Elizabeth Grace Mary Glenn Thomas



A Reluctant Pioneer

Taken from: Bonnets to Boardrooms

Elizabeth Glenn Thomas was born on July 2, 1913 and died on October 30, 1989.

Both Betty and her father Herbert were born and died in the same house at 195 North Professor Street in Oberlin. Betty graduated from the Oberlin Kindergarten-Primary Training School and, in 1936, from Oberlin College.

In 1942 she married attorney Phillip Thomas.

[Elizabeth Thomas was] the first African American teacher in Oberlin's public schools, Betty worked there for thirty-two years and volunteered in them for ten more years after her retirement in 1975. She was also a volunteer at Allen Memorial Hospital, Mount Zion Baptist Church, Meals on Wheels, Church Women United, the board of the Oberlin chapter of the American Association of University Women, and the Oral History Committee of the Oberlin Heritage Center.

Vanek, Eugenia Poporad. Bonnets to Boardrooms: Womens Stories From a Historic College Town. Oberlin Heritage Center, 2014.

Elizabeth “Betty” Thomas

Elizabeth “Betty” Thomas

As I look back on it now, it seems very strange that it wasn’t until 1940 that they even had a Black teacher in Oberlin. I was so busy teaching and trying to help look after my father that it didn’t really hit me that I was the first Black teacher in Oberlin.