Always proud of their own, Texas went all out in the cheering section when Grace Noll Crowell of Dallas was selected National Mother of the Year of 1938. Several years before the city of Dallas had celebrated her birthday in grand style – her poems were read on radio programs, newspapers printed feature stories and editorials about her, and her church friends came with a silk quilt and a huge cake. That was the year the State Legislature voted her Poet Laureate of Texas.
But Grace Noll Crowell was not always a resident of the Lone Star State. She began life on a farm near Inland, Iowa and hers was a happy, light hearted childhood. Grace’s father was of Pennsylvania Dutch stock and her mother a Virginian. At a very early age Grace was assigned the task of memorizing a Scripture verse for each day. She found many verses she did not understand but which attracted her by their special beauty. In this experience, she says she “distinctly heard trumpets blowing, drums beating and the air seemingly filled with invisible wings.”
The young girl’s buoyant spirits found expression in verse on occasion but her family good naturally laughed at her attempts. Grace’s favorite activity was housekeeping. This experience came in handy when she met Norman Crowell, a young bank clerk who wrote articles in his spare time. They were married and set up housekeeping in a small town near her old home.
Grace had looked forward to motherhood, but the birth of her first child, Dean, brought not only joy but a nerve and spine disorder which was to keep her in bed for many months and to plague her for the rest of her life. One day out of her pain and frustration, Grace put her thoughts into verse and the very writing seemed to relieve something within her. Norman encouraged her and sent one of her poems to a magazine. To her delight, it was accepted and she received a check for $5. This was the beginning of many acceptances and of volumes of verse to be published in this country, in England and translated into Braille.
Grace’s health improved and they moved to Sioux City. She had two more sons and in 1917 the family transferred to Texas. Grace felt that religious training was something a mother owed her children. “I cannot imagine a faithful mother not believing in it, or not attempting to practice it to the very best of her ability,” she said once. Her sons profited by her careful training. Dean went into banking , Reid into art and Norton into teaching at Southern Methodist University.
The Crowells were all Methodists and took their place in the work of the local church. Many struggling writers received advice and encouragement from Grace and she helped many work their way up to success. With all the honors awarded her poetry, Grace Noll Crowell was the happiest that her poems were often found tacked over the kitchen sink where they brought comfort and joy and the almost imperceptible rustle of wings to lighten the routine of the busy mother.
The woman who a thousand times
Would hear her agony of pain
To save her child from needless hurt;
To keep him clean and free from stain;
To know that he would walk at last
A man across the earth’s bright sod!
An honor to his land, his flag,
A glory to his home – his God.
Grace Noll Crowell