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Last week, in honor of Women’s History Month, I wrote a bit about San Marcos Women. This week I will continue by highlighting two women who have had the honor of being named in the San Marcos Women’s Hall of Fame.
Initially, the Hall of Fame was sponsored by the San Marcos Commission for Women. However, once the Commission was dissolved, the City Clerk’s Office took responsibility for the program. The San Marcos Women’s Hall of Fame began in 1984 to honor women for their volunteerism and leadership in the community. The first four women inducted into the Women’s Hall of Fame in San Marcos included Tula Townsend Wyatt, who I briefly profiled in last week’s column. Since then, over 140 women have been inducted into the Hall of Fame.
Katherine Steen Hardeman was a San Marcos original — being born here in 1900 and having died here in 2001. She was one of the first women honored in the 1984 Women’s Hall of Fame. Hardeman, a great proponent of education, received a Bachelor’s degree from San Houston State University and her Masters in Education from Texas A&M University. She taught in the Buda, Centerpoint, Luling and San Marcos school districts until she retired in 1972. But that was not all — she served San Marcos in many ways. She served on the Henry Bush Child Development Center Advisory Board and the original City Charter Commission. She also served on the City of San Marcos Board of Directors and the Zoning and Planning Committee. She was a “Who’s Who in Texas” as well. Hardeman was a ground breaker for education in San Marcos. In 1965, she applied for an “Operation Head Start” grant from the federal government. Head Start is a program for pre-K children and at the time was in its infancy. As reported by the May 13, 1965 issue of the “San Marcos Record,” “Mrs. Katherine Hardeman is pioneering another first for San Marcos and Hays County with her school at 125 Nance Street for pre-kindergarten children from age three through six years.”
After schools in San Marcos were integrated, the teachers from the black school lost their jobs. Hardeman was the first black teacher hired by the school district. Initially, the black children were not allowed to eat in the cafeteria, so Hardeman, with two other women, helped with meals. Hardeman was an advocate for all children and left her mark on San Marcos.
Ofelia Vasquez-Philo was also inducted into the Women’s Hall of Fame in 1985. In addition to the many, many organizations Vasquez-Philo served, she was the director for Community Action, Inc. from 1970-1993. She was instrumental in the foundation of El Cen-tro Cultural Hispano de San Marcos. She was especially committed to improving education for all in San Marcos. She received her GED and bachelor’s degree while working at Community Action and was a very strong proponent for education in San Marcos, being the first Latina to serve on the San Marcos School Board. She was a charter member of the San Marcos Heritage Foundation, a member of the Hays County Historical Commission, and the San Marcos League of Women Voters. Vasquez-Philo was an active promoter of Hispanic heritage in Hays County. The Hays County Historical Commission created a video about Vasquez-Philo and her life which can be viewed here: hayshistoricalcommission. com/ philo.html Vasquez-Philo passed away on Nov. 1, 2017 at the age of 84.
The information for today’s column came from the library’s TTWC (Tula Townsend Wyatt Collection) biography files for Vasquez-Philo and the JAHC (Johnnie Armstead History Collection) courtesy of the Calaboose African American History Museum.
Suzanne Sanders is the columnist for the library. She is the Community Services Manager for the San Marcos Public Library and came from the Austin Public Library in 2015 after having served there as a librarian for over 20 years. She gratefully accepts your questions for this column.