Ione Ruth Franklin, sculptor and teacher, was born in Poetry, Texas, on January 16, 1893, the eldest of three daughters of Nathaniel Timothy and Bertha Melora (Smith) Franklin. She exhibited artistic ability from an early age. After graduating from high school in San Angelo in 1912, she attended Texas State College for Women (later Texas Woman's University) in Denton, where she earned a bachelor of science degree with honors in household arts and sciences in 1923. She subsequently received a bachelor of science in fine and applied arts with honors from the same institution in 1926 and completed a master of arts degree at Columbia University in 1927. In the late 1930s she attended the Art Students' League in New York City, where she studied with Robert Laurent and William Zorach. Under the influence of the latter, Franklin adopted direct carving, a reaction against more complicated traditional techniques such as casting. She completed a year of private instruction with William Palmer before returning to Texas in 1939.
From 1928 to 1955 Ione Franklin taught art at East Texas State Teachers College (later East Texas State University) in Commerce, where she was chairman of the art department from 1936 until her retirement. She participated in a number of competitive exhibitions and won prizes in Texas General exhibitions (1941, 1945) and Southern States Art League exhibitions (1936, 1946). The marble Young Mother (1944), in which Franklin deftly evoked the tender relationship between a mother and the chunky infant cradled on her shoulder, typifies her sensitive approach to sculpture; the work is now in the collection of Marcelle and David Orman. Franklin exhibited her work at the Dallas Museum of Art, the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, the Witte Museum in San Antonio, the University of Texas at Austin, the Rockhill-Nelson Gallery in Kansas City, the University of Georgia in Athens, and the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, Georgia. She was a member of the Southern States Art League and the Texas Sculptors Group. Franklin has been associated with such artists as Dorothy Austin, Evaline Sellors, Mabel Fairfax Karl, and Bess Bigham Hubbard, a group of women who popularized modern sculpture styles and techniques in Texas in the 1930s and 1940s.
Franklin retired from teaching in 1955 and returned to San Antonio to care for an aged aunt. Although she joined the River Art Group and exhibited with them and the San Antonio Art League, her nursing duties left her little time for sculpting. She became an accomplished embroiderer in later years. She died in San Antonio on January 11, 1985, and was buried in Mission Park Cemetery. Her work was included in A Century of Sculpture in Texas, 1889–1989 (1989), an exhibition organized by the Archer M. Huntington Art Gallery in Austin that traveled to several museums throughout the state.
The Handbook of Texas Women project has its own dedicated website and resources.