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Sherilyn Brandenstein

POTTER, FANNIE CORA BELLOWS (1872–1961). Fannie Bellows Potter, writer and club leader, was born to John T. and Nettie (Dowell) Bellows on February 20, 1872, on a ranch near Sunset, Texas, in what is now Montague County. She grew up in Sunset, but left as a young adult to study at the University of Chicago. Fannie returned to Texas, where in 1892 she married a young Kentuckian, W. R. Potter, who had established a medical practice in Sunset. They had a daughter. In 1909 the family moved to nearby Bowie, Texas. Fannie Potter soon became active in local women's organizations there. She also delved into writing, and her first book, Short Stories, was published in 1912. Conversing with local pioneers while accompanying her husband on house calls, she gathered information for a second book, History of Montague County, Texas, published in Bowie in 1913. By 1917 she had moved into the district presidencies of the Texas Federation of Women's Clubs and the Baptist Woman's Mission Workers. She continued writing, producing "Legend of Texas Club Women" and Progressivist essays. She wrote a play, "Who Is Our Neighbor?," to promote giving to women's club scholarship and loan funds. In the mid-1920s she joined the Texas Women's Press Association and served on the board of the Woman's Fair in Houston.

Her educational interests led her to fill multiple posts in the Texas Federation of Women's Clubs, including chairmanships of the scholarships and loans and the history committees. While serving as president of the Texas Women's Press Association in 1927, Mrs. Potter also became president of the TFWC. Under her administration, more than 200 local clubs joined the state federation. She promoted the Texas newspaper, Texas Federation News, and subscriptions nearly doubled during her term. She also encouraged and achieved a substantial increase in junior clubs for teen members during her term. As the federation's representative she worked in the Joint Legislative Council lobbying the 1927 and 1929 state legislatures for educational measures. Like the federation, the council urged legislators to implement public health and prison reforms and to provide better care for aged Texans. Fannie Potter advocated that women run for school-board posts in order to influence school policy. Her messages to club members stressed that women's key responsibilities were to upgrade public education and health services and to nurture children at home. She called on Texas women to support national federation efforts for maintaining the United States Children's Bureau and establishing a federal department of education. As her ties to the General Federation of Women's Clubs increased, she became the first national chairman to coordinate the federation's scholarship and loan program. She considered her greatest contribution to the women's club movement to be promoting education-from adult literacy to college loans-a federation theme throughout the 1920s and 1930s.

In 1929 the Texas federation established a scholarship in her honor at the College for Industrial Arts (now Texas Woman's University) at Denton. She saw her first children's book published-Bluebonnet Reader, a collection of Texas stories. Distracting her from these honors, however, was her husband's long illness and his death in December 1929. In 1930 Gov. Ross Sterling appointed Fannie Potter to the Texas Historical Board, and she also served as Montague County chairman for the Texas Centennial. In 1933 the South-West Press of Dallas published her Texas in History-Story-Legend, a reader for middle school students. She began a six-year term as a regent for Texas Technical College (now Texas Tech University) in 1935. For her women's club friends, she edited and compiled History of the Texas Federation of Women's Clubs, 1918–1938 (1941). She wrote more plays and poems and began compiling a history of the First Baptist Church of Bowie before wartime paper shortages curtailed the project. During the 1950s she increasingly focused on her home county. She championed efforts to place historical markers in Montague County. She also continued to attend the Thursday Club, the local women's group she had first joined in the 1920s. On January 29, 1961, she died in Bowie, where she was buried.

Sam Hanna Acheson, Herbert P. Gambrell, Mary Carter Toomey, and Alex M. Acheson, Jr., Texian Who's Who, Vol. 1 (Dallas: Texian, 1937). Sinclair Moreland, The Texas Women's Hall of Fame (Austin: Biographical Press, 1917). Wichita Falls Times, July 7, 1957.

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

Handbook of Texas Online, Sherilyn Brandenstein, "POTTER, FANNIE CORA BELLOWS," accessed July 09, 2020, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fpo52.

Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
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