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Happy Anniversary, LRL!

Happy anniversary to us! The Legislative Reference Library marks its 50th anniversary as an agency this September. The Legislative Reference Library was created as "an independent agency of the legislature" by Acts 1969, 61st Leg., p. 154, Ch. 55 (Senate Bill 263),


As noted last week, we are currently marking our anniversary year with a renovation project—but we will continue to offer reference, research, and other library services while we are relocated. We look forward to many more years of serving the legislative community! 

Texas African American History Memorial Exhibit

Entering the Capitol grounds from the south, one of the first monuments visitors see is the Texas African American History Memorial. Unveiled on November 19, 2016, the monument commemorates African American Texans and their contributions to the history and evolution of the Lone Star State. 


To see how the memorial developed in sculptor Ed Dwight's studio and learn about its legislative history, visit the Legislative Reference Library's display featuring the piece. Photographs showing components of the sculpture in different stages, alongside images of the final product, give insight into the artist's process. Placards lining the top of the case outline the eight bills that the legislature passed in the process of making the memorial a reality. (You can also learn more about the monument's legislative history here.)


As Texans prepare to commemorate Black History Month, we hope you'll visit our display and the Texas African American History Memorial to learn more about the wide array of contributions made by Black Texans.


Images, clockwise from top: 

The Texas African American History Memorial display is located in the case nearest the reference desk.


Photos from sculptor Ed Dwight's studio came to the library courtesy of Bill Jones, Esq., Chair of the Texas African American History Memorial Foundation, and help us to see the many steps and intricate work that went into the 27-foot high and 32-foot wide monument.

Succeeding Spouses

Over the years, the Texas Legislature has seen several spouses follow in their partner's legislative footsteps. On our Women Members of the Texas Legislature, 1923-present page, footnotes indicate the five instances in which a legislator succeeded her spouse in an unexpired term following his death, and the three wives who served as temporary acting representatives during their husbands' military deployments. (Footnotes also point out where women were elected but never sworn into a legislator's role.) 

  • Maribelle Stewart appears to be the first wife to complete her husband's term in the Texas Legislature following his death. W. Lacy Stewart (Senate, 50th Legislature) passed away on March 22, 1947. Maribelle won a special election to fill the vacancy, but she resigned her seat representing Senate District 16 in 1948 when she remarried.
  • Persis Henderson (House, 51st) succeeded her husband, A. Robin Henderson (House, 49th-51st) in representing House District 61 when he died on March 15, 1949. Persis won a special election to fill the seat (running as Mrs. A. Robin Henderson); she announced for reelection to a full term but withdrew her candidacy, citing low legislative pay and the high cost of living in Austin.
  • Sue Hairgrove (House, 60th) won a special election to succeed her husband, Jim Hairgrove (House, 60th) for the House District 20-F seat when he passed away on April 12, 1967.
  • Lou Nelle Sutton (House, 64th-70th) succeeded her husband, G.J. Sutton (House, 63rd-64th), following his death on June 22, 1976, and her special election win to represent House District 57-E on August 7, 1976. Lou Nelle went on to be reelected to the 65th-70th Legislatures.
  • Myra Crownover (House, 76th-84th), in a May 2000 special election, succeeded her husband, Ronny Crownover, (House, 76th) following his death on March 26, 2000. She continued to represent House District 64 for nearly two decades.
  • Valerie Corte (House, 79th, 81st), Cheri Isett (House, 79th), and Melissa Noriega (House, 79th) were selected by their husbands to serve as temporary acting representatives during military deployments. Frank Corte (House, 73rd-81st) was called to military service during his legislative service twice; Carl Isett (75th-81st) and Rick Noriega (House, 76th-80th) were each called once during their time in the House. 

In addition to spouses filling unexpired terms, there are several other cases where spouses succeeded their partners in the legislature, separated by a few years or by redistricting. (And in the first case, separated by divorce, too.)

