Wooten, Mattie Lloyd Irvin (1894–1966)

By: Debbie Mauldin Cottrell

Type: Biography

Published: September 1, 1995

Mattie Lloyd Irvin Wooten, teacher and early scholar of Texas women, was born in the Cass County town of Hughes Springs, Texas, on January 2, 1894, the daughter of Isaiah M. and Maud Viola (Nesbett) Irvin. After attending Cass County public schools she began teaching school in rural Kaufman County at age fifteen. She continued her own education in summer sessions and in 1914 earned a degree from Sam Houston Normal Institute in Huntsville. After graduating she taught school in Helena, Arkansas, where in 1916 she married Charles M. Wooten, a cotton broker. After her husband died in 1924 Mattie Wooten returned to Texas. At the University of Texas she earned her bachelor's degree in sociology in 1928 and her master's degree in 1929. Her thesis, directed by Warner Ensign Gettys, was "The Rôles of Pioneer Women in the Texas Frontier Community." This thesis was one of the first sociological studies of women on the Texas frontier; it explored the effects of frontier life on their roles in such realms as family, religion, education, business, and writing. In 1929 Wooten accepted a position as an instructor in sociology at Texas State College for Women (now Texas Woman's University) in Denton. She remained at this institution for twenty-four years, serving as associate professor, professor, director of the sociology department, dean of women, and dean of students. While teaching, she returned to the University of Texas at Austin to pursue a doctoral degree, which she earned in 1941 with a dissertation on "The Status of Women in Texas." Her work was again directed by sociologist Warner Gettys, and she worked with historians Eugene C. Barker, Charles W. Ramsdell, and Walter Prescott Webb. She supplemented her research for this study with materials she had gathered for a course she taught on "The Social and Occupational Interest of Women" and with data from numerous state and national organizations in which she was involved. Her work considered the demographics of Texas women, their role in the state's economy, their contributions to civic and social aspects of Texas, and their legal status. Mattie Wooten was also the author of numerous sociological articles. In addition, she compiled and edited a book in 1940 entitled Women Tell the Story of the Southwest, a collection of sixty-four social history essays on Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, and Oklahoma. Wooten served as president of the state federation of Business and Professional Women's Clubs in 1944–45 and was the first president of the Denton Soroptimist Club. She was also an active member of the Methodist Church, the Eastern Star, the Texas State Historical Association, and the Southwestern Sociological Society. She earned Phi Beta Kappa honors at the University of Texas and also was honored by the Business and Professional Women's Clubs as an outstanding business leader in Texas. In 1944 she organized a Texas White House Conference to encourage greater utilization of women on state government boards and commissions. Speakers at this event, held in Austin and patterned after a national event with similar goals, included University of Texas president Homer P. Rainey and woman suffrage leader Minnie Fisher Cunningham. Wooten resigned from the State College for Women in 1953 and moved to the Hill Country to pursue business interests. After moving, however, she held teaching positions at Austin College in Sherman, the University of Hawaii, the University of Florida, Texas Wesleyan University in Fort Worth, and East Texas Baptist College in Marshall. She died in Kerrville on November 8, 1966, and was buried in Hughes Springs Cemetery. Her survivors included two sisters and four brothers.

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Austin Statesman, November 9, 1966. Dallas Morning News, April 29, 1953. Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.

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

Debbie Mauldin Cottrell, “Wooten, Mattie Lloyd Irvin,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed August 19, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/wooten-mattie-lloyd-irvin.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

September 1, 1995

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