalia, and speeches.

BU Records: Kappa Omega Tau #BU/413

The BU Records: Kappa Omega Tau contains correspondence, pledge books, photographs, scrapbooks, directories, patches, pennants, and sashes from the Knights of Tradition fraternal organization at Baylor University, beginning in 1960 when the organization was founded.

BU Records: The Texas Collection #BU/168

The BU Records: The Texas Collection contains documents, photographs, and other materials about the history and operations of The Texas Collection, a special collection founded in 1923, now part of the Baylor Libraries.

New Acquisition for The Texas Collection: Photograph of Feriba Cobb, Grandmother of Jules Bledsoe

By Geoff Hunt, Audio and Visual Curator, The Texas Collection, Baylor University

While out antiquing locally in Waco, Texas, I came across an old photograph in the corner of an antique store booth. It was the only photo in site amongst an assortment of vintage household goods. It was a sepia-tone gelatin silver print mounted on board, and appeared to be from the 1900s. The content included a woman sitting on a front porch reading a magazine with a dog beside her. In the corner of the photograph was her name and address: “Home of Mrs. Cobb, 812 N. 6th Street, City,” and the photographer’s name “Greene, Waco,” with their main address: “Chauncey A. Greene, Kansas City, Mo,” included as well. It all seemed interesting and The Texas Collection is always looking for old photographs of Waco, the state of Texas, and Baylor, but this one seemed especially unusual given the name of the woman in the photo: “Cobb,” so it seemed like a logical decision to buy and add it to our collection.

The image below is a zoom and crop of this photograph that gives a better look at Feriba Cobb, as well as her dog.

The first thing we do at The Texas Collection when finding photographs such as this is to try and describe to the best of our ability to enable potential researchers to find them in our Baylor Archival Repositories Database. However, in this case it was much easier to do so with the name and an address included directly on the photo. If we are lucky, someone writes this type of information on the back by hand, but this is not always the case. Consequently, many photos go unidentified. With this particular photo, we were able to check our 1913 Waco City Directory (see below), and discover that the woman in the photo is Feriba Cobb. The directory lists her as the occupant as well as being a nurse by profession.

Page 34, 1913 Waco City Directory (above)
The home’s owner and address “Home of Mrs. Cobb, 812 N. 6th Street, City” [Waco, Texas]

Feriba Cobb was the second wife of the Reverend Stephen Cobb, first pastor and a founding member of Waco’s New Hope Baptist Church. Feriba and Stephen had 10 children with the last 2 dying in infancy. They were: Jacob Cobb, Ruby Cobb Smith, Mae Ollie Cobb Spiller, Esau Cobb, Jessie Cobb Bledsoe, Oscar Cobb, Newton Smith H. Cobb, Naomi Ruth Cobb, Willhimena Cobb, and Isaac Conner Cobb. Many of them went on to become educators and other professionals. One of their girls, Jessie Cobb, went on to marry Henry Bledsoe and had one child: Julius Lorenzo Cobb Bledsoe, more commonly known as “Jules” Bledsoe.

So the old antique store photograph was very unusual, indeed, given that the lady in the photograph, Feriba Cobb turned out to be the grandmother of Jules Bledsoe, an internationally known opera singer, and most remembered for his version of “Ol’ Man River” in the musical production “Showboat.” Feriba Cobb died in 1935 at the age of 77, and is buried in Greenwood Cemetery in Waco. Now after discovering the identity and information behind the photograph, it will be reunited with the rest of the Smith and Cobb Family’s photographs and material in the Smith-Cobb Family collection here at The Texas Collection, Baylor University. We even had some existing photographs of Feriba in this collection, and we will be reuniting this one with them. The Texas Collection also has the archival papers of her famous grandson in the Jules Bledsoe papers. In conclusion, it’s always very rewarding to find old photographs such as this and place them where they belong, and in this case, carefully preserved in an archival collection with the Smith and Cobb family’s name.

