Ruth Munro Augur and Other Women UTEP Pioneers

Ruth Munro Augur was born in Austin, Texas in 1886. She studied art in New York, trained under two well-known artist, Robert Henri and William Chase. Augur studied at Otis Art Institute and California School of Fine Arts. In 1911 she worked as a sports and society page editor for the El Paso Herald and later was promoted to head the Society Page in 1916. Augur’s involvement with UTEP then College of Mines and Metallurgy of the University of Texas, started in 1913, while she was at the Herald. She covered many of the college activities and became close friends with John Worrell, the first Dean of the college and his wife, Kathleen. Augur organized the El Paso Equal Franchise League. She designed the first school seal. Augur also wrote and directed some of the earliest plays performed at the college. Her summer cottage in Kern Place became a meeting place for students and faculty. Augur went on to became a nationally recognized artist, she headed an art gallery in Oklahoma and was awarded for a large mural she painted at an Oklahoma county courthouse. She died in 1967 in Oklahoma. Augur  also became a national marionette performer.

Augur worked with Mrs. Worrell to open the college to women, Ruth Brown and Grace Odell, became the first Co-Eds at the college in 1917. In 1918, Brown was the first woman instructor at the college. In 1923, Myra Carroll Winkler was the first woman to be hired as a full time instructor in 1923. Winkler also served as El Paso County Superintendent of Schools and was the first woman to hold elected office in El Paso in 1913.

In 1928, Carrie M. Crosby became the first woman with senior standing but was not allowed to graduate because the school only offered an engineering degree and the degree was not open to women. In 1932, the college expanded its curriculum to offer a Bachelor of Arts Degree. The first graduating class of Bachelor of Arts students included Gwendolyn Allison, Else Kohlberg Craige, Catherine Hannah Flynn, Mary Lena Garrett, Annie Grady, Mary Carlisle McGhee, Leola Ruth O’Neal, Jewel Foster Pierson and Lucile Alta Ponsford.  In 1942 Nancy Lee Hammons, Naomi Dowd Jameson, and Grace Knox Smith were the first women to earn  a Master of Arts degree at UTEP.  The school did not offer a doctorate degree until 1974, Kathryn Evans  who was the first woman to earn a doctorate at UTEP and earned it in Geology. In 1927, Abi E. Beynon, an associate professor of business administration, became the first woman department head and the first Dean of Women at UTEP. In 1930, she earned her Ph.D.  and she  would have been UTEP’s first full female professor but she died not long after receiving her degree. Gladys Gregory would become the first woman full-time professor in 1951.

In 1988, Diana Natalicio was appointed the first woman president of UTEP. In 1981, Dr. Mimi Gladstein was the first to head the UTEP Women’s Studies Department.

Other pioneer women professors at UTEP where Eleanor Duke who in 1979 sued UTEP, on behalf of herself and all the other female faculty members, claiming that UTEP discriminated against them on salaries and promotions because of their gender. Pearl Ponsford taught English’s at UTEP and she also wrote My Favorite World, about her world travels. She also served as president of the El Paso Chapter, of the American Association of University Women.

Photo Credit: UTEP Flowsheet Year Book, 1924, UTEP Special Collections

Joseph Longo

EPHSC Curator and Archives Chair.

Since 1954 the El Paso County Historical Society has been a driving force in the historic scene of El Paso. EPCHS strives to foster research into the history of the El Paso area; acquire and make available to the public historic materials; publish and encourage historical writing pertaining to the area; and to develop public consciousness of our rich heritage.