The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 99, July 1995 - April, 1996 Page: 581
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authors of this new biography hope to help eradicate the "overwhelming disre-
gard of Miriam Ferguson by noted Texas historians" (p. x).
This new work certainly affords Ferguson more than superficial attention, and
allows readers to view aspects of this fascinating woman never before considered
in such detail. The authors show her Southern elitism; her role as a bright, de-
voted, and overly trusting wife who was also capable of telling her husband to
"shut up and sit down" (p. 169); her need to be a mediating force between her
two daughters; her journey as a woman who held politics at a distance yet devel-
oped a deep passion for the political process in Texas; her great pleasure in be-
ing a doting grandmother; her strident nature as an unforgiving fighter; and her
willingness to befriend young Lyndon Johnson in his critical (and criticized)
1948 Senate campaign.
Paulissen and McQueary rely on access to Ferguson family papers and other
primary source materials, as well as interviews with Ferguson family members
and confidants, to craft a detailed, even intimate, biography. Even with such ma-
terials, however, Miriam at times provides only a two-dimensional view of its com-
plex subject. Some of the richest aspects of this unique individual are left
unexplored, such as the contradictions of a woman who claimed she had no de-
sire "to waste her time with people outside her family that she didn't care any-
thing about" (p. 40) while at the same time professing a strong desire to make
history, and the isolation of a woman motivated to run for governor three times
while barely acknowledging the active Texas women's political movement that
coincided with her years in public life. While this helpful book clearly addresses
the "who," it often fails to contemplate the "why" fully. References to Ferguson's
"pretending to be pretending to run for governor" (p. o10) and to her intense
desire to trick and fool those around her suggest a sense of hidden-hand gover-
norship, deep ambition, and strong self-awareness. While those threads are of-
fered as part of the fabric of Ferguson, they are never woven together as a means
to consider her political or personal effectiveness.
Critical readers will be distracted by a lack of direct documentation (the text
has no notes, but a section with sources used for specific pages is included at the
end of the book) and will notice that the authors attempt to place the Fergusons
into the broader realm of Texas history without examining manuscript collec-
tions and papers of anyone outside the Ferguson family. There are also errors to
be aware of, such as two references to Speaker of the House Sam Rayburn as
Texas's "senior senator" (pp. 238, 253).
Still, Miriam provides a much-needed close examination of this Texas woman
that helps us begin to understand her better. While not all readers will be con-
vinced of the assertion that Miriam Ferguson "changed the history of Texas" (p.
31o), they will be hard-pressed after reading this detailed biography not to ac-
cept the notion that she was a very important part of a team that turned "Fergu-
sonism" into a dominant force in Texas politics for much of the first half of the
DEBBIE MAULDIN COTTRELL
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 99, July 1995 - April, 1996, periodical, 1996; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101217/m1/659/: accessed October 21, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.