Who the Heck Was . . . Alice E. Carlson?

You probably have heard of Fort Worth’s Alice E. Carlson Elementary School. It’s located on West Cantey Street on the northern edge of the TCU campus.

But who was Alice E. Carlson?

She was born “Alice Elliston” in 1871 at Birdville. Her father, J. Frank Elliston, had settled at Birdville in 1848. Alice’s mother was Sarah Boaz, sister of William Jesse Boaz. The Boazes had settled at Birdville in 1850.

J. Frank Elliston was a deputy sheriff in 1876.

Alice was listed in the 1880 census as “Allie.”

No individual identification is available for this photo of the family of J. Frank and Sarah Boaz Elliston. But because Alice was three years younger than sister Tennie, Alice is probably on the left. (Photo from Tarrant County College Northeast, Heritage Room.)

Alice graduated from Fort Worth High School in 1885 when the faculty numbered two teachers and the enrollment fewer than twenty students. One of her teachers was Lily B. Clayton.

Alice, too, became a teacher, and from 1891 to 1898 taught in Fort Worth ward schools.

In fact, during her eight years as a teacher, Alice got quite a tour of the ward schools: the Seventh Ward School on Magnolia Avenue in 1891, the Fifth Ward School on Missouri Avenue in 1893, the Ninth Ward School on Gounah Street in the Samuels Avenue neighborhood in 1896.

In 1898 she married Dr. Olaf F. Carlson and gave up teaching, although she was active in educational, church, civic, musical, and political affairs.

She was active in the PTA of Walter A. Huffman School, located on East Belknap Street in the First Ward.

She was active in Weatherford Street Methodist Church.

She was active in the Tarrant County Humane Society. Mrs. Carlson also was state chairman of the American Humane Education Society for three years.

Mrs. Carlson taught piano and was a popular entertainer at social events, such as an Elks Club dance at Lake Erie trolley park on the interurban.

She was an early member of the Harmony Club.

Mrs. Carlson was active in politics, promoting women’s suffrage. In 1922 she attended the state Democratic convention when the major issue was the Ku Klux Klan.

As Fort Worth was building its third incarnation of its high school in 1917, Mrs. Carlson said the new school should be named for longtime teacher Clara Peak Walden because Walden  “did valiant service for the cause of education in Fort Worth” and because Fort Worth should have a school named for a woman.

Clara Walden would not be the first woman for which a Fort Worth school was named, but Mrs. Carlson in 1921 would achieve a first of her own: She was the first woman elected to the Fort Worth school board. The next year Fort Worth would name a school for a woman: Lily B. Clayton.

Note the headline about Joe Furey, who had been one of the conmen tracked down by J. Frank Norfleet. In 1921 prison authorities in Huntsville feared that an attempt would be made to free Furey.

In 1923 Fort Worth’s first female school board member left her male colleagues speechless when she introduced a motion banning lipstick for high school girls.

Carlson’s motion did allow the sparing use of other cosmetics.

She said, “Cosmetics used sparingly are really good for the complexion. I don’t agree with any move to ban cosmetics absolutely. . . . I think any woman looks a bit better with little powder on her face.”

“I am like you, Mrs. Carlson,” said J. C. Griffith, president of the board. “I’m for anything that will make them look better.”

Mrs. Carlson also recommended a style of dress for high school girls. She said the dress should hang loose from the shoulders, be of appropriate colors, not expensive and not cheap, and of a material that launders well.

The six male board members sat in silence after Mrs. Carlson completed her recommendations. They made no second to advance her motion, and it died. Mrs. Carlson attributed the lack of support to the lipstick clause.

Mrs. Carlson served three terms on the school board before resigning in 1926 because of failing health.

Alice Elliston Carlson died on January 20, 1927 at age fifty-five. News of her death shared the front page with the murder trial of J. Frank Norris, accused of killing Dexter Chipps.

The next day Fort Worth schools were dismissed early so that students and educators might attend her funeral.

Mrs. Carlson was buried in Birdville Cemetery.

A few months after she died a school named for her was opened. Also opening in 1927 were E. M. Daggett Elementary, William James Junior High, and W. C. Stripling High schools. The Stripling school would become a junior high school in 1937.

Alice E. Carlson’s eponymous school was designed by Wiley G. Clarkson.

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2 Responses to Who the Heck Was . . . Alice E. Carlson?

  1. Dan Washmon says:

    The original D.McRae–the building that faced Millet– was built in 1918. The “new” building facing Avenue N was built in 1937 and the one-story annex between the two was added in the early 1950s….Now…the mystery….A commemorative plate sold in the 1940s dates the new building as 1927….I have seen undocumented statements that the original building was two-story and a third was added later….Both the first and second floors were concrete in the hallways, but the third floor was all wooden…classroom as well as the hall….By the time I was in Ann Carolyn Thornton’s third grade class (southeast corner), the stairways to the third floor and parts of the hall floor were squishy and I think the next year the third floor was unoccupied….In the 1980s there was a major renovation and I think that floor was completely reworked….Does FWISD have any documentation about the addition of the third floor around 1927?

    • hometown says:

      Detective Dan, you have outdone yourself once again. Miss Pool would be proud. I was not aware of all these layers to the history (and mystery) of our alma mater. I had thought there were only two layers–old building and new building. I assumed that the annex between the two was built at the time of the new building. And had no idea that a third floor was built later.

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