Iola Barns Beers, civic leader and music patron, the daughter of Thomas and Antoinette Barns, was born in New Orleans on December 17, 1852. She moved to Galveston with her parents in 1875 and in 1879 or 1880 married William Francis Beers, a Galveston insurance agent and civic leader. They had one son. Iola Beers is known for founding two prominent women's organizations in Galveston.
In 1890 Iola Beers founded the Girl's Musical Club, which, with the aid of trained musicians, educated talented young women and assisted them in their musical studies regardless of income. The club presented concerts and held biweekly meetings to study the history of music and the work of great composers. Galveston's example became the model for the Girl's Musical Club of Houston, founded by a Galveston member. Iola Beers also served on the executive committee of the Ladies' Musical Club of Galveston.
She represented Texas at the Chicago World's Fair in 1893 and later was on the Texas committee at the St. Louis World's Fair. She raised $2,000 for the Galveston public school's representation at the Chicago fair. In addition she raised $5,000 for equipment for the Galveston public schools through such productions as H.M.S. Pinafore, performed at the Grand Opera House. After the Galveston hurricane of 1900, she joined the relief efforts of the American Red Cross Association. Clara Barton appointed her chairman of the Eleventh Ward distribution committee. She continued her Red Cross work during World War I.
Iola Beers joined many progressive women's organizations and was on the board of directors of the Galveston Orphan's Home and the Galveston Art League. She belonged to the Wednesday Club and the Galveston Equal Suffrage Association. Perhaps her greatest civic contribution came through helping to found, with Anna Maxwell Jones, the Women's Health Protective Association in 1901. Within the first year she and sixty-five other women had the bodies of hastily buried storm victims moved to a gravesite at the west end of the island and began beautifying the area. Throughout her years of association with the WHPA she demonstrated her commitment to music and public education by chairing the Education and Art Committee, the Public Schools Committee, and the School Hygiene Committee of the WHPA. She died in Galveston on November 13, 1925.
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Galveston Daily News, November 14, 15, 1925. S. C. Griffin, History of Galveston, Texas (Galveston: Cawston, 1931). Elizabeth Hayes Turner, Women's Culture and Community: Religion and Reform in Galveston, 1880–1920 (Ph.D. dissertation, Rice University, 1990).
Music and Drama
Patrons, Collectors, and Philanthropists
Activism and Social Reform
Late Nineteenth-Century Texas
Texas in the 1920s
Upper Gulf Coast
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
Elizabeth Hayes Turner,
“Beers, Iola Barns,”
Handbook of Texas Online,
accessed May 16, 2022,
Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
Original Publication Date:
November 1, 1994
This entry belongs to the following Handbook Special Projects: