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WARNER, PHEBE KERRICK

WARNER, PHEBE KERRICK (1866–1935). Phebe Kerrick Warner, women's club leader, writer, and candidate for Congress, the youngest of eleven children of Armstead and Sarah Ann (Sloan) Kerrick, was born on May 2, 1866, in Belle Plain, near Pattonsburg, Illinois. While growing up on the family farm she earned money by churning butter, selling eggs, and driving horses. She attended Illinois Wesleyan University at Bloomington, where she was elected to the Phi Kappa Phi honorary fraternity. After her graduation in 1893 she taught science at Illinois Women's University for three years and established the natural science department. There she became engaged to William A. Warner, a physician, whom she had met at Illinois Wesleyan. After he established his medical practice at Claude, Texas, they were married, on February 17, 1898. Mrs. Warner began a lifelong love affair with the Panhandle's "oceanic plains." The couple had four children. Early in the winter of 1903, when Dr. Warner returned from making a house call, he remarked that the area women were not sick, but homesick. Mrs. Warner declared that she would "organize a club and give them something to think about." Subsequently, she formed the Wednesday Afternoon Club, a local study group composed largely of young mothers and local school teachers, including Laura V. Hamner. This club met at different homes, and by 1909 the concept had expanded to neighboring rural communities. In 1913 Warner urged these clubs to unite as the Armstrong County Federation of Women's Clubs, one of the first of its kind in the United States. It soon joined the Texas Federation of Women's Clubs. In 1916 Phebe Warner delivered a lecture on dry-land farming at a meeting of the Texas federation in El Paso. Peter Molyneaux, editor of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, was impressed with her presentation and invited her to submit editorials, feature articles, and news items on rural life to his paper as a feature writer. Over the next nineteen years she contributed to the Star-Telegram, Amarillo News-Globe, and other Texas newspapers, as well as to magazines, and was a member of the Texas Women's Press Association. Some of her writings were published in Canada and Australia.

Phebe Warner, who was four feet ten inches tall, won a national reputation as the "Little Brown Wren of Texas." She championed women's rights, but she also believed that motherhood was "the best investment of a woman's life." After lecturing at Peoria, Illinois, in 1917, she was appointed state chairman of the rural life committee of the Texas Federation of Women's Clubs. In 1920 she and Laura Hamner organized the Panhandle Pen Women's clubs, in which aspiring writers were encouraged to show their talents. That year Governor William P. Hobby appointed Mrs. Warner the Texas representative to the National Congress of Farm Women. In her quest to improve the lot of rural women, she worked particularly for agricultural extension education with use of county and home demonstration agents. In 1929 President Herbert Hoover appointed her to a national Home Builders Committee. She supported President Franklin D. Roosevelt's National Industrial Recovery Act during the early 1930s and in 1932 ran fourth in a slate of ten for the United States Congress. She helped push for a state park system and became a member of the first Texas State Park Board, on which she served ten years. Governor Pat M. Neff appointed her secretary of the board in 1923. She was one of the first to advocate making Palo Duro Canyon a state park, a dream realized in 1933. She worked with the young people in the Sunday school department of the Claude Methodist Church throughout her thirty-seven years in Texas. On May 14, 1935, she died at her home following a lengthy bout with pneumonia. She was buried in the Claude Cemetery next to her husband, who had died the previous year. The Phebe Kerrick Warner Home Management House at West Texas State Teachers' College in Canyon was dedicated in March 1938. In 1964 a collection of Mrs. Warner's newspaper articles, Selected Editorials, was published in book form by her children. Her papers are housed in the Research Center at the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

Amarillo Daily News, May 15, 1935. Armstrong County Historical Association, A Collection of Memories: A History of Armstrong County, 1876–1965 (Hereford, Texas: Pioneer, 1965).

H. Allen Anderson

Citation

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

H. Allen Anderson, "WARNER, PHEBE KERRICK," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fwa56), accessed April 20, 2014. Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.