Trigg, Edna Westbrook (1868–1946)

By: Judith N. McArthur

Type: Biography

Published: 1976

Updated: November 1, 1995

Edna Westbrook Trigg, teacher and home demonstration agent, the daughter of Ervin and Rachel (Walker) Westbrook, was born on December 30, 1868, between Milano and Cameron in Milam County, Texas. She attended a community school in Liberty, Milam County, and earned her teaching certificate by attending summer normal schools in Cameron. She married Charles Letman Trigg in 1892; they had a son and a daughter. Late in 1911 the United States Department of Agriculture asked her to help introduce home demonstration work in Milam County by serving as county collaborator for girls' tomato clubs. She reluctantly agreed, after receiving assurance that the work would not interfere with her duties as principal and teacher at a rural school in Liberty. During the summer of 1912 she organized community girls between the ages of ten and eighteen into tomato clubs; each member was responsible for cultivating one-tenth of an acre of tomatoes, selling part of the harvest, and saving the rest for canning. The joint exhibit that the tomato clubs held with the boys' corn clubs at Milano that August marked the first exhibition of girls' agricultural products in the state. The girls exhibited at the Rockdale fair in 1913 and at the State Fair of Texas in Dallas the following year. The exhibits were sent on to the Waco Cotton Palace from the Dallas fair and won over $100 in prize money.

Trigg encouraged the club members to establish college funds and compete for scholarships, while she herself learned more about canning methods through trial and error. Lack of county funding for her salary forced her to discontinue the work with young people in 1915, but she continued to work for the rural community. She organized community councils for farm women and responded to invitations to conduct canning demonstrations; in the summer of 1915 she went as far as Childress to conduct a two-month canning clinic. Though she was largely self-taught in home demonstration methods, she gradually became so absorbed in the work that it supplanted her long-standing career in the public schools. When she was offered the position of home demonstration agent for Denton County in February 1916, she resigned immediately as principal of the Liberty school and moved to Denton, where her daughter was a scholarship student in home economics at the College of Industrial Arts (now Texas Woman's University). Edna Trigg was the first home demonstration agent appointed in the state. In Denton she faced the double disadvantage of being a stranger and a "government woman." Traveling around the county in a horse and buggy and staying overnight with farm families, she gradually overcame prejudices with unpretentious friendliness and energetic demonstrations of her expertise. She converted the City Federation of Denton to the home demonstration cause by getting permission for her girls' clubs to show their products at the federation's fall exhibit; the girls' entries were so superior to those of the town women that a purse was made up for prize money. Trigg borrowed $350 to buy steam canners, placed them in twenty communities to encourage canning, and after a number of successful demonstrations sold the cookers to community members.

During World War I the national campaign to grow and conserve food led her to launch a drive to make Denton County self-sufficient in foodstuffs. She persuaded farm families to plant less cotton and more vegetables and induced landlords to grant tenant farmers garden plots and cow pastures. At the same time, she held regular canning schools and served on the staff of the College of Industrial Arts. In the postwar years Denton County remained one of the top Texas counties in the amount of vegetables, fruit, and beef canned annually. Driving over a thousand miles a month, Trigg gave demonstrations to rural women and introduced the protective diet card, a food and nutrient consumption schedule that each woman drew up for her own family to guard against pellagra, rickets, goiter, and other diseases of malnutrition. Edna Trigg conducted girls' clubs throughout the county and worked to increase scholarship funding for rural girls. She died on November 15, 1946, and was buried in the I.O.O.F. Cemetery in Denton. A Texas State Historical Survey Committee marker honoring her was placed in the courthouse square in Cameron in October 1970.

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Lynda Bowers, "Texas' First Home Demonstration Agent," Texas Agricultural Progress 17 (Winter 1971). Farm and Ranch, October 9, 1926, February 2, 1929. Kate Adele Hill, Home Demonstration Work in Texas (San Antonio: Naylor, 1958).

  • Agriculture
  • Education
  • Educators
  • Women
  • Physical Education, Home Economics, and Health

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

Judith N. McArthur, “Trigg, Edna Westbrook,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed July 01, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

November 1, 1995

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