Frances Jane Pilling Warren

Areas of Achievement: 
Community Building

Honored By

Honored by: Grossetta, Bruce and Gail
Date submitted: November 01, 2011
Gift: Lighting Fixture

Early Tucson educator Frances Jane Pilling Warren is a compelling addition to the UA Womens' Plaza of Honor. Beginning in 1881 Warren contributed to and impacted a broad and deep segment of the Tucson community in a positive and powerful way for over 30 years. Affecting several generations, Warren taught the children of many pioneer Tucson families as well as the cowboys on the Grossetta ranch for many years, sometimes paid, and often as a volunteer. She was known to develop students of character, purpose and high ideals using the methods of love and respect.

Born the ninth of eleven children in Willow Springs, Wisconsin, in 1840, Frances Pilling was educated and taught school in Wisconsin. She married Dr. Joseph F. Warren, a dentist in Terre Haute, Indiana, in 1860 but Dr. Warren died only four years later. After she was widowed, Frances Jane Pilling Warren and her daughter Bessie traveled west in 1874, according to family legend in a covered wagon.

Warren taught school for some years in California and then came in an "emigrant wagon train" to visit her younger brother, Tucson physician Dr. Henry H. Pilling. Warren liked the little frontier town of Tucson, and as a trained and experienced educator she soon began to teach school here, first in one half of a double house in the Buell Addition. She initially had twenty pupils but soon had fifty students as word spread about her fine teaching. Mrs. Warren then moved to Safford School where she taught many years and was also principal.

She was appointed as Superintendent of Tucson School District No 1 in 1895. Prior to the appointment, one School Board member strenuously objected to "the election of any lady to fill the responsible position of principal of the schools of this district on the grounds that the duties and responsibilities of the position are too arduous to be properly fulfilled by a lady teacher, and the schools will suffer."

In 1905, Mrs. Warren was part of what the local newspaper called "the liveliest school election ever held here." She ran against Samuel H. Drachman for the post of School Trustee. Of the 457 votes cast, Mrs. Warren received 205 and Mr. Drachman, long the incumbent on the board, received 252. The newspaper suggested that if the polls had been open one hour longer the result would have been different.

Although she lost the election, by running, she became the first woman in Arizona history to stand for public office insofar as is known.

An active member of the Saturday Morning Musical Club, the Delphian society, Eastern Star, the Archeological Society of Arizona, the Congregational Church, and a charter member of the Tucson Womens' Club, Warren was known throughout Arizona for contributions to community and education, and for her club work.
She was also involved, sometimes as a "silent partner" in business and real estate ventures with her daughter and son-in-law, Bessie and A.V. Grossetta.

Frances Warren lived in Tucson for 47 years, taught for more than 30 years, and died in 1928 at age 88.

Frances Jane Pilling Warren's role in education and her impact on Tucson during the Territorial years were recognized in 1975 by the naming of a new elementary school for her, Frances Warren Elementary School in southeast Tucson.