March is Women’s History month and to celebrate it we recognize the contributions of the women of Plano. Over the last 150 years, women have provided support, direction, and leadership in building the community we celebrate today. A variety of photographs, journals, and textiles that showcase these contributions are on display now at the Genealogy Center in the basement of Haggard Library.
As champions of education and learning, women have fostered cultural institutions, educated our children, and acted as leaders in Plano and beyond. They have been activists, business owners, hog killers, and more. Their record of the city’s daily life through journals and diaries has chronicled the growth of Plano. The Genealogy Center’s collection includes the diaries of Lizzie Mathews Carpenter which provide a first-hand account of life in Plano in the 1800s. Carpenter Middle School is named after her husband, R. W. Carpenter.
Libraries and schools bear the names of notable women in Plano society.
Mary Alice Terry Skaggs taught at Plano High School for 31 years. She was the first teacher in the district to hold a master’s degree. Mary Alice Skaggs Elementary School is named after her and her collection of The Planonian formed the beginning of the Genealogy Center’s yearbook collection.
Dr. Myrtle Hightower was a teacher and counselor of the Plano Independent School District for almost twenty years and her awards include the 2013 Plano Chamber of Commerce’s Citizen of the Year and the 2005 Texas Educators Association’s State Heroes for Children. Hightower Elementary is named in honor of Dr. Hightower and her late husband, educator John E. Hightower.
Gladys Bishop Harrington established the first lending library in Plano in 1955 and was instrumental in the formation of the Plano Public Library. Other notable Plano women who are namesakes of libraries include Louise Ernestine Rammers Schimelpfenig, who shared her personal book collection with the community in 1884, and Maribelle M. Davis, Plano Public Library’s first director who served for 30 years.
Ammie E. Wilson and her mother, Alice Farrell, raised champion Hampshire sheep for many years. Wilson was president of the Collin County Livestock Association in 1952 and of the Purebred Sheep Breeder’s Association of Texas in 1957. The Plano Heritage Association maintains Heritage Farms – the 1891 homestead her parents built – as a living history site.
Plano’s women’s clubs have been a significant contributing factor behind efforts to beautify and improve the city through the development of parks and libraries. On display are minutes from the Thursday Club, which was dedicated to self-improvement through learning. This page shows many women from well-known Plano families.
Quilt pieces from the Mayes Family collection are representative of the skills women employed at home. Photos from the turn of the 19th century show Plano women in the elaborate hats and finery of the day. One of these photos welcomes visitors to the online collections featured on the library’s Collin County Images website where you can explore more about women in Plano. Learn about more notable Plano women at the Women of Plano History virtual program on Tuesday, March 21 at 7pm. This program will be recorded and available on the library’s YouTube site at a later date.