PPW is approaching its 93rd birthday in April, but March happens to be Women’s History Month. So I thought it might be good to take this opportunity to celebrate our beginnings. Our original name was Panhandle Pen Women. As time moved on we decided to include men in the organization as well, but it wasn’t until 1987 when the organization decided to apply for an IRS non-profit status that they also decided to change the name to Panhandle Professional Writers in an effort to keep the initials the same and reflect the fact that the group welcomed any writer, not just women.
But we need to pay homage to the women who started it all. Many of their names have become buried in the collected scrapbooks that chronicle our history. One name stands out. She was our first President and a lady of considerable accomplishment. She didn’t start the organization by herself of course and we tip our hats to her cohorts as well, but her history is well documents.
Laura V. Hamner was hailed as the Panhandle’s first historian. As a twenty-year-old, fresh out of Peabody College in Nashville, she stepped down from the train in Claude, Texas, one day in 1891. Simply eager to see her parents and her sister, she had no notion that before she died she would exert her influence on the cultural awareness of Panhandle people as few others have done.
She was a spinster, cared for her parents (and a nephew who died at age four), taught school, served as postmistress and Potter County school superintendent. She delayed her full-fledged writing career until she was past sixty.
In 1935, she published The No Gun Man of Texas about pioneer rancher, Charles Goodnight. It was the first self-published book to be adopted by the State Board of Education. She also had four other books published.
Miss Hamner wrote and recorded at least 430 “Light N Hitch” radio programs on KGNC, in Amarillo, Texas, telling the stories of the Panhandle pioneers. And she wrote two columns for the Amarillo News-Globe — “Talk to Teens” and “Spinster on the Prowl” — for about thirty years.
She served as PPW president four times, 1921-1922, 1931, 1941 and finally in 1950.
She received many honors — culminating with the Texas Heritage Foundation National Medal presented at a PPW meeting on her 92nd birthday. She died in 1968 at age ninety-seven.
Miss Hamner has been memorialized in a mini opera, “Laura V,” written by Gene Murray, under the auspices of the Amarillo Opera. A number of grateful modern-day PPW members were in the audience for the premiere production at the Gem Theater in Claude, TX, in June of 1998.
I can look at our list of past Presidents and name from personal experience some of the women I would consider women of note in PPW’s history as well as in the annals of Panhandle history. This blog post would be more like an online book if I took the time to write all of their praises.
If you happen to know the name and history of one of PPW’s early women of note, please leave a comment about who she was and what her contribution was to our history. Help us celebrate the rich history of Panhandle women.
Want to learn more about PPW? Click on this link: http://www.panhandleprowriters.org/