Friday, September 6, 2013

Top 25 Moments for Women in Texas History

Certainly the most recognizable female Texas governor (there have been only two), Ann Richards began her political career during a very exciting time in Texas and US history. Now in paperback, the award-winning Let the People In by Jan Reid situates Gov. Richards in this lively political period. Because of her influence, personality, and the fact there hasn’t been a Democrat in the Texas governor’s mansion for the last 18 years, people continue to talk about her life and political career. Most recently, the media recalled Gov. Richards and her politics--especially her work with Sarah Weddington who successfully argued Roe vs. Wade in the Supreme Court in 1973--as Texas State Senator Wendy Davis undertook her marathon filibuster in the Texas legislature earlier this year.

To celebrate the paperback edition, we’ve rounded up 25 key moments of women in Texas politics. We would like to thank the Ruthe Winegarten Memorial Foundation for Texas Women’s History for compiling an extensive timeline of historical moments for Texas women on their website,

Watch the progression of women in Texas over the course of roughly 1,313 years.

Circa 700: Some women of the Caddo tribe, in present-day east and northeast Texas, become priest-chiefs (xinesí), thus possessing religious and political authority. Read more about the Caddo tribe in "The Caddo Nation."
'Kaw-u-tz (Cado)'via Southern Methodist University, Central University Libraries, DeGolyer Library,539
Circa 1686: The Caddo tribe elects a woman chief.

1731: Women are among the 56 Canary Islanders who establish first permanent civilian settlement in San Antonio. María Robaina Betancour is a leader of the settlement.

1872: Martha Bickler, a clerk for the General Land Office, is the first female state employee.

1902: Mrs. L. P. Carlisle becomes the first woman office holder in Texas, appointed to succeed her husband as Hunt County Clerk.

1912: Dr. Anna Howard Shaw, president of the National American Woman Suffrage Association, tours Texas and revives interest in woman suffrage. As a result, local suffrage leagues form in Houston, Galveston, Dallas, and San Antonio. (Austin had formed one in 1908).

1913: Texas suffragists hold their first state convention. Eleanor Brackenridge of San Antonio is elected state president and revitalizes the Texas Woman Suffrage Association, which grows to 2,500 members in one year.

1919-20: Black women vote for the first time in Texas. Three Houston women run for office on the "Black and Tan" ticket of the Republican Party (state representative, Harris County clerk, and school superintendent). Mrs. R. L. Yocome, unsuccessful candidate for state representative, may be first Texas woman to run for a legislative position.

1924: Miriam A. Ferguson, running on an anti-Ku Klux Klan ticket, is the first woman elected Governor of Texas. She drives an anti-mask bill through the legislature to combat Klan practices.
Miriam Amanda Wallace Ferguson (1875 - 1961)

1928: Oveta Culp, Texas House of Representatives parliamentarian, codifies the state's banking laws. Minnie Fisher Cunningham becomes first Texas woman to run for the United States Senate. In 1944, Minnie Fisher Cunningham runs for governor against incumbent Coke Stevenson in a Democratic Party fight between liberals and conservatives over support for President Franklin D. Roosevelt. She comes in second among nine candidates.

1942 – 1945: Col. Oveta Culp Hobby, Houston, commands the Women's Army Corps. In 1953, President Dwight D. Eisenhower adds women to his administration, including Texan Oveta Culp Hobby as the first Secretary of the Department of Health, Education and Welfare. Read about Oveta Culp’s newspaper publishing career in The First Texas News Barons and look forward to a forthcoming young adult biography by Debra Winegarten (Spring 2014).

1949: State representative Neveille Colson of Navasota becomes a state senator and the first woman to serve in each chamber of the Texas Legislature. She serves ten years in the House and another eighteen years in the Senate.

1954: Women gain the right to serve on Texas juries, largely through the efforts of the Texas League of Women Voters.

1966: Barbara Jordan is the first African American woman elected to the Texas Legislature and the first African American elected to the Texas Senate in the twentieth century; she is the only female senator throughout her two terms (1967-1973). Read more about Barbara Jordan in Barbara Jordan: Speaking the Truth with Eloquent Thunder.
Barbara Jordan, member of the United States House of Representatives.
1972: Barbara Jordan is the first African American woman from a Southern state elected to the U.S. Congress, and the first African American member of Congress from Texas. Read more about Texas leaders in Washington in Profiles in Power. The same year, six women are elected to the Texas legislature (one to the Senate and five to the House), the most ever; they include two Republicans, Betty Andujar and Kay Bailey; two black women, Senfronia Thompson and Eddie Bernice Johnson; and two Anglo women, Sarah Weddington and Chris Miller.

1973: Through the efforts of State Rep. Sarah Weddington, Texas passes the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, prohibiting discrimination based on gender, race, national origin, and age. Women can obtain credit in their own names for first time.

1975: Ann Richards is elected Travis County Commissioner.

1981: Sandra Day O'Connor, a native of El Paso, becomes the first woman U.S. Supreme Court Justice.

1982: Ann Richards is first female elected State Treasurer in Texas and first woman elected to a statewide office in more than fifty years.

1986: Judith Zaffirini, Laredo, becomes the first Tejana elected to the Texas Senate.
Texas Governor Ann Richards in 1992. Photo by Kenneth C. Zirkel.
1990: Ann Richards is elected the Governor of Texas. During her term, she appoints women as forty-seven percent of her staff and more women and minorities to positions on state boards and commissions than two previous governors combined. Read more about her race for Governor in Claytie and the Lady. The same year, Kay Bailey Hutchison is elected State Treasurer, becoming the first Republican woman elected to statewide office in Texas, State Rep. Wilhelmina Delco, Austin, becomes the first female and first African American Speaker Pro Tempore of the Texas House of Representatives, and Nelda Wells Spears is the first African American woman in Texas elected county tax assessor-collector (in a Travis County special election). She wins a full term in 1992.

1993: Kay Bailey Hutchison wins a special election to the U.S. Senate, becoming the first female U.S. Senator from Texas.
U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison. Photo by Lauren Gerson at the LBJ Library
1996: Laura Bush, the First Lady of Texas, organizes the first Texas Book Festival to promote Texas authors and literacy.

2009: Houston becomes the largest city to elect an openly gay mayor, Annise Parker.

2013: June 25, Wendy Davis gains international attention when she began a filibuster to block the Senate Bill 5.

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