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The life’s story of a Clay County woman is featured as part of an exhibit at the Bullock Texas State History Museum in Austin.
Frances Klein Essler of Scotland is one of 12 Texas women whose stories are told in “Enduring Women: A Photography and Oral History Exhibit.” Essler was nominated for the honor by the Clay County Historical Society, and chosen by Professor Charles Porter and students of St. Edward’s University.
“Enduring Women” opened to the public Feb. 2, and continues through May 19 as a companion to a special exhibition, “Women Shaping Texas in the 20th Century. “Enduring Women” is on display in the Albert and Ethel Herzstein Hall of Special Exhibits.
Essler grew up on the Klein family farm north of Henrietta, near the Ikard Community, which she and her siblings still own. Through life on the farm, Frances learned to live by a strict “waste not, want not” philosophy.
“We grew up drawing water, and carrying water,” said Essler in a video made for the exhibit. “We didn’t have running water or electricity ‘til I was in the fifth grade.”
In October 1973, Frances married George Essler, and moved to a farm in west Clay County, near the Archer County community of Scotland. Frances Essler continues to work and improve the Essler farm 16 years after George’s death.
“Land ownership in rural Texas has never been for the weak in body or in spirit. Between the recurring drought, difficult cattle and crop markets, and cost of holding on to the land, there never seems to be any time for rest,” writes Porter, assistant professor of history at St. Edward’s, in the museum magazine. “But for the women featured in the new companion exhibit ‘Enduring Women,’ these challenges are a daily reality.”
Frances Essler has two sons, George Essler, Jr., and wife Wynn of Henrietta, and J.C. Essler and wife Kelley of College Station; and four grandsons, Trey, Reese and Klein Essler, and Jimmy Essler.
Frances and family traveled to Austin for an opening reception held Feb. 1.
The exhibit is a partnership between the museum and St. Edward’s University of Austin to highlight undergraduate research in the fields of oral history, art history and photography.