  • Neveille Colson (House, 46th-50th Legislatures; Senate, 51st-59th Legislatures), the first woman to serve in both chambers of the legislature, was elected to represent House District 27 a couple years after her then-husband, Nall Colson (House, 43rd-44th), lost the seat. The couple divorced in 1938, before Neveille took office in 1939.
  • Betty Denton (House, 65th-73rd) represented McLennan County, House District 35-A, following her husband, Lane Denton (House, 62nd-64th), who resigned the House District 35-1 seat to run for the Texas Railroad Commission. Redistricting meant that while they represented the same county, the district was different.
  • Sam Harless (House, 86th) appears to be the first husband to fill a seat formerly occupied by a wife. He was elected in November 2018 to serve House District 126; Patricia Harless served the district from the 80th-84th Legislatures.
  • Angela Paxton (Senate, 86th-87th), elected in November 2018, serves Senate District 8, the same seat that her husband, current Attorney General Ken Paxton (House, 78th-82nd, Senate, 83rd), occupied.
  • Frances Rountree and Cora Strong were the first widows of legislators elected to serve in the Texas Legislature, both serving as representatives in the 42nd Legislature. Cora's husband, N.R. Strong, died while representing House District 55 during the 41st Legislature. Cora was elected to the seat for the following session. Frances' husband, Lee J. Rountree (House, 37th-38th), died at his desk in the House chamber in 1923. In 1930, running as "Mrs. Lee J. Rountree," Frances was elected to the House; however, redistricting in the intervening years changed the House District number for Brazos County from 22 to 26.

This blog post is the first in a series, with posts to come on legislative siblings, parents/children, and other family connections.

Capitol Spirits

Leading up to Halloween each year, we gather stories of supernatural and strange happenings in the Lone Star State. Below you'll find tales of epidemic, treasure, a curse, feuds, and more. You can find these and more stories on our Capitol Spirits Pinterest board

From the Legislative Reference Library, we hope you have a fun and safe Halloween!!

Shoal Creek

The environs of Shoal Creek have been the scene of many happy and hard times. Early settler Gideon White was killed along the creek by Indians in 1842. His daughter's husband, Edward Seiders, developed a popular recreation area there in the 1870s. General George Custer's troops camped by the creek during Reconstruction; some of the men died due to a cholera epidemic and were buried nearby. Perhaps their spirits still remain…

Shoal Creek Treasure

Tales of hidden treasure along Shoal Creek have captured the imagination of many Austinites, from O. Henry to a former county treasurer who was driven to suicide. A January 1897 article in the Austin Weekly Statesman stated, "It is a fever that is sapping the very foundation of our citizenship. It is making maniacs out of sensible men." Do ghostly figures still look for the gold on dark nights?


Abner Cook's bricks

Woodlawn Mansion was built in the 1850s by Abner H. Cook for James B. Shaw, Texas Comptroller. Shaw sold the house after the untimely deaths of his wife and young daughter. Along with other Cook buildings such as the Governor's Mansion and the Neill-Cochran House, the Woodlawn Mansion is associated with sad events or ghostly sightings. Could they carry the Shoal Creek curse through the energy imbued in their bricks that were created from clay and a kiln near the creek? [Photo credit: Austin History Center].

Columbus County Feud and Senator Marcus Harvey Townsend

Marcus Harvey Townsend served in the Texas Legislature representing Colorado County, first as a representative in the 18th Legislature and then as a senator in the 21st and 22nd Legislatures. He and his family gained notoriety with their violent feud with the Stafford family and then with their inter-family trouble known as the Colorado County Feud. These violent events occurred around the town of Columbus, Texas, which perhaps explains why it has been described as "profoundly haunted."  

Fort Colorado

In 1836 Robert M. Coleman established Fort Colorado in Eastern Travis County. His tenure as commander was short-lived, either due to a dispute with Sam Houston or the death of a Ranger under his command. However, legend offers another story: Coleman was meeting secretly with a Comanche medicine man to bring about peace when the medicine man was shot by a soldier. Coleman was relieved of duty and drowned within a year. Are the ghostly figures seen on foggy nights Coleman and the medicine man, still discussing peace?

Bertram Store / Clay Pit

Rudolph Bertram ran a thriving wholesale grocery, saloon, and general store on Guadalupe Street in the 