The photographer’s signature: “Greene, Waco.”
While the photograph was taken in Waco, Texas, the photographer, Chauncey H. Greene, was based out of Kansas City, Missouri, according to the imprint on the photo board.
The newly discovered photo will be reunited with the rest of Feriba’s and the Smith and Cobb Family’s material located in The Texas Collection, Baylor University. The photo on the left is a much earlier one we already had of Feriba, and the other image is of her husband, the Reverend Stephen Cobb.

Research Ready: September 2022

We’re back! The Texas Collection posts newly accessible resources each month. If you have any questions or would like to use these materials, please let us know and we would be happy to assist!

San Antonio River Walk and Zoo, 1941

BU Records: Beta Beta Beta #BU/407

The collection contains items pertaining to the Beta Tau Chapter of Beta Beta Beta Biological Honor Society at Baylor University including administrative records, photographs, scrapbooks, and correspondence.

Association for the Scientific Study of Religion: Southwest [Chapter] records #2320

This collection is the records of the Association for the Scientific Study of Religion Southwest. It includes minutes, budgets, correspondence, newsletters, programs, and proceedings from the organization’s annual conference.

Beville-Waco Tribe Tipi Pole letter # 765

The Beville-Waco Tribe Tipi Pole letter, written to Beville, asks that he sell more cedar poles from a grove on his farm. The grove had been identified in 1912 by Native Americans from the Waco tribe as the historic place their people traditionally obtained wooden poles when needed.

Downer-Willingham Family collection #740

The Downer-Willingham Family collection includes correspondence, photographs, and print materials documenting the life of Robert Josiah Willingham, longtime pastor and secretary of the Foreign Mission Board, Southern Baptist Convention.

William Laidley and Jenny Mary Traver Eason papers #1331

The William Laidley and Jennie Mary Tarver Eason papers contain an account of travel in the early 1930s Southwestern United States with emphasis on road conditions, prices, and landscape descriptions.

Thomas Linard vs. Richard H. Smith Court manuscript #671

The Thomas Linard vs. Robert H. Smith Court Manuscript is a transcript of a civil case prepared for an appeal to the Texas Supreme Court. The case was heard by a number of prominent judicial figures in Texas, including Robert Crudup, Robert Emmett Bledsoe Baylor, Nicholas W. Battle, and James H. Bell.

McLennan County Tuberculosis Association records #2015

The collection contains materials regarding the inner workings of the McLennan County Tuberculosis Association, providing valuable insight on disease and prevention efforts from the 1920s to the 1960s as well as leadership, finances, and minutes within the association.

Steamboat “John Scott” Account book #680

The Steamboat “John Scott” Account Book is a ledger of expenses and accounts receivable in the operation of the steamboat John Scott from 1876 to 1878.

Peter Sidella World War II Photo album #654

The Peter Sidella World War II photo album includes photos of Sidella’s experience training with the Signal Corps in Washington state and Texas in the summer and fall of 1941.

An undated photo of Margaret Swan coaching her team. [Margaret M. Swan Synchronized Swimming papers #1933, Box 11, Folder 43.]

Margaret M. Swan synchronized Swimming papers #1933

This collection covers Margaret M. Swan’s involvement with synchronized swimming in Texas, including the forming and coaching of the San Antonio Cygnets. The papers include administrative information, newspaper and magazine clippings, publications related to synchronized swimming, performance scripts, and extensive photographs and scrapbooks.

Waco Regional Baptist Association records #230

The Waco Regional Baptist Association records contain documents from the Association as well as its member congregations and partner organizations. Materials include correspondence, minutes, reports, photographs, and ledgers.

Waco Symphony Women’s Council records #2203

The Waco Symphony Women’s Council records document the beginning and ongoing activities of the organization from 1960 to around 2002. Items of interest include correspondence, advertisements, financial documents and budgets, public relations and fundraising efforts, newspaper clippings, programs, yearbooks, scrapbooks, invitations, and photographs.

[Waco] Temple Rodef Shalom records #584

This collection contains the congregational records of Temple Rodef Sholom, the oldest Jewish congregation in McLennan County, Texas.

Happy Birthday, Leon: Reflecting on the Leon Jaworski Collection and the Call to Service

By Benna Vaughan, Special Collections and Manuscripts Archivist, The Texas Collection

In honor of Leon Jaworski’s birthday (September 19th, 1905) I was asked to write a blog post focusing on some aspect of Jaworski’s collection here at Baylor. It seems fitting, considering events transpiring in Washington today, that the choice of topic reflects a time when Mr. Jaworski service to our country took front and center in a national period of uncertainty and questioning of our own government and its leaders.

The Leon Jaworski collection consists of 368 boxes of archival material encompassing Jaworski’s career. The finding aid for the collection can be accessed here: Divided into eleven series, they chronicle Jaworski’s time as a practicing lawyer, his literary career, military career, special cases and commissions, organizations and affiliations, and other important events and milestones. The Watergate Series of his collection represents a time in Jaworski’s life when he accepted the responsibilities of White House Special Prosecutor to head up the Watergate Special Prosecutor Force, investigating the involvement of Richard Nixon and the Presidency in the events surrounding Watergate.

Leon Jaworski’s Special Prosecutor Badge and Identification Credentials. (Leon Jaworski papers, #2442, Box 267, Folder 11)
Leon Jaworski’s Special Prosecutor Badge and Identification Credentials. (Leon Jaworski papers, #2442, Box 267, Folder 11)

Leon Jaworski was already a well-known and respected figure prior to Watergate, serving as prosecutor for military war crime trials, an attorney for Lyndon Baines Johnson during LBJ’s 1960 election, as Special Assistant Attorney General in the US vs. Ross Barnett case, and as a member of the Warren Commission after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. He was a noted author and popular speaker. His service in numerous organizations and important committees is long and chronicled within his papers, and taken together with the rest of the material, reflect a man of purpose, principle, and profound faith. Throughout the Watergate series, you come to learn a lot about Leon Jaworski and his struggle with the responsibilities and duties this important appointment imposed.

The Watergate materials cover the period between 1972 and 1976 and contain a broad and comprehensive overview of his involvement in the process, including correspondence, official appointment documents, records of phone calls, requests, memoranda, reports, transcripts of court proceeding, articles, notes, daily summaries, interviews, documents on Jaworski’s resignation from the Special Prosecutor’s position, news clippings, and much more. Just going through the list included in the 26 boxes of Watergate material shows the attention to detail and determined focus that he placed on his duties and responsibilities. The correspondence itself, containing letters to and from his family, give one a sense of the man as a person and helps to reinforce the feelings of respect and confidence that people placed in him to perform this important role. Letters of support from friends and colleagues echo those feelings and help to reinforce the knowledge that Mr. Jaworski was the right man for the job.

As a Waco native, Baylor graduate, and Baylor Law School professor, Jaworski’s legacy at Baylor is well established. This is perhaps no better reflected than in this letter from Baylor Student President Jack Fields, in November 1973:

Letter from Jack Fields, Baylor Student Body President, November 1973 (Leon Jaworski papers, #2442, Box 267, Folder 14)

When times dictate, great men step up to the challenges placed before them. Leon Jaworski was a man who embodied the characteristics of such men, and one whose collection – and legacy – at Baylor will continue to inform, inspire, and instruct research into the workings of the law, politics, and the deeds of great men.

“You Are and Ever Have Been an Example to Us”

As the spring semester draws to a close, it is only reasonable to look back and reflect on the time a student has spent on capus at Baylor, and in the city of Waco. The following is a transcript of a Commencement Address found in the Nan Allene Anderson papers. The writer recounts their time as a student shows appreciation for those who graduated before them, recalls their ups and downs, and wishes their prfessors well as they continue to educate the masses. In addition to this address, Nan’s collection includes a photo album of her time as a student on campus and in Waco. Several pages can be seen below. sh


Nan Allene Anderson and Hattie Hutton in their cap and gown, circa 1908.

It now becomes my duty in the name of the class of 1910 to say goodbye. Not that any words of mine may tend to increase your interests and influence but that we as a unit may express our appreciation for the favors of the past few years.

To those who have preceded us in this line of march from these College Halls permit me only one remark: you are and ever have been an example to us. Your association [sic] whether in school or out in the world has enabled us to take courage and continue to labor until we have reached the goal for which we have been striving. Is this graduation hour the end which is to crown the work? Nay, verily, may it not be so; but rather let it serve as a mere stepping stone to our best attainments of the future. If you, my worthy predecessore [sic], have lead [sic] us out so nobly is it not ours to ask a continuance of your sympathies to stand alone? Give us your kind rebuffs and your hearty approvals. We need you and hope later to have you, feel that your trusts in us have not been misplaced. Knowing that you and yours are ours for the asking, we pass to the lower classmen for whom it has been our privilege to serve as “models” in every interpretation of the word.

In many instances we have been weighed in the balances and found wanting but it is to be hoped that you will not remain mindful of these things which recall unpleasant and unprofitable incidents. The careless deeds which are ours will live and cast their shadows about us. If perchance, we have by precept or example sowed some seed in your path see to it that it flourish and bear a thousand fold.

There is so much good in the worst of us and so much bad in the best of us that it behooves none of us to talk about the others to us.

Baylor Students in front of Carroll Science Hall, circa 1908.

May the good that we did counteract the bad and may you who realize that it is our best only that we would have you immulate. At all times you have been our friends instead of our foes. We shall ne’er forget your innumerable tokens of friendship and loving kindness.

At the close of this last school adieu we reach the climax as we turn to you Prof. Wells and the other teachers who have labored so patiently with us. ‘Tis now we feel a tinge of sadness mingled with joy. ‘Tis now we come to consider you for the last time uccapacity [sic] of instruction of our class. In fact, ‘tis now for the first time we fully realize what it is to break away from those that are so near and dear to us. You who have taught us from active life as well as from text are to be out inspiration from this time on as you were during our intimate relation of teacher and pupil. You who know better than any others our shortcomings and indifferent inclinations are, notwithstanding these faults, our friends. You are more to be admired and respected than we can by mere language, tell you. May our attitudes toward you always be the same as our sincerity as at the present and may your perseverance, patience, and pleasant practices both in the school room and out protect many other young people as they have us. It is our hearts’ desire that you continue in this painstaking labor of love and finally receive your reward of happiness and purest, perfect peace.


Resarch Ready: March-April 2022

The Texas Collection posts newly accessible resources each month. If you have any questions or would like to use these materials, please let us know and we would be happy to assist!

Finding Aids

World War II propoganda leaflet is directed at the US forces on the Anzio Beachhead [Jabez Galt papers, Accession #2347, Box #1, Folder #2]

  • Louise Black papers
    •  The Louise Black papers contain materials on topics regarding genealogy, Black’s career as a teacher, publications, and the history of First Baptist Church of Blossom, Texas
  • Jabez Galt papers
    • The Jabez Galt papers contain scrapbooks, photographs, and negatives representing Galt’s service as a medical officer during World War II in North Africa and Italy as part of the 56th Evacuation Hospital, also known as the Baylor Unit.
  • Helen Canon Lyles papers
    • The Helen Canon Lyles papers contain a variety of materials documenting Lyles’ life as a Baylor Female College student, mother, grandmother, as well as those of her family.

      Loving Hands poem by Fannie Maie Hodges Street
  • Fannie Maie Hodges Street papers
    • The Fannie Maie Hodges Street papers are composed almost exclusively of poems written by Street, most of which are religious in nature.
  • BU records: Graduating Classes
    • BU Records: Graduating Classes contains a variety of materials regarding the experiences of Baylor University’s graduating classes spanning the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, particularly the state of the university and the organization of alumni events such as Homecoming and class reunions.
  • Wheatly-Bahl Family papers
    •  The Wheatly-Bahl Family papers include love letters, family photographs, dance certificates, and genealogical materials related to the Bahl and Wheatly families in Waco, Texas from 1893-1971. Elmer Josephine Wheatly owned the Wheatly School of Dance in Waco. 
  • Gertrude Lewis Family papers
    • The Gertrude Lewis Family papers include a variety of materials, mostly photographic, regarding Ms. Lewis and her husband’s Black-owned funeral business, fashion, social events, family, and travel.
  • Robert Cortes Sr. papers
    • The Robert Cortes Sr. papers document the life and ministry of Robert Cortes Sr. as a Baptist pastor throughout Texas and Mexico.
  • Houston Business Girl’s Club, “Live Y’ers” records
    •  The Houston Business Girl’s Club “Live Y’ers” records highlight administrative materials, newsletters, programs, and photographs for a Houston chapter of the YWCA founded in the 1940s as a social club for high school graduates interested in business careers.
  • Hancock-Kennedy Family papers
    • The Hancock-Kennedy Family papers contain mostly handwritten personal correspondence amongst three related families from Palestine, Texas–Hancock, Kennedy, and Eastland. May Eastland Hancock is the most prevalent writer in the collection writing to her parents about life in Washington, DC with her husband, Harold Hancock.

