“There are no illegitimate children, only illegitimate parents.” -Edna Gladney
Edna Gladney never bore children of her own, but because of her work she single-handedly gave more than 10,000 children a place to call home.
Born in 1886 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Edna soon moved to Texas where she spent the majority of her years. At just 20 years old, she witnessed the terrible conditions at the Grayson County poor farm. Especially appalled by the children’s conditions, Edna arranged for their transfer to the Morris Children’s Hospital and Aid Society in Forth Worth. Within years she had earned a spot on the Society’s board of directors.
Backed by her own finances, Edna opened a free day care center in Sherman, Texas to aid children of poor working families. In 1927, she was appointed superintendent of the Texas Children’s Home and Aid Society, where she continued to advocate for abandoned and underprivileged children and facilitate adoptions.
Under her new title, Edna successfully campaigned to have the word “illegitimate” removed from birth certificates. She also worked to ensure that adopted children in the state of Texas received the same equal inheritance rights as other children. In appreciation, the Society named its new hospital the Edna Gladney Home in 1950.
In 1957, Edna was awarded an honorary doctor of laws degree from Texas Christian University for her work.
Edna’s larger-than-life contributions were even recognized by Hollywood in Blossoms in the Dust (1941), which starred Oscar-nominated actress Greer Garson as Edna. On and off the big screen, there’s no question that Edna was a leading lady. With equal parts compassion and conviction, she refused to settle for inadequacy and made sure every child in Texas would never have to, either.
Edna Gladney passed away from illness in 1961, but her legacy lives on through the tens of thousands of children for which she spent her life crusading.
by Maggie Gilbert