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Before You Head to Austin for Passion Forward, Learn More About Prominent Women in Texas History

Ms. JD's Annual Conference, Passion Forward, will take place this weekend in Austin, Texas. The link between women and Texas history is as old as the place itself. Highlighted here are a number of prominent women leaders in Texas’s History. We hope you’ll join us as we seek to cultivate the next generation of women legal leaders in Texas by attending our Passion Forward Conference, which you can register for here.

Marie del Carmen Calvillo, 1765-1856

Marie del Carmen Calvillo was an early ranch owner. During the Mexican War of Independence, her husband joined the short-lived Casas revolt of 1811 and was subsequently declared a rebel by the Spanish Crown. Maria separated from her husband in an effort to protect the land she inherited from her father upon his death in 1814. Maria preserved the title to her land through four successive political administrations: Spain, Mexico, the Republic of Texas, and the United States. She petitioned the courts for the return of property lost in the Anglo-American invasion, won confirmation of her inheritance, and received additional land grants.

Through the efforts of women like Maria del Carmen, Spanish laws protecting women’s rights to inherit and manage property were ultimately incorporated into Texas law.

Mary Austin Holley, 1784-1846

Mary Austin Holley, the cousin of Stephen F. Austin, published the first known history of Texas written in England in 1836. Her books and long series of family letters today serve as invaluable accounts of early Texas.

Jane Long “Mother of Texas,” 1798-1880

Jane was granted land in Texas as part of Austin’s colony. In 1832 she purchased an inn in Brazoria and ran it with the help of her surviving daughter. Prominent leaders of the Texas Revolution met here to discuss politics. Five years later, Jane opened another inn and developed her land grant into a prosperous plantation. By 1861 she managed more than 2,000 acres. Jane was not, as sometimes claimed, the first English-speaking woman to give birth in Texas. Yet by her unwavering tenacity, she earned the title "Mother of Texas."

Lucy Parsons, Labor Organizer, 1853-1942

Lucy Parsons was a founding member of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), led hunger demonstrations, championed family and women’s rights, and, perhaps most notably, defended nine African Americans in Scottsboro who were falsely accused of rape.

Anna Pennybacker, 1861-1938

Anna Pennybacker wrote the first Texas history textbook, which was used by four decades of Texas students. Pennybacker also headed the state Federation of Women’s Club from 1901-1903, and eventually became president of the national Federation from 1912-1916.

Olga Bernstein Kohlberg, 1866-1935

Olga Bernstein Kohlberg won approval for the first public kindergarten in Texas in 1893. Compelled by a strong sense of civic virtue, Olga organized the Ladies’ Benevolent Association, which helped establish hospitals and public libraries. She and her family helped found the Mount Sinai Jewish Congregation and funded the construction of the temple.

Annie Webb Blanton, 1870-1945

Annie Webb Blanton was the first woman to win election to statewide office in Texas, at a time when women had newly gained the right to vote in primaries but were still barred from voting in the general election. Blanton served as State Superintendent of Public Instruction from 1918 to 1922. During her tenure she ensured that textbooks were freely distributed, raised educators’ salaries, and expanded the scope of rural education.

Jane Y. McCallum, 1877-1957

Deeply committed to winning the right to vote for women, Jane McCallum organized rallies, wrote newspaper columns, made speeches, distributed literature, lobbied legislators, and directed campaigns. By 1915, Jane held leadership roles in city and state suffrage associations. In March 1918, the Texas legislature approved a bill allowing women to vote in primary elections. The next year the U.S. Congress passed a women’s suffrage amendment extending the vote to women in all election. Jane personally lobbied state legislators to ratify this measure, and in June 1919, Texas became the ninth state and first Southern state to do so. During the 1920s, Jane headed the Petticoat Lobby, a coalition of women’s groups pressing for laws to benefit women and children. Nearly all of their legislative agenda was enacted: school funding, prison reform, maternal/infant health care, restrictions on child labor, and stricter prohibition laws. In 1927, Jane served as Texas Secretary of State. While in office, she discovered the original Texas Declaration of Independence hidden in a vault.

Carrie Marcus Neiman, 1883-1953

At a time when few women worked outside of the home, Carrie Marcus took a job as a blouse buyer for a Dallas department store. By age 21 she had become one of the highest-paid female workers in Dallas. After marrying Albert Neiman, Carrie, her husband, and brother, opened the first Neiman Marcus store in Dallas in 1907. From the beginning, Neiman Marcus was described as a store of quality and superior value. In 1928, Carrie divorced her husband, prompted her brother to buy out his share in the business. In 1950, she became chair of the Board.

Katherine Anne Porter, 1890-1980

Katherine Anne Porter was Texas’s first novelist to win the Pulitzer Prize for her novel Ship of Fools, which traces the origins of evil and rise of Nazism among allegorical characters aboard a ship.

Congresswoman Barbara Jordan, 1936-1996

Barbara Jordan was a passionate defender of the United States Constitution and broke numerous barriers to achieve political firsts. She was the first woman law student enrolled at Boston University School of Law. She was also the first black woman elected to the Texas state Senate and the first black Texan in the United States Congress.  In 1976, she served as the first African American and first female keynote speaker at a major political convention when she delivered the keynote address on Voting Rights at the Democratic National Convention. Even in death she achieved a first, becoming the first African American woman buried in the Texas State Cemetery in Austin.

To learn about more prominent women in Texas History visit, http://www.utexas.edu/gtw/GTWContent.pdf

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