‘Mother Duck’: How San Antonio Native Margaret Swan Helped Turn Synchronized Swimming into an Olympic Sport


This post was written by Ella Hadacek. Ella is a Master’s Candidate in the Department of History; this is her first year working at The Texas Collection. She recently completed processing the Margaret M. Swan Synchronized Swimming papers and wanted to share Swan’s story as we close Women’s History Month. 

An undated photo of Margaret Swan coaching her team. [Margaret M. Swan Synchronized Swimming papers #1933, Box 11, Folder 43.]
“It’s probably the only synchro club that’s owned and directed by an individual instead of being run by a parents’ governing board or a recreation center. It makes for a benevolent dictatorship, I guess you’d call it,” Margaret Swan told Sports Illustrated in 1971 when they featured her synchronized swimming team, the San Antoino Cygnets.1

Margaret Swan, a San Antonio native, coached the Cygnets, an all-girls synchronized swimming team for fourteen years. Under her “dictatorship,” the team won nine Junior National Championships, enduring hours of daily practice under her strict supervision.2 The team loved her for her dedication to their success, affectionately calling her “Mother Duck.” Swan’s personal papers, which reside at The Texas Collection, include countless letters and cards addressed to Mother Duck and drawings of ducks given to Swan on her birthday.

Margaret Swan always intended to pursue work in athletics. She received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in physical education from Trinity University, and she even started doctoral work at the University of Texas at Austin in the 1960s.3 The mother of four never finished her dissertation. Instead, she turned her passionate work ethic to synchronized swimming while continuing to teach at San Antonio College.

The Cygnets pose in their costumes after winning at the Junior National Championships, undated. [Margaret M. Swan Synchronized Swimming papers #1933, Box 11, Folder 24.]
Her fascination began in 1950 when she watched two of the earliest synchronized swimmers, Joy Cushman and Ernestine Mignone, perform a duet. She immediately began experimenting on her own, and then turned to coaching after moving back to San Antonio in 1955. Swan served as the coach and faculty sponsor of the Marlins, one of the nation’s first co-ed swimming teams, at San Antonio College. She also coached the Silver Fins, a team started by another woman at the YWCA in San Antonio.

In 1963, Swan cut ties with the Silver Fins under unpleasant circumstances that, at the time, she called beyond her control.4 She later told Sports Illustrated that the split happened “because of parental interference.” After the split, Swan and her first husband, George, built an in-ground pool to coach synchronized swimming, and so was born the Cygnets—a word that means “little swan.”5

Swan, who was named Sportswoman of the Year by the San Antonio Express and News in 1973, not only carried her team to success at competitions in the United States, but she also took them to events in Czechoslovakia, Mexico, Canada, England, Germany, France and Denmark. Swan’s Cygnets even played a part in the Cold War. In 1976, a Trinity University newsletter celebrated that two of their students, part of the Cygnets, would be traveling to Czechoslovakia to demonstrate their “winning techniques” in Eastern Europe.

“Rumors have it that the Russians will be at the meet to view the demonstrations.

The United States and other Western countries have been urging that

synchronized swimming be added to Olympic competition.

