Nearly 100 years after Texas ratified the 19th Amendment that theoretically allowed women the right to vote, Texas Woman’s University hosted an event to celebrate and reflect on the women’s movement to secure the constitutional change.
Nancy Baker Jones, president of the Ruthe Winegarten Memorial Foundation for Texas Women’s History, detailed the woman’s suffrage movement nationally and locally in a presentation during the centennial luncheon.
“The upshot of my story is that the suffrage movement didn’t end with the 19th Amendment and is still going on,” she said. “Despite what you heard, not all women got to vote in 1920. The people who didn’t, as you’ve already heard, were Native American women and people of color, mostly from the South, whose civil rights continue to be denied for nearly 100 years after Reconstruction.”
Jones recounted how from 1848 to 1919, women worked nationwide and in Texas to earn the right to vote. While early pioneers of the movement worked to spread the word in Texas in the 1870s and beyond, many leaders had died by the turn of the century, Jones said.
This called for a rebranding of the movement that would help push ratification forward in Texas, called the Society Plan. By 1918, acting in the interest of Gov. William P. Hobby, who was running for reelection, the group leaders told him if they could vote in the primary, they could guarantee he’d win. The Texas Legislature voted to permit women to vote in the primaries, and within 16 days, 386,000 women registered to vote. Hobby won reelection, paving the way for the 19th Amendment ratification, Jones said.
On June 28, 1919, Texas was the first Southern state to ratify the amendment and the ninth in the country.
Locally, suffragettes were involved in the initial founding and changes at TWU, Jones said. Their lobbying helped create TWU in 1901 as a two-year college, then known as Girls Industrial College. Three women were appointed to serve on the university’s original governing body, the Board of Regents — the first women regents in the state.
“This history makes the creation and growth of TWU not just interesting but really emblematic of the most active early period of reform of women’s rights in Texas,” Jones said.