Carolyn Farwell Fuller

Author: 

When Carolyn Farwell Fuller first entered the education field, it was as a schoolteacher—the highest position a female educator could attain in the early 1900s. She surely couldn’t have predicted her groundbreaking role as the first female to serve on the Kansas City Board of Education.

Carolyn Fuller
Carolyn Fuller. Courtesy of the Missouri Valley Special Collections.

Carolyn Farwell Fuller had originally hoped to become a professional singer, but abandoned this goal upon marrying. She taught music at Central High School for eight years. After the death of her first husband in 1909 and her marriage to banker George Fuller, she turned to civic affairs.

Carolyn engaged in a whirlwind of community activity that showcased her organizational and leadership skills. She served two terms as president of the Kansas City Musical Club, and three terms as president of the Athenaeum, a prominent social and civic group for women. She helped organize the Twentieth Century Club, a Republican women’s political organization, and served two terms as president. She was also the local chair of the first “good roads” campaign in Missouri.

Given her background in education and leading role in civic affairs, Carolyn was a logical choice for board of education membership. She had to be persuaded to run, for she feared the public wasn’t ready for female public leadership. She needn’t have worried, for she won her school board seat by 67,000 votes.

Fuller showed a pragmatic approach to education. She strongly advocated practical, vocational education without slighting cultural attainments. Her first act as board member was ordering the inspection and repair of all school showers. She believed that the “well-kept child” was more mentally alert.

Fuller’s first term on the board of education proved so successful that she was easily elected for a second six-year term. She chose retirement over the chance to run for a third term in 1934.

Carolyn Farwell Fuller died in 1944, after a full life of civic leadership.

Acknowledgement: 

A version of this article previously appeared at http://www.kchistory.org/content/biography-carolyn-farwell-fuller-1875-1...

KANSAS CITY PUBLIC LIBRARY | DIGITAL HISTORY
Civil War on the Western Border: The Missouri-Kansas Conflict,1855-1865.
The Pendergast Years, Kansas City in the Jazz Age & Great Depression.
KC History, Missouri Valley Special Collections at the Kansas City Public Library.