Jean Coventree Scrimgeour Morgan, civic leader, born on January 14, 1868, was a native Galvestonian, the daughter of William and Josephine (Mason) Scrimgeour. She attended Galveston Female Institute and was trained in the fine arts, particularly music and painting. After graduation she studied at the Art Students' League in New York under Thomas Eakins and others. Winslow Homer was a fellow student. After her return to Galveston Jean met George D. Morgan, a banker and investment securities broker. They were married in 1890; their only son was born in 1891. Jean Morgan had been raised in Trinity Episcopal Church, Galveston. In her early adulthood she joined the Guild of the Blessed Virgin and taught Sunday school at St. Michael's Chapel, a mission branch of Trinity Church. For a few years she attended Grace Episcopal Church and in 1901–02 served as president of its Ladies Aid Society. She joined the Trinity Church Guild in 1908 and the Daughters of the King in 1920. Upon this religious and charitable foundation Mrs. Morgan built her entire civic career, never wavering in the belief that "Christian social service is the church at work: it is Christ in action through us." Her piety and the desire to serve the community were combined with the good fortune of family position. As a member of one of Galveston's socially prominent families, she was invited to participate in the city's network of elite women's voluntary organizations. In 1894 she was elected to the board of managers of the Home for Homeless Children, one of Galveston's three orphanages. There she learned important civic organizing skills. In 1904 she was invited to join and became secretary of the exclusive Wednesday Club, a women's literary club founded in 1891 and affiliated with the General Federation of Women's Clubs. Although the club's primary purpose was to study great literature, by 1904 the members were exploring feminist subjects. Morgan's paper presented on November 1, 1905, dealt with Henrik Ibsen's classic feminist play, A Doll's House. The lines she reprinted in the club's program-"Why, my Nora, what have you to do with serious things?"-reveal her own emerging sense of determination to accomplish something of importance.
One of her "serious things" was the Women's Health Protective Association, an organization founded in 1901 to help clear the debris and rebury the dead from the Galveston Hurricane of 1900. By 1904 the WHPA was calling for women to help plant the island with trees and shrubs to replace those killed by the grade raising, and to work toward better city sanitation. It is not entirely clear when Morgan joined the WHPA, but in 1903 she was elected auditor and in 1907 assumed the presidency. She quit the presidency in 1913 but was reelected in 1914. During her term of office she inspired the organization's struggle with city government for clean alleys, paved streets, planted esplanades, and the inspection of dairies, markets, groceries, and restaurants. In October 1911 the WHPA attracted national attention for engaging the entire city, block by block, in a well-organized city beautification campaign. A women's committee designated for each city block looked after the planting of trees and flowers and the building of uniform sidewalks. Jean Morgan's interest in community health, and tuberculosis in particular, began in 1912 when the WHPA began selling Red Cross Christmas Seals for the Texas Anti-Tuberculosis Association. She continued to direct this sale every year until 1937 and served as an officer of the Galveston Anti-Tuberculosis Association as well. The work helped finance the erection of the Walter Colquitt Memorial Children's Hospital for Bone and Glandular Tuberculosis in Galveston in 1913. Even before American military involvement in World War I, Mrs. Morgan and other Galveston women began working for the Galveston chapter of the Red Cross, established on February 8, 1916. From 1917 to 1919 she served as chairman of production for the local chapter. At the close of the war she advocated the establishment of a public health nursing committee; the Galveston Red Cross instituted it in August 1919. After serving as the committee's secretary, she became its second president in 1922. She continued to work with the committee until in 1936 it became an independent agency, the Galveston Public Health Nursing Service, and she became president. The agency set up a visiting-nurse service and opened medical clinics on the east and west ends of the island for mothers and babies.
In 1911 Jean Morgan was elected to the board of lady managers of the Galveston Orphan's Home. She also joined the board of directors of the Galveston YWCA, which was formed in 1914. She served as its acting president in 1919–20 and was honored in 1931 for her many years of service as vice president and chairman of the finance committee. She typified the progressive women of the turn of the century. Opportunities for women through club work, church work, and benevolence opened doors through which women advanced into public life. Jean Morgan worked her way up to the leading position in the city's largest women's reform organization; there she was able to accomplish her goal of community improvement. In 1913 the Galveston Daily News noted that "No one woman, perhaps, in the city of Galveston, has done more toward making the community a better and more pleasing site to the eye than has Mrs. Morgan." Although she does not appear to have joined in the woman suffrage movement, Morgan was a social feminist who led other women in community and public health work. She died on December 2, 1938, and was buried in Galveston's Episcopal Cemetery. In 1939 the Wednesday Club members presented to the Rosenberg Library in her memory a biography of Lillian Wald, founder of the Henry Street Settlement House in New York and originator of the city's public health nursing service.
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Galveston Daily News, December 11, 1921, December 3, 1938. William Manning Morgan, Trinity Protestant Episcopal Church, Galveston (Houston: Anson Jones Press, 1954). Morgan Family Papers, Rosenberg Library, Galveston, Texas.
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
Elizabeth Hayes Turner,
“Morgan, Jean Coventree Scrimgeour,”
Handbook of Texas Online,
accessed August 19, 2022,
Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
Original Publication Date:
May 1, 1995
This entry belongs to the following Handbook Special Projects: