Gilbert, Minnie L. Carpenter (1900–1999)


By: Norman Rozeff

Type: Biography

Published: November 30, 2021

Updated: December 3, 2021


Minnie L. Carpenter Gilbert, a reporter, columnist, and historian, was born to Nella May (Ramsey) and John Franklin Carpenter, a farmer, on January 4, 1900, in Bennington, Ottawa County, Kansas. In 1909 the family of six moved to Hidalgo County, Texas, where they rented a farm. In late 1910, after a disastrous flood the previous year, the family moved to San Benito in Cameron County, Texas. Minnie attended San Benito High School, and while there, she won the state spelling championship in the University Interscholastic League in 1917. After she graduated, she worked as a stenographer in a hardware store. In 1921 she attended the University of Texas at Austin, where she majored in journalism and was a member of Theta Sigma Phi and the Rio Grande Valley Club, a student community organization. She wrote articles about the club and its members for the Brownsville Herald. In June 1923 she was awarded a scholarship from the Texas Press Woman’s Association (later renamed the Texas Press Women), which included $300 and a special room in the Woman’s Building on campus. After two years of college, she worked for the Brownsville Herald as a news correspondent out of Harlingen in 1924.

On November 23, 1927, at age of twenty-seven, Minnie married William Frederick Gilbert, a twenty-four-year-old machine shop mechanic who later became a police officer. By 1930 the couple had purchased a house, reportedly valued at $4,000 in the U. S. census, in San Benito, and Minnie was employed by the San Benito News as a newspaper reporter. Her articles appeared in the three major lower Rio Grande Valley newspapers, The Monitor (McAllen), Valley Morning Star, and the Brownsville Herald. By 1935 she had joined the staff of Valley Morning Star and wrote both traditional news articles and a society column. During World War II, as men joined the armed services, she temporarily served as city editor in addition to her regular role as society editor for the Valley Morning Star. By the 1960s she had joined the staff of the Brownsville Herald. She retired from her long newspaper career in 1971.

In 1943 she and Lucy Hobson Wallace established a women’s writers group, Valley ByLiners, because of discriminatory treatment within the male-dominated local chapter of the Texas Press Association. The group later opened membership to men and was renamed the Rio Grande Valley Byliners. She was the organization's first president and contributed articles to the group’s first three publications: Gift of the Rio (1975), a comprehensive study of the history and growth of the lower Rio Grande Valley; Roots by the River (1978), winner of the Texas Historical Commission's award in 1979; and Rio Grande Round-Up (1980). She also wrote a local church history, A History of First Presbyterian Church, San Benito, Texas 1910–1980 (1985), and Sunrise Song (1984), a novel about a girl preparing for her quinceañera in the early 1900s. She also contributed articles to various magazines, including “Bethlehem on the Rio Grande,” an article about a pastorela play, which appeared Ford Times, a magazine for Ford vehicle dealerships, in 1961. Her husband, then a retired police chief, had a heart attack and died on July 6, 1964, in San Benito.

Minnie Gilbert died on November 29, 1999, in Harlingen. Her funeral service was held at First Presbyterian Church in San Benito, and she was buried near her husband in Mont Meta Memorial Park in San Benito. Her personal papers and publications were donated the University of Texas, Rio Grande Valley Special Collections and Archives.

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Brownsville Herald, November 19, 1922; June 2, 1923; October 21, 1923; September 25, 1924; April 21, 1955; July 9, 1963; December 8, 1963. Corpus Christi Times, December 10, 1961. The Monitor (McAllen, Texas), December 2, 1999. Rio Writers, One Hundred Women of the Rio Grande Valley of Texas (Austin: Eakin Press, 1983). Valley Morning Star(Harlingen, Texas), September 15, 1935; October 13, 1935; February 21, 1943; August 11, 1944; December 1, 1999; March 3, 2019.

Categories:
  • Journalism
  • Newspapers
  • Editors and Reporters
  • Women
  • Writers, Authors, Publications, and Literature
  • Authors and Writers
Time Periods:
  • Great Depression
  • Texas in the 1920s
  • World War II
  • Texas Post World War II
Places:
  • South Texas
  • Valley Area

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

Norman Rozeff, “Gilbert, Minnie L. Carpenter,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed June 27, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/gilbert-minnie-l-carpenter.

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November 30, 2021
December 3, 2021

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