Josephine Vaughn Mahaffey, artist, teacher, and business woman, was born on March 16, 1903, to George I. Vaughn and Kate (Carr) Vaughn in Hopkins County, Texas. She grew up in San Marcos, Texas. Some sources, including the 1930 federal census, have listed her first name as Marjorie (or Marjerie), but most official records simply list her with the first name of Josephine. She studied art at the College of Industrial Arts (now Texas Woman’s University) in Denton, where she won an art contest with a picture painted from different tones of shoe polishes. In 1922 Josephine Vaughn married Mark Mahaffey, who worked for a meat packing plant, and moved to Fort Worth where she continued to study art under the tutelage of Sallie Mummert until Mummert’s death in 1938. From this point Mahaffey studied with such area artists as Clinton Blair King, Octavio Medellin, and Kathleen Lawrence. Mahaffey later returned to Texas Woman’s University to earn her B.A.
Mahaffey had seven sons and one daughter while she continued her career as an artist and a business woman. She operated a grocery store in Fort Worth for several years and built the enterprise to include three stores before selling it to a larger chain of grocery stores. Following the sale, Josephine Mahaffey bought a ranch north of Fort Worth and opened a private art gallery where she focused on her art and her passion for teaching others the love of painting.
Mahaffey was known for her quick rapid-fire painting technique which she called, “direct painting.” She was a prolific painter and worked with many different types of surfaces, including a Houston city map, newsprint, and brown paper bags. Her methods often included quickly capturing a first impression in watercolors and later using these initial studies to help her paint the scene using oils.
Mahaffey was a teacher and advocated arts education. She taught at the Woman’s Club of Fort Worth, the Fort Worth Art Center, the Northside Boys Club, and the Arlington YWCA. In addition, she participated in many workshops, attended re-fresher courses, was a charter member of the Fort Worth Art Association, president of the Professional and Amateur Art Association, president of the Composers Authors and Artists–Fort Worth Branch, and a lecturer, judge, and participant in many art shows. She was also a member of the Fort Worth Color Society, Adventures in Art, and the Fort Worth Woman’s Club, which presented Mahaffey with a gold locket for many years of service. In 1957 Coronet magazine referred to her as “Mama Mahaffey, the Texas Dynamo.” She exhibited her work both internationally and locally and was especially known for her shows at the Texas State Fair. In 1968 the State Fair of Texas honored Mahaffey with a “Josephine Mahaffey Day.”
Josephine Vaughn Mahaffey passed away on March 14, 1982, two days before her seventy-ninth birthday in Fort Worth, Texas. She was buried in Ash Creek Cemetery in Azle, Tarrant County, Texas. Mahaffey left a legacy of promoting and advancing the visual arts in Texas with her thousands of artworks and her teaching. In 2010 the Fort Worth Community Arts Center hosted a retrospective on her work.