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Owen, May (1892–1988)

Megan Seaholm Biography Entry

May Owen (Dr. May), pathologist, was born on a farm in Falls County, Texas, on May 3, 1892. She completed high school in Fort Worth in 1913 and received a bachelor of arts degree in 1917 from Texas Christian University. She earned her medical degree from Louisville (Kentucky) Medical School in 1921 and continued studies at the Mayo Clinic and at Bellevue Hospital in New York City. She returned to Fort Worth to practice medicine and eventually became chief pathologist for Terrell Laboratories. She distinguished herself as a scientist when she discovered that the powder once used in surgical gloves could cause scarring, adhesions, and peritonitis. Texas Christian University awarded her an honorary doctor of science degree in 1936 for this discovery. In the 1950s she assisted in early studies of the cattle disease chloronaphthline and was later honored by the American Veterinary Medical Association for her research. In 1953 the Texas Medical Association awarded her a Recognition of Merit for an exhibit in occupational medicine. Dr. May was the first woman elected president of the Texas Society of Pathologists (1945), of the Tarrant County Medical Society (1947), and of the Texas Medical Association (1960). As TMA president, she used her travel allowance to establish a fund to assist physicians and their families in times of financial crisis. She also chaired the TMA Council on Scientific Affairs for the maximum tenure of nine years. In 1969 the TMA acknowledged her many contributions with their highest honor, the Distinguished Service Award.

Dr. Owen provided financial assistance to hundreds of students in the health care professions. To guarantee that her beneficence would outlive her, she established the May Owen Trust Fund (1966), administered by the TMA, for low-interest loans to medical students, and a nursing scholarship at Tarrant County Junior College (1984). To acknowledge her generosity, the medical fraternity Alpha Kappa Kappa made her an honorary member in 1955; in 1987 she was the first person to receive an Award for Outstanding Service to the TMA Medical Student Section. She was a trustee of the Fort Worth Boys' Choir (1958), a member of the national board of the Women's College of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia (1962), and a member of the first board of the Tarrant County Junior College District (1963). When the Texas Tech University School of Medicine opened in 1972, Dr. Owen obtained 20,000 volumes for its library and endowed the school's first chair in pathology. In 1978 she was named Distinguished Friend of Tarleton State University. Other honors bestowed upon her include the highest awards from the Tarrant County Medical Society (1952) and the Texas Society of Pathologists (1958). The Texas Christian University chapter of the National Conference of Christians and Jews and the National Jewish Hospital and Research Center acclaimed her for her humanitarianism. The people of Fort Worth were especially proud of Dr. May. She was honored by the Altrusa Club (1948), the Women's Club of Fort Worth (1958), the Women's Auxiliary to the Tarrant County Medical Society (1959), the Woman's Civic Council (1976), and the Sertoma Club (1971). In 1965 the Hall of Health Sciences in the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History was named in her honor. She was inducted into the Texas Women's Hall of Fame in 1986 and died on April 12, 1988, at the age of ninety-six.

Donna B. Jones, "May Owen's Hand in the Future," Texas Medicine 84 (June 1988).


  • Health and Medicine
  • Physicians and Surgeons
  • Pathologists
  • Women


  • Dallas/Fort Worth Region
  • Fort Worth
  • North Texas

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

Megan Seaholm, “Owen, May,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed October 27, 2020,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

This entry belongs to the following Handbook Special Projects: