While our physical offices are closed until further notice in accordance with Austin's COVID-19 "stay home-work safe" order, the Handbook of Texas will remain available at no-cost for you, your fellow history enthusiasts, and all Texas students currently mandated to study from home. If you have the capacity to help us maintain our online Texas history resources during these uncertain times, please consider making a 100% tax-deductible contribution today. Thank you for your support of TSHA and Texas history. Donate Today »


Joan Jenkins Perez
Ela Hockaday
Ela Hockaday. Courtesy of Virginia Thomas. Image available on the Internet and included in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107.

HOCKADAY, ELA (1875–1956). Ela Hockaday, school founder, was born in Ladonia, Texas, on March 12, 1875, to Thomas Hart Benton and Maria Elizabeth (Kerr) Hockaday. Her father was a farmer and teacher versed in Latin, Hebrew, and Greek. Upon her mother's death in 1881, she went to live with her married older sister at Bonham and there attended public school. She received her B.A. from North Texas State Normal School (now the University of North Texas) and subsequently taught in Sherman, where she later became principal of Jefferson School. She did graduate study at the University of Chicago and Teachers College at Columbia University and returned home upon the death of her sister in 1905. She taught at the Presbyterian school in Durant, Oklahoma, and was science instructor and subsequently head of the biology department at Durant State Normal School (1910–12), where she became a close friend of fellow faculty member Sarah Trent. Together they bought a farm near Falfurrias, Texas, and became "farmerettes." Hockaday also worked as a member of the faculty of the Oklahoma College for Women at Chickasha.

Ella Hockaday
Ela Hockaday. Image available on the Internet and included in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107.

On the recommendation of M. B. Terrill, who had headed the teachers' college in Denton that Hockaday attended, a group of Dallas residents invited her to establish a girls' preparatory school that would be the equivalent of the boys' school that Terrill was then operating. She secured the assistance of Sarah Trent and in 1913, with ten students and a faculty of five meeting in a large house, she founded and became president of the Miss Hockaday School for Girls. Soon afterward a grade school was added and in 1931 a junior college that operated until 1951. In 1941, 384 students attended this nationally known college-preparatory school. The Hockaday Music Institute was founded in 1937 and functioned through 1946. Believing a school's first duty to be the "development of fine character," Ela Hockaday offered her students an opportunity for broad scholarship and athletic excellence while emphasizing "habitual courtesy." Hers is believed to be the first school in the Southwest to institute student government (1917), and in 1928 she sent her first travel class to Europe. In 1942 she arranged for several stockholders, including herself, to cancel their stock, giving the school to its alumnae, Dallas, and the Southwest. By 1956 a board of trustees administered the nonprofit, independent, incorporated Hockaday School. Miss Hockaday retired in 1946 but continued to live in her house on the edge of campus, the Cottage, where she gave personal counsel and encouragement to students and entertained such distinguished guests as Peter Marshall, Gertrude Stein, and Eleanor Roosevelt. The Cottage also showcased her famous antique collection and housed a gift shop that sold English silver and china.

Grave of Ela Hockaday
Grave of Ela Hockaday. Courtesy of Larry Chenault. Image available on the Internet and included in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107.

Ela Hockaday was a member of the Texas Philosophical Society, the Dallas Philological Society, the Virgilian Society of America, the Dallas Woman's Club, and the Dallas Garden Club; she was a charter member of the Standards Literary Club. She held an honorary Litt. D. from Austin College, Sherman (1940), and in 1947 was awarded the Dallas Zonta Club's Service Award. She was a Presbyterian and Democrat. She died in a Dallas hospital on March 26, 1956, and is buried at Hillcrest Memorial Park.


Dallas Morning News, March 27, 1956. Olin S. Hockaday, History of the Family of Thomas Hart Benton Hockaday, 1835–1956 (Fort Worth, 1956). National Cyclopaedia of American Biography, Vol. 42.

Image Use Disclaimer

All copyrighted materials included within the Handbook of Texas Online are in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107 related to Copyright and “Fair Use” for Non-Profit educational institutions, which permits the Texas State Historical Association (TSHA), to utilize copyrighted materials to further scholarship, education, and inform the public. The TSHA makes every effort to conform to the principles of fair use and to comply with copyright law.

For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml

If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.


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

Handbook of Texas Online, Joan Jenkins Perez, "HOCKADAY, ELA," accessed May 27, 2020, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fho06.

Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Modified on April 13, 2018. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
visit the mytsha forums to participate

View these posts and more when you register your free MyTSHA account.

Call for Papers: Texas Center for Working-Class Studies Events, Symposia, and Workshops
Hi all! You may be interested in this call for papers I received from the Texas Center for Working-Class Studies at Collin College...

Katy Jennings' Ride Scholarly Research Request
I'm doing research on Catherine Jennings Lockwood, specifically the incident known as "Katy Jennings' Ride." Her father was Gordon C. Jennings, the oldest man to die at the Alamo...

Texas Constitution of 1836 Co-Author- Elisha Pease? Ask a Historian
The TSHA profile of Elisha Marshall Pease states that he wrote part of the Texas Constitution although he was only a 24 year-old assistant secretary (not elected). I cannot find any other mention of this authorship work by Pease in other credible research about the credited Constution authors...