Green, Mary Vance (1903–1987)

By: Anne Leslie Fenstermaker

Type: Biography

Published: January 1, 1995

Updated: December 2, 2019

Mary Vance Green, teacher, artist, and preservationist, the third of four children of Robert B. and Rena (Maverick) Green, was born in San Antonio on February 7, 1903. She attended the Balcones School in northwestern Bexar County and graduated from Main Avenue High School, San Antonio. She received her bachelor of science and master of art degrees from the teachers' college at Columbia University, New York. Mary Green taught at various schools, including River Road Country Day School in San Antonio; the Texas State College for Women (later Texas Woman's University); the Ethical Culture School in Brooklyn, New York; the teachers' college at Columbia University; and a junior college and a private school in Greenwich, Connecticut. She was also librarian at Thomas Jefferson High School, San Antonio; was head of teachers for the International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union school in Baltimore, Maryland; and taught at Warm Springs Foundation, Gonzales, and Trinity University and Incarnate Word College, San Antonio. For a time she was a resident artist at Incarnate Word College. She also taught ceramics classes with Harding Black in the early days of the Witte Museum School.

During the 1930s Green was in charge of craft design for the National Youth Administration restoration of La Villita in San Antonio. She taught design for ceramics, blacksmithing, weaving, and sheet-metal working, and later she and her workers designed for other NYA projects in San Antonio. At La Villita she began the ceramic wall decoration that developed into her outstanding mural projects done from about 1950 to 1975. Her method was to make large figures or panels in clay, cut them into smaller pieces for firing, then reassemble them permanently on the wall. Her subjects included human figures, animals, birds, plants, and scenes taken from her imaginative drawings and observations of Texas life. In the 1990s her work was found in private collections; at various businesses; and in churches, including the First Presbyterian Church and Cathedral House of the Episcopal Church, San Antonio. She designed and executed the first Camilla Award for the Joske's stores, San Antonio. For many years she worked in the studio of ceramicist Harding Black. Her work was shown throughout Texas and the Southwest and she won prizes locally and statewide. In 1955 she received an award for creative art from the San Antonio chapter of the American Institute of Architects; in 1959 she was named Woman of the Year in Art by the San Antonio Express-News; in 1984 she was recipient with Harding Black of the Lynn Ford Craftsman Award from the San Antonio Conservation Society; and in 1986 she was named Craftsperson of the Year at the Salinas Festival, Bastrop. She was the first president of the San Antonio Craft Guild, a founder of the Southwest Craft Center, and a member of the San Antonio Art League, the River Art Group, and the Texas Fine Arts Association.

Mary Green demonstrated as a suffragist in Washington, D.C. She was an early member of the San Antonio Conservation Society, founded by her mother. She served as the first chairman of the society's Night In Old San Antonio, held in La Villita, and also served the society in other offices. Following family tradition she pushed for preservation of important San Antonio sites, such as Travis Park, the Col. John C. (Jack) Hays home, and the Navarro House (see CASA NAVARRO STATE HISTORIC SITE); she also fought to save Brackenridge and Olmos parks from a proposed expressway.

She was an Episcopalian and Democrat. She traveled throughout Europe and Mexico and spent her summers at her home in Fort Davis, Texas, and at the Maverick Ranch near Boerne, Texas. Mary Green died in San Antonio on February 18, 1987.

Visit the Texas Women Project's standalone website

The Handbook of Texas Women project has its own dedicated website and resources.

Visit Website

San Antonio Express News, January 3, 1960, February 19, 1987.

  • Education
  • Educators
  • Art and Architecture
  • Visual Arts
  • Arts and Crafts
  • Painting
  • Women
  • Preservationists

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

Anne Leslie Fenstermaker, “Green, Mary Vance,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed August 18, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

January 1, 1995
December 2, 2019

This entry belongs to the following Handbook Special Projects: