MARY E. GEARING, (1872–1946). Mary Edna Gearing, home economist and educator, was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on April 22, 1872, but moved to Houston at a young age. In 1911 Gearing headed the domestic\science department at New York University, but she returned to Texas at the request of University of Texas president Sidney Edward Mezes in January of 1912 to begin a home economics program for the university. As an associate professor in the School of Domestic Economy, Gearing taught her first courses in a two-room wooden outbuilding. She promoted the new program by staging a series of annual home economics weeks, featuring special lecturers and demonstrations, as acommunity and state service. She was the first woman to hold the ranks of professor and department chairman at the University of Texas, andshe nurtured and shaped the School of Domestic Economy.
By 1921 the name was changed to the Department of Home Economics. When Gearing retired in 1942, after thirty-one years as chairman, the department offered six majors and included a food technology research division and an established graduate program. Gearing specialized in family economics and was an early advocate of establishing campus nursery schools to serve as laboratories in child development for home economics students. In 1927 shehelped the university establish the first nursery school in Texas with a grant from the state health department, and by 1929 the Department of Home Economics was operating the nursery with university funding. After participatingin the White House Conference on Child Health and Protection in Washington, D.C., in 1930, Gearing attemptedto establish a Foundation for Child Welfare and Parent Education at the University of Texas, but the Great Depression frustrated her efforts to raise the necessary $500,000. She planned to resume fundraising after her retirement, but these plans were interrupted by World War II. The terms of her will, which left three bequests to the university, specified that proceeds from the sale of her house be used to further a Child Welfare and Parent EducationFoundation. Ms. Gearing died at her home in Austin in 1946.
Peter Mansbendel sculpted Dr Gearing in wood for the Cactus Tea Room and in clay and cast her likeness in plaster.(~1925) See the Cactus Tea Room here.