Texas Heritage, Volume 2, Number 2, Spring 1985

By 1918, under the leadership of Eleanor
Brackenridge, Minnie Fisher
Cunningham, Jane Y. McCallum and
others, Texas women had won the right
to vote in state elections-before the
ratification of the 19th amendment to
the U.S. Constitution which gave them
the right to vote in federal elections.
After they had the franchise, hundreds
of women ran for office in the 1920s.
By 1921, 109 of the state's 254 county
treasurers were women. Women served
in the Texas House and Senate, on
school boards and city councils.
Texas governors recognized the growing
political clout of women as early as
1918, when more than 386,000 women
registered to vote in only 17 days to
help woman's suffrage supporter William
P. Hobby win the primary election.
As a result, Texas governors began
appointing women to powerful
posts in state government. Two women
served as Secretary of State. Thirtytwo
women were members of boards
and commissions. And in 1925, a session
of Texas highest judicial body was
presided over by the unique all-women
Supreme Court.
The political arena was not the only
area where Texas women left their
imprint.
The richness and value of community
life in most Texas cities and small
towns can be traced to the activities of
women. In fact, when you want to discover
the history of women in Texas,
you must look to the history of the
founding of Texas most significant
community institutions.
* Texas women, working through
the Texas Federation of Women's
Clubs, organized 80 percent of
Texas' free public libraries before
1940.
* Roman Catholic female religious
orders organized 41 hospitals in
Texas, including the Santa Rosa
Medical Center in San Antonio,

now the largest Catholic hospital
in the country.

Carrie Marcus Neiman (1883-1959) brought
high fashion to Texas. She, with her husband
and brother, opened Neiman-Marcus in Dallas
in 1907. Carrie created the world-famous
Neiman-Marcus style by insisting on simple ornamentation,
the best fabrics and quality workmanship.

Illustration by Molly Collins, Laguna Gloria
Art Museum, Austin, Texas.
* A Galveston woman, Rosanna
Osterman, brought the first rabbi
to Texas in 1856. Everywhere
throughout the state, it was
largely the efforts of women that
led to the establishment of
churches in communities. Church
women set up the YWCA's, literacy
programs, orphanages and
other projects to help people.
Black women, in particular,
made their churches the focus of
community life and thus helped
hold families and communities
together in the awful days of Jim
Crow laws.
* Women started schools at every
level in Texas, including winning
a 20-year battle with the Texas
Legislature in 1903 to set up a
college for women, now Texas
Woman's University. Women established
the first kindergartens
in Texas in El Paso in 1893 and
helped spread the kindergarten
movement across the state. Hispanic
women began setting up
neighborhood "escuelitas" in
1922 to teach basic skills and
keep their culture alive.

* Mothers clubs were first organized
in 1895 and members set
up programs on nutrition, hygiene,
child welfare and the public
school curriculum. Later
these clubs evolved into the first
PTA's.
* Texas first museums were born
because women saved or preserved
art, books or documents
and wanted to share them with
others. Museums in San Antonio,
Houston, El Paso, Beaumont,
and elsewhere developed
because of the efforts and collections
of women.
* Parks and preservation of historic
or significant buildings in
every community resulted from
the efforts of women. Of course,
Clara Driscoll and the Daughters
of the Republic of Texas saved
the Alamo from destruction in
1903. And the now scenic, downtown
San Antonio River was
saved from being paved over and
used as a drainage ditch because
of the efforts of the local Conservation
Society.
These and similar activities in nearly
every town have had a major impact on
Texas.
That impact is finally being recognized-and
valued.
We've always looked at Texas history
in terms of our wars, political struggles,
or our economics which have
centered on the oil, cotton and cattle
industries. Now we are recognizing
that there is a broader scope to our heritage
than gun battles, cows or crude
oil. As we begin to look at our basic
values and the aspects of community
life that we hold dear, we can begin
to assess the role of women on our
history.
Women of the past did not set out to
make "contributions" to history. They
lived out their lives thinking about

their families, the price of bread, the

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Texas Historical Foundation. Texas Heritage, Volume 2, Number 2, Spring 1985. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth46809/. Accessed September 20, 2014.