#ArchivesTrailblazers & Women of Plano
5 mins read

#ArchivesTrailblazers & Women of Plano

The early women of Plano, Texas led the way for the women of Plano today. They were wives, sisters, mothers, daughters, brides, athletes, farmers, teachers, historians, and much more. The students in high school were athletic and intelligent. Women had to work on the farms to prepare for the harsh seasons. To celebrate International Women’s Day and #ArchivesHashtagParty, let’s take a deeper look into four of these #ArchivesTrailblazers and the impact they had on Plano.

Louise Schimelpfenig, center front row, with family | Collin County Images

Louise Ernestine Rammers Schimelpfenig arrived in Plano with her husband Fred Schimelpfenig in 1878 and was known for her work to improve Plano’s cultural life. In 1880, she helped found the Woman’s Foreign Missionary Society of Plano — which later became the United Methodist Women — and was the Methodist Church’s first organist. She served as president of the Collin County Women’s Christian Temperance Union and was influential in passing prohibition laws in the county. Mrs. Schimelpfenig began Plano’s first lending library in her home in 1884, when she opened her personal book collection to the community. To honor her contributions to Plano, the Schimelpfenig Library was opened in her name on June 2, 1980.

Gladys Bishop Harrington moved with her family to Plano when she was 16. Her mother, Nannie Bishop, was the daughter of early Plano pioneer, Clint Haggard. She was a member of the First Christian Church and graduated from Plano High School in 1919. She married Fred Harrington instead of going off to TCU. When her husband died in 1948 she moved into town and began to be involved in Plano. She worked with Federation of Church Women to establish Plano’s first library in 1955. The library continued to grow and thrive by the efforts of Harrington and other volunteers despite only being open one morning each week.

In 1965, the City of Plano decided to take responsibility over the library in a permanent location on 18th Street named after Harrington and opened it six days a week. After the library was established she traveled extensively and became involved in a large number of clubs and organizations, including Plano Heritage Association, Friends of the Plano Public Library, and the Plano Chamber of Commerce. Her love of music helped her to be involved with the Plano Symphony Orchestra and the Young Artist Competition.

Mary Alice Terry Skaggs was the first teacher in Plano Independent School District to hold a Master’s degree. After graduating from college with a BA and MA in English, Greek, and science, she first taught in Gunter, Texas from 1927-1929 and then for 31 years at Plano High School. She sponsored the Junior Study Club at the high school for 50 years. In the history of the Thursday Study Club it says “It is her voice, mind, heart, and hand that has lead the high school girls to become leaders in their schools and later in life.” The dedication in the 1967 Planonian (yearbook for Plano High School) recognized her for her outstanding services, both as a teacher and a sponsor of the yearbook.

Her collection of the Planonian yearbooks was given to the Genealogy Center of the Plano Public Library. She was a member of many clubs and organizations: Texas State Teachers Association, Delta Kappa Gamma, General Federation of Women’s Club (Life Member) and Plano Retired Teachers just to name a few. The Mary Alice Skaggs Elementary School is named after her.

Florence Shapiro was the first female Mayor of Plano. A first-generation American born in 1948 to two Holocaust survivors in New York City, the family moved to Dallas, Texas and she graduated from Hillcrest High School. Florence and her husband, Howard, came to Plano in 1972. Before her time in politics, she founded the Plano Service League, now known as the Junior League of Collin County. Florence served for six terms on the Plano City Council from 1979-1990 before becoming first female Mayor of Plano from 1990-1992.

Next, Florence was elected to the Texas Senate in 1992. In 2005, she was elected President pro tempore, which is second in the gubernatorial line of succession behind the Lieutenant Governor. On April 9, 2005, while both Gov. Rick Perry and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst were out of state, she served as Governor for the day, the sixth woman in Texas history to do so. She retired in 2011 but remains active in the community serving on several boards, including the Dallas Holocaust and Human Rights Museum, AT&T Performing Arts Center, and Children’s Medical Center and UT Southwestern Medical Center.

Are you interested in exploring your own history? Check out the many resources and talented staff of Plano Public Library’s Genealogy Center at Haggard Library!

The Genealogy Center at Plano Public Library features extensive document and image collections, and access to premium online resources like Ancestry Library Edition. Specialized staff is available to assist with local, national, and international research, and year-round classes accommodate beginners to experienced researchers. All family histories are donated and new ones are welcome.

You can find many of our virtual workshops recorded on the library’s YouTube channel, including these women-specific workshops:

Solving the Mysteries of Women in Your Family Tree Workshop

DNA + Women (Advanced) Workshop

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