The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 100, July 1996 - April, 1997 Page: 2
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Southwestern Historical Quarterly
Robertson in the Democratic runoff, which essentially sealed gubernato-
rial victory in Texas. Robertson had the support of the Ku Klux Klan, a
legitimate force in Texas politics during the early 1920s. Just two years
prior to Miriam Ferguson's election her husband had lost the race for
the state's U.S. Senate seat to Klan-backed Earle B. Mayfield.3Jim Fergu-
son decided "to run" his wife when the courts declared him ineligible
for the ballot. As he wrote his friend, attorney John Bicket, "I am going
into the woman business with renewed vigor."4 When Jim Ferguson went
into the "woman business" he exploited his wife's candidacy for all it was
worth. The irony that an antisuffragist like Jim Ferguson could use
women's new political potential to get his wife elected governor speaks
to why contemporaries who had had high expectations for woman suf-
frage were already speaking of its failure in the 192os. Examining the
ironies of Miriam Ferguson's election provides insight into the larger his-
torical debate about why women encountered such difficulty claiming sig-
nificant political power after suffrage succeeded.
Whereas contemporary newspapers sought to announce with hyper-
bolic headlines Miriam Ferguson's role in the history of women in poli-
tics in the post-suffrage decade, historians have overlooked the
contribution Ferguson's election makes to women's history and Texas
history. Although a proxy for her husband, Miriam Ferguson's election
as governor in the early 192os nevertheless is exceptional. Ferguson's
opponents could have made the idea of a woman governor controver-
sial. The Fergusons instead found a strategy that kept objections to the
idea of a woman governor to a minimum.5 From the point of view of for-
mer woman suffragists she was the "wrong" woman, yet by looking at
how such a woman was elected we find one reason why enfranchisement
did not translate into women's political power. Ferguson's election re-
veals the inverse relationship between women's political emancipation
and women's social and sexual liberation in the 1920s.
In her novel about Ferguson's campaign, Clare Ogden Davis, Fergu-
son's press secretary, explored this inverse relationship between
Norman D. Brown's Hood, Bonnet, and Little Browrn Jug. Texas Politics, 192 -1I928 (College Sta-
tion: Texas A&M University Press, 1984) examines the history of James Ferguson's political ca-
reer as well as his effort to regain control of the Texas governorship by having his wife run for
I James Ferguson to John Bicket, Temple, June 13, 1924, James E. Ferguson Papers (Center
for American History, University of Texas at Austin, cited hereafter as CAH).
'Judge I. W. Stephens questioned the legality of a woman gubernatorial candidate and forced
Ferguson adviser Martin McNulty Crane to publish a legal argument supporting it. On the day of
the runoff election attorney Charles M. Dickson attempted to block a woman from appearing on
the ballot. He filed a protest with the Democratic state executive chairman against placing Min-
am Ferguson or Felix Robertson's name on the official ballot for the runoff, arguing that Fergu-
son's sex disqualified her and Robertson's Klan connections made him ineligible See Martin
McNulty Crane to I. W. Stephens, Dallas, Aug. 7, 1924, Martin McNulty Crane Papers (CAH).
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 100, July 1996 - April, 1997, periodical, 1997; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101218/m1/30/: accessed July 27, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.