According to rumors, the Russians want to see if they can compete.”6

A Cygnets flyer advertising a performance in 1967. [Margaret M. Swan Synchronized Swimming papers #1933, Box 2, Folder 2.]
Swan was heavily involved in forwarding synchronized swimming independently of her work with the Cygnets. She traveled to Colombia to manage the U.S. Team at the Pan American Games in 1971, and she was asked to form a synchronized swimming team for the Women’s Army Corps (WAC) in 1973.7 To Swan’s dismay, several of the women who signed up for the WAC team thought it was going to be like school water ballet. Swan recalls, “This proved to be the first hurdle, since the girls did not really understand that they were to be trained as hard-hitting competitive athletes!”8 Under Swan’s apt supervision, the WAC team went on to successfully perform around the United States and Germany.

Swan announced her impending retirement in 1977. She received a flurry of letters asking her to reconsider the decision. One correspondent wrote, “Synchro will not be the same without our favorite ‘duck’ around.”9 Swan, who married sportswriter Harry Forbes in 1979, retired from coaching the Cygnets, but she didn’t abandon the sport. In 1984, she wrote the first book on synchronized swimming, Coaching Synchronized Swimming Effectively. Swan also served on the Synchronized Swimming Olympic-International Committee for two decades, including as secretary and chairwoman.10 In 1984, Vogue called Swan “the woman who succeeded in a thirty-year effort to get synchronized swimming into the Olympics.”

Women like Swan transformed synchronized swimming, popularized in Hollywood films starring Esther Williams, into a serious and respected sport. Through their work, Synchronized Swimming (now Artistic Swimming) grew in popularity in the United States in the 1950s and was officially recognized as an Olympic sport in 1984.11






“Just another Baylor Tradition–Unsynchronized Campus Clocks”

This post was written by Sylvia Hernandez, Archivist at the Texas Collection. Sylvia was a student at Baylor from 2004-2008 and remembers having to cross campus in under 10 minutes. The 15 minute pass period was implemented the semester after she graduated. It is now to her delight that she continues to experience the Baylor Time Zones and hears the out of sync bells regularly.

Time has a funny way of influencing an environment. As we begin daylight savings time, I’m sure many would agree. But what about on campus? How does time affect the way we move and plan for classes? Does having an accurate timepiece influence how fast we travel? Since 1929, the Lariat has documented the peculiarities of time on campus. While it is a well-known quirk, I think we only notice its trouble once every decade or so, except in the 1970s, it was a problem every other year then. When it is noticed, changes are suggested and occasionally they stick.

1965 Student Letter to the Editor wondering about the bells on Pat Nef Hall.

One of the first references to off-time drama is the ringing of bells to signal the beginning and end of classes. Sure, this was an accurate way of dismissing classes at one time, but the inconsistencies of the bell-ringer and the manual bell eventually became a problem. In 1930 an electric bell system was used, fell out of favor at some point, and was reintroduced in 1979 and again 2008. Buildings with these systems included Hankamer/Cashion, Baylor Sciences Building (BSB), Sid Richardson, and Carroll Science. In both 1979 and 2008 the bells were dismissed as being too reminiscent of a high school environment. As if that didn’t cause enough personal trauma, they were also disruptive within other areas. It was found that the bells regularly disrupted activity within faculty and staff offices and caused distress to animals in lab spaces. There were efforts to selectively silence the tones, but because they were integrated into the campus emergency alert system this was not possible and for a third time the chimes were abandoned.

Maybe a clock in every classroom could be of benefit. It’s not for lack of trying, but that has been mentioned more than once in the history of the great time saga that permeates our halls.  In 1969, a student suggested implementing clocks in all spaces connected via a computer system. Not a bad position to take, but most likely not cost effective at the time. However, in 1979 there is evidence of rooms within individual buildings being in sync, that is until the electricity went out. When that happened, the maintenance crew had to go and reset each clock individually. A committee tried again in 2007, this time in hopes of having atomic clocks in every classroom, that would solve the reset issue. To no avail, it was in fact too expensive this time for implementation.

Well, why not have one clock on campus be “The Clock.” It was not going to be the one on top of Draper, head of campus maintenance said it should not have been put in as it was never on time. Pat Neff would make sense, but the Lariat makes it seem as if the bells were busted during the 1960s. They work at present, but if you listen close enough, they are not in sync with other large clocks on campus such as the ones at Truett and BSB. This issue could be one of the continuing reasons for campus time zones.

1972 Independent findings of Lariat Staff and how clocks across campus compared to each other and SRT, Standard Radio Time.

Early in its history, campus only extended from 5th street to 8th street and Dutton to Speight. Within those boundaries, and even a few buildings, time faced issues. The issues helped cause the affectionately named Baylor Time Zones. The few minutes off from one side of the Student Union Building (SUB) to the other often influenced whether one could stop and chat between classes.  These inconsistencies also existed within Russell Dormitory. A 1972 article was helpful for those looking to beat curfew, the clock in North Russel was slow while the one in South was fast. A young woman could gain up to four minutes of extra time with her beau just by entering the right door.

As campus grew, so did the time zones. By 1978 there was mention of extending pass periods between class. Travel from Hankamer to Russell Gym or Castellaw to Tidwell became increasingly difficult to travel in only 10 minutes. Students began incorporating bicycles into their travel plans as it would increase the likelihood of making it to class on time between the inconsistent clocks, continually growing campus, and professors going long in their classes. For thirty years students faced this dilemma.

In 2004, the Baylor Sciences Building opened and students began receiving more tardies as they tried to travel from the farthest reaches of campus to their next class. This was a continuing problem and both students and teachers were not happy as there were formal complaints lobbied into 2006 without much thought. By 2007 a task force was formed to document the phenomena and provide suggestions for improvement. In Summer 2008,administration finally implemented a 15-minute pass period. The extended time allowance helped decrease student tardiness and eased the mind of faculty.

Since then, there have not been too may quirks, but other than computers, classes are far from having a synchronized clock system. Even now, the time zones continue as Pat Neff chimes only to be followed a minute later by one of the other large clocks. In 1930, the Lariat printed “It is going to be a happy day if an adequate system of bells, chimes, whistles, buzzer, or what-nots is ever installed at Baylor.” Who knew, over 90 years later, that “keeping up with clocks on campus [would be] a problem for years and years. Maybe Forever.”


The following Lariat articles can be found online in our Digital Collections

“About Bells.” 1930 December 19.

“Baylor Campus Clocks ‘Can’t Get Together’.” 1930 January 16.

Frost, Jimmy. “Students Wonder About Chimes.” 1965 November 4.

Grigsby, Sharon. “Jogging shoes just won’t help.” 1978 February 14.

“Large Campus Clock Might Replace Bells.” 1929 February 2.

Ledbetter, Robette. “Campus clocks unsynchronized.”  1979 January 25.

MacEwan, Molly. “Tones get axed in buildings.” 2008 November 19.

McCollum, David. “Campus Clocks Embezzle our Time.” 1969 March 6.

McCollum, David. “Some Timely Advice.” March 10, 1972

Morton, Janetta. “Letter to the Editor.” 1975, October 9.

Pere, Anita. “15-minute intervals to ease rush.” September 25, 2007.

The Rich Religious Reflections of Fannie Maie Hodges Street

This blog post was written by Graduate Student Assistant Katie Heatherly. Katie is an M.A. candidate in History in her first year at The Texas Collection.

“The big half moon / shone bright and red / With its points reaching / Upward to the sky – / It seemed to say God / Is not dead, and God / Will never never die.”[1]

In 1967 Fannie Maie Street wrote these words on a crumpled piece of paper. While historians sometimes neglect the private thoughts and reflections of ordinary women for various reasons, collections such as the Fannie Maie Hodges Street papers provide rich source material to alleviate some of these historical gaps. Though the collection is small—only five folders—the Street papers reveal a Central Texas woman’s musings in the mid-twentieth century. Her poems, scribbled onto notebook paper, cardboard, and other various materials, allow researchers a slight understanding of Street’s thoughts and religious insights.

Fannie Maie Hodges Street wrote of the love with which God made the world in her poem “Loveing Hands.” She wrote many of her poems on subjects such as this, often describing the moon, birds, or other aspects of her natural environment. (Box 1, Folder 2)

Fannie Maie Hodges Street was born on January 22, 1896 in Salado, Texas to John Smith Hodges and Elizabeth Pace Hodges. On June 14, 1914 she married William E. Street Sr., with whom she had three children.[2] Street wrote poetry inspired by the world around her. Her religious poems consisted of themes such as nature, the passing of time, her husband, and her children. She appeared to use the sights, interactions, and emotions of her daily life to construct her religious poems.

Street wrote of the world around her: the sun, moon, birds, and other parts of the world to reflect on God. Her observations of nature seemed to instill or reflect her strong sense of God’s plan: “We understand / God in all his wisdom / made it all—It was his plan.”[3] Street therefore seemed to have a great appreciation for place. She wrote, “God created me to be proud / Of the state I call my home— / But give Him first place / In my heart and my life / No matter where I roam. / It is Texas I love best / Texas where I was born / Texas oh Texas my home sweet home.”[4]

Street seemed to move from observing the beauty of the earth and glorifying God, to then caring for people around her. In her poem, “Loveing Hands,” Street wrote, “Loveing Hands made the earth / The sea and the sky / Loving Hands hung the moon / And the stars so high / And it was love that made / You and I.” [5] More explicitly, Street wrote in a different poem, “Did you see the sunrise this morning / And did you hear the birds sweet song … / God spoke to you and you just passed by / Failing to see that one in need / And failed to hear that little child cry.”[6]

Street wrote specifically of her home state in the poem “My Beloved Texas.” In this poem she wrote again of her environment and the idea of place, specifically thanking God for her home. Street also collected a few pieces of Texas history, which this collection contains as well.

Street also wrote poems regarding her family. Reflecting on their life together, she wrote to her husband, “They have all been golden / years my sweet because you / have been so good and kind… / You are still young in heart / my love and have that same / twinkle in your eye.”[7]

One might even get a slight sense of Street’s conception of gender roles. She wrote, “Manhood is ambition looking ahead / To take his place in a world of service / Faithful, trustworthy and kind / Womanhood is charm, and beauty wrapped in love / Fatherhood is showing how to depend on God / For guidance in molding the life of his child / Motherhood is clapping a bundle of sweetness / Close to her bosom and thanking God for his goodness.”[8]

Finally, the Street papers include many of Street’s reflections on death. She wrote in 1967, “Death is an open door to be with God, and / Peace and rest, and eternal happiness.”[9]

The Fannie Maie Hodges Street collection provides an insight into Street’s religious life, demonstrating the ways Street ruminated on her environment, family, and the passing of time in relation to God. Street reminds us that religious history is much more than large published systematic theologies. This is a collection that allows historians access to the intersection of social, religious, and women’s history. It is also the sort of collection that one might read simply for Street’s compelling poetry.



[1] “The Moon,” Fannie Maie Hodges Street papers, Accession #2627, Box #1, Folder #2, The Texas Collection, Baylor University.

[2] Find A Grave, Inc, “Fannie Maie Hodges Street,” Memorial #23402074, Databases, accessed 2021 December 2.

[3] Fannie Maie Hodges Street papers, Accession #2627, Box #1, Folder #2, The Texas Collection, Baylor University.

[4] “My Beloved Texas,” Fannie Maie Hodges Street papers, Accession #2627, Box #1, Folder #2, The Texas Collection, Baylor University.

[5] “Loveing Hands,” Fannie Maie Hodges Street papers, Accession #2627, Box #1, Folder #2, The Texas Collection, Baylor University.

[6] “Did You See and Did You Hear,” Fannie Maie Hodges Street papers, Accession #2627, Box #1, Folder #2, The Texas Collection, Baylor University.

[7] “Golden Years,” Fannie Maie Hodges Street papers, Accession #2627, Box #1, Folder #3, The Texas Collection, Baylor University.

[8] “The Ten Hoods of Life.” Fannie Maie Hodges Street papers, Accession #2627, Box #1, Folder #3, The Texas Collection, Baylor University.

[9] “The Report Card,” Fannie Maie Hodges Street papers, Accession #2627, Box #1, Folder #3, The Texas Collection, Baylor University.