Family Legacy

Dorothy Howard Items Dorothy Howard Items

Ms. Barfoot felt an obligation to both teaching an learning. She was named the Head of Department at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, before coming to Kansas State University in 1930 as an associate professor of art in the College of Human Ecology. Nellie Sawyer Kedzie Jones was the first K-State female professor; her legacy in the College of Human Ecology was still strong when Dorothy was hired (“Kansas State University”). Dorothy must have felt that teaching was the best way to learn, because she taught six classes her first year at Kansas State University and was considered a graduate student as well. Throughout her career, Dorothy would teach a total of twenty-seven different art classes and spend seven of her thirty-six years at the university as a graduate summer school student (Kansas State University Course Catalog).  

At the beginning of her time in Manhattan, Kansas, Dorothy rented a house at 1429 Laramie Street for $30 a month. In 1954, she bought a house, and her permanent residence became 815 Sunset Avenue. Dorothy’s world revolved around the university; she dedicated her life to her students and her colleagues recognized this. On her personal biography forms for the university, she listed her only hobby as “crafts” (Kansas State University Media Relatinos). She became a woman in a position of power during the early-to-mid twentieth century.

Dorothy worked her way up the ladder; she was a strong-willed woman in a man’s work environment. In 1932, she became the chairman of the committee for Home Economics Art Program, and she was paid $2,500 each year. Three years later, in 1935, Dorothy became the Head of the Art Department (Kansas State University Historical Index), and received a salary upgrade of $200 a year (“Historical Records and Person Search”); this is roughly equivalent to $45,500 today (“Databases, Tables and Calculators by Subject”). Dorothy was not the first female to occupy the position as the head of a department, but she played a role in one of the largest movements in female history. In the 1930s, only about 14.2 percent of professionals were female, and these women worked primarily in the education field, as 80 percent of schoolteachers, 1.6 percent of superintendents, and 16.7 percent of chairs of departments in universities were women. Despite these staggering numbers, women only occupied 4 percent of professorships. This miniscule representation of the 3.3 percent of graduate students that were women shows the marginalization that was prominent when Dorothy was chosen to become the Head of the Art Department (Chafe).

When her father died in 1939, Dorothy received his eyeglasses. It is possible that Dorothy wanted to preserve a part of her father by owning his glasses, but it is more likely that Dorothy also saw them as a symbol for much more than her father’s life. Glasses are traditionally a symbol of intelligence, class, and clarity. Dorothy spent her entire professional life dedicating herself to broadening her own mind as well as the minds of others. Dorothy was devoted to the up-and-coming female movement for higher education, and her father’s spectacles show her commitment to being an artist, teacher, and a woman in academia.

Dorothy was a force to be reckoned with, and she spread her passion for art across the globe. In her time at the university, she went on two six-month sabbaticals. These excursions led her to teach art and ceramics at the Holmann Institute of Agra, India in 1946 and 1955. She is quoted as saying, “One of the purposes of a sabbatical is to improve yourself either through further education or traveling; in this way you can improve your teaching. I learn more from traveling and seeing things in myself than I do reading about them or seeing slides. So instead of finishing my doctorate, I went around the world twice” (Kansas State University Media Relations). During her sabbaticals, Dorothy only received 50 percent of her usual salary—rather than her typical $3,800 yearly, she accepted $1,900 while she was traveling. As well as traveling around the world, Dorothy traveled around the United States to attend many conferences. In 1936, she attended a Conference on the Fine Arts at her alma mater, Iowa State University. She attended other events in Chicago, New York City, Atlantic City, and Evanston, Illinois (Kansas State University Historical Index).


Dorothy Howard Items Dorothy Howard Items

Her love of travel was apparent, but Dorothy was more actively involved in the art community. She was a member of several honor societies, professional organizations, and social clubs: Delta Phi Delta (art), Phi Kappa Phi (scholarship), Kappa Delta Pi (education), Omicron Nu (home economics), the Chamber of Commerce, Adult Higher Education Alliance, Western Arts Alliance, National Association of Woman’s Artists, American Association of University Women, National Educators Association, and the Kansas State Art Teachers Association. Within these groups, Dorothy served as an active member, a committee head, and a chairman (Kansas State University Media Relations). Her time spent in these groups and teaching shows that Dorothy was not a woman that sat at home and remained passive. She was always focused on expanding her perception of the world so that she could share it with others.

As a professor of art, it was expected that Dorothy produced art in her given medium. Ms. Barfoot chose to paint. Her piece “Ferry Dock” was accepted for the 43rd annual National Association of Women Painters and Sculptors in New York City in 1936, and her piece “An Airplane View of the Fields of Iowa” was in an International Aeronautical Art Exhibition in Los Angeles in 1937 (Kansas State University Historical Index). She also drew a buffalo design that was used on the cover of the Kansas Magazine for the years 1933-1934 (Craig). Despite her success in academia, Dorothy’s art did not live on. She is mentioned in only three books: Arizona’s Pioneering Women Artists: Impressions of the Grand Canyon State by Betsy Fahlman and Lonnie Pierson Dunbier, Biographical Directory of Kansas Artists Active Before 1945 by Susan Craig, and Who was Who in American Art, 1564-1975 by Peter Hastings Falk. None of these books feature her artwork in any way. Her name is accompanied by a brief summary of her schooling, and she is surrounded by the names and lives of other marginalized artists in the twentieth century (“Ask Art: The Artists’ Bluebook”).

Dorothy’s face did not change much throughout the years; a stern line across her brow got a little deeper and her eyes grew more weary. At its peak, her name appeared up to four times a year in Kansas State’s Royal Purple Yearbook. Sometimes she was listed in a photo caption for the art club or the listing of faculty advisors for the Wise club and AXD sorority. There were years when she was not mentioned at all because of her status as an assistant professor or because she was on sabbatical. As her years and time at Kansas State University progressed, however, Ms. Barfoot found herself listed only as the Department Head of Art for another year, year after year, until her retirement in 1966 (Kansas State University media Relations).

Dorothy Barfoot may have retired, but she never stopped working. This active woman continued to share her love of the arts by teaching weaving and other crafts at a local elementary school for twenty-two years after her retirement. Little else is recorded about the life of this remarkable woman. Her day-to-day life during her time at Kansas State University was focused only on her students and her work. She died October 28, 1984, at the age of 88. Her life spanned two World Wars, the Industrial Revolution, the Great Depression, and the development of equality for women in the United States. Her legacy lives on for those that wish to experience the world of a woman that refused to give up in a world that was trying to smother her.