An unwitting North Texas ‘movie star’, Edna Gladney was the first real voice for homeless children in North Texas. Born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Edna arrived in North Texas in 1904…

Edna Gladney was the subject of an MGM movie, “Blossoms In The Dust”, that portrayed her life in North Texas – Gainesville, Sherman, and Fort Worth – and the beginnings of her philanthropy toward homeless & orphaned children. 

The start of it all came after she married Sam Gladney and they moved to Sherman so Sam could buy a grain mill and start the Gladiola Flour company. Edna joined the Sherman Civic Society which among other things investigated the cleanliness of facilities in the area. It was the Grayson County Poor Farm which caught her attention, and she swiftly implored the Grayson County Commissioner to do something to improve the conditions there. While waiting for their answer, Edna roused the Civic Society to help clean it up, and helped transition the children to the Texas Home Society in Fort Worth.

“There are no illegitimate children, only illegitimate parents” ~ Edna Gladney at the Texas Legislature

In 1927, Edna became the  Superintendent of the Texas Children’s Home in 1927 and planned to stay in the position, primarily as a fundraiser, for only a year. Instead, she remained as superintendent for 33 years.

Gladney fought two important legislative battles on behalf of adoption. Thanks to her efforts, in 1936 Texas legislators passed a bill that made Texas the first state in the Southwest to legally remove the stigma of illegitimacy from birth records. 

Edna Gladney’s second legislative battle was in 1951. Mrs. Gladney successfully argued that adopted children should have the same inheritance rights as biological children and that they should be legally adopted rather than placed in a long-term guardianship.

In 1939, Ralph Wheelwright, an MGM publicist who had adopted a child from the Texas Children’s Home, developed a story based on Gladney’s work, which became the film Blossoms in the Dust. The 1941 film starred Greer Garson and Walter Pidgeon as Edna and Sam Gladney, and was the first of eight films the actors made together. The film’s sets, noted for their accuracy, were based on detailed photographs shot on location in Sherman, Fort Worth, and Austin, Texas. All of Gladney’s proceeds from the film went back into funding the children’s home.

The film cost $1.1 million to produce; it grossed $2.65 million in box office ticket sales around the world.

McLeRoy, Sherrie S. (2014). Texas Adoption Activist Edna Gladney: A Life and Legacy of Love. Charleston: The History Press.

Visit the Gladney Center For Adoption

Gladney exists to give children loving, caring families here at home and around the world. That’s the heart of our mission.”

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