Mary E. V. Edwards Hunter

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Mary Evelyn V. Edwards Hunter (August 11, 1885-March 4, 1967) was the founder and director of the Division of Home Economics at Virginia State College for Negroes.

Life and Education

Mary Edwards Hunter was born on August 11, 1885 in Finchburg, Alabama. She was the fifteenth of seventeen children born to Elijah E. and Frances (Moore) Edwards. While a young child, she became the bookkeeper for her father's store, sawmill and gin. She was also a teacher, teaching subjects such as reading, writing and African history to adults.As a teacher, she married the principal of the local black high school, J.A. Hunter. They moved to La Porte, Texas and bought a ranch to live on. The couple had two sons but J.A. Hunter died when they were still young.

Mary remained in La Porte and became a teacher for black children while attending classes at Prairie View Normal College during the summers. In 1915, she became one of the first two black agents for the Texas Agricultural Extension Service when the agency established a separate service for black people in Texas. It was headquartered at Prairie View Normal College. As a home demonstration agent, Hunter traveled the state teaching nutrition, health,, and home economics to community groups and low-income families. Later, she became a trainer for other agents and wrote a county agents' training guide. Under her supervision, the program grew to twenty-three agents and nearly 30,000 female club members. Because of her public speaking and domestic education projects, she was in high demand for presentations to women of all races. She accepted invitations to white women on the condition that the audiences be racially integrated.

Hunter was noted for her efforts to promote home improvement and home ownership among black communities in Texas. Mary Hunter was noted for her efforts to promote home improvement and home ownership among blacks in Texas. She also coordinated a campaign for them to purchase land cooperatively for campgrounds. As an advocate of adult education, she fostered the Rural and Town Pastors' Short Courses, annual conferences where regional black leaders presented lectures.

Hunter was the secretary of the Texas branch of the Commission on Interracial Cooperation. She was also active in the Texas Federation of Colored Women's Clubs. While there, she wrote the 1927 legislation authorizing establishment of the state training school for delinquent black girls, which became the Crockett State School.

While running all of these campaigns, Hunter completed her B.S. at Prairie View College in 1926 and her M.S. in Home Economics Education at Iowa State College in 1931. Her thesis was titled, “The effects of Home Economics training on the practices of black families in Texas”.

She died in Petersburg on March 4, 1967 and was buried in Blandford Cemetery.

HBCU Contribution

She became the first black person appointed to the board of directors of St. Philip's Junior College in San Antonio.

In 1931, she moved to Petersburg, Virginia to direct the Home Economics program at Virginia State College for Negroes. She increased the emphasis of the program on research. She also helped to establish the graduate division of the program.

She retired from Virginia State College in 1954.