"The Woman of It":
Governor Miriam Ferguson 's 1924 Election
THE STORY OF MIRIAM FERGUSON'S ELECTION AS THE FIRST WOMAN
governor of Texas in 1924 is filled with ironies. Although women's
newly won voting rights made her candidacy possible, she and her hus-
band Jim Ferguson had vigorously opposed woman suffrage. Supporters
of women's enfranchisement argued that women would help purify poli-
tics; yet, as a proxy, Ferguson helped her husband, a former Texas gover-
nor whose corruption had led to impeachment, regain control of the
state's highest office. Newspapers announced her election with headlines
such as "First Woman Governor Created by Suffrage of People Named by
Texas" and "Woman has Broken Down Another Barrier."' Leaders of the
Texas woman suffrage movement, however, had protested Ferguson's
candidacy. Some former suffragists had even vowed to vote for the Klan-
backed candidate before supporting the wife of the man who had given a
keynote address opposing the inclusion of a woman suffrage plank in the
platform at the Democratic national convention of 1916.
While Miriam Ferguson gained support from some women leaders,
others could not forget suffragists' long history of fightingJim Ferguson.
In 1918 organized women, under the leadership of Minnie Fisher Cun-
ningham, traded Governor William P. Hobby a promise of women's
votes in exchange for legislation enfranchising them for the gubernator-
ial primary.2 After Jim Ferguson lost to Hobby, he blamed these women.
In 1924 he must have felt sweet revenge when his wife faced Felix D.
* Shelley Sallee is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of History at the University of Texas
at Austin (email@example.com). Her dissertation is titled "Inventing 'the Forgotten Man,'
Domesticating the Working Woman Southern Progressives and White Chile Labor, 188o-192o."
She is from Tennessee and earned her undergraduate degree at Smith College. The author
would like to thank Neil Foley, Norman D. Brown, Megan Seaholm, Richard Graham, Lewis
Gould, Debbie Cottrell, and Wallis Goodman for their comments on her research and writing on
Miriam Ferguson's 1924 campaign.
Austin American, Aug. 25, 1924.
2Judith N McArthur, "Motherhood and Reform in the New South: Texas Women's Political
Culture in the Progressive Era" (Ph.D. diss., University of Texas at Austin, 1992), 552-555 This
is the most complete account of how suffragists organized women voters againstJim Ferguson.
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 100, July 1996 - April, 1997. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101218/. Accessed May 22, 2013.