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Madera Biographies: BAGNELLE

            MISS ESTELLA BAGNELLE.  In on filed of activity has the influence of woman been more uplifting and permanent than in educational affairs.  Legion are the names of those women who, in large cities or remote hamlets, have contributed to the development of the public school system and the advancement of our standard of education.  To a large extent they have labored directly in the schoolrooms, but a few have been chosen to the even greater responsibility of acting as county superintendent of schools, and have thus carried the burden of the success or failure of each individual worker.  In every position to which Miss Bagnelle has been chosen, whether that of teacher, principal of schools, member of the board of education or county superintendent of schools, she has impressed her individuality upon her associates, and by originality of ideas, breadth of knowledge and success in discipline she has won the esteem of the members of her profession and the patrons of the public schools.

            Many of the qualities that have contributed to Miss Bagnelle’s success in educational work come to her from a worth ancestry.  Her father.  J. D. Bagnelle was born in Mississippi, of an old southern family descended from French progenitors and identified with the early history of Virginia.  During his early manhood he moved to Illinois and engaged in the mercantile business at Litchfield, Montgomery County, until his early death.  He married Amanda Slaughter, who was born in Tennessee and survived him many years, passing away December 28, 1901.  The lineage of the Slaughter family is traced back to 1608 England in Scotland, and three brothers coming from that country founded the family in America.  Mrs. Bagnelle’s father, father, Capt. L. R. Slaughter, a native of Tennessee and a pioneer cabinet-maker, builder and lumberman of Hillsboro, Ill., served during the Civil war as captain of Company D, One Hundred and twenty sixth Illinois Infantry.  After the war he engaged in merchandising in Litchfield, Ill.  From there he came to California in 1881 he removed and settled in San Jose, where he planted an orchard and became interested in horticulture. In 1887 he removed to a ranch near Madera.  His death occurred in Madera, January 1903, when he had attained eight-four years of age.  On the twenty-first anniversary of his birth he was made a Mason and for more than sixty years continued a disciple of the high principle of the order.  Politically he voted the Democratic ticket at local and general elections.  His wife, who was Mary Stultz, a native of Tennessee, died in 1892.  Both were identified with the Methodist Episcopal Church and liberal in their contributions to religious movements.

             Miss Bagnelle was one of three children, the others being Ray L., of Madera, and George, who resides in San Francisco.  Her education, begun in Litchfield, Ill., her native town, was completed in the state normal school of San Jose from which she was graduated in 1885.  After teaching for a year in San Jose, in 1887 she began to teach in the district schools of Madera County, and afterward was for eight years connected with the Madera schools.  During the first six years of this time she held the position of vice-principal and then for two years served as principal.  In 1898 she was nominated for county superintendent of schools on the Democratic ticket and received a majority of one hundred and forty, taking the oath of office in January 1899, for a term of four years.  At the expiration of that time, in 1902, she was reelected without opposition, a fact which furnishes abundant testimony as to the efficiency of her services.  Her successful experience as an educator especially qualifies her for the office she now fills.  Having been a teacher, she understands thoroughly the many difficulties that teaches have to contend with and the many impediments that interfere with their fullest success.  There are four improvements for which she has labored indefatigably, namely:  uniformity of the books; higher standard of teachers; better salaries; more interest among trustees.  To the securing of these results she has given time, thought and attention, and whatever improvements in these directions future years may bring they may be attributed in large degree to her efforts during the years of her connection with the schools.  Aside from her duties as superintendent she acts as secretary to the San Joaquin Teachers; Association, is warmly interested in the National Education Association, and has the deepest sympathy with al movements for the benefit of the profession.  May 1893, she was chosen a member of the county board of education, at the time of the organization of Madera County, and since 1890 she has officiated as secretary of the board.

Guinn, J. M., History of the State of California and Biographical Record of the San Joaquin Valley, California, (Chicago: Chapman Publishing, 1905), page 697.

Transcribed by Harriet Sturk.

Last update: August 29, 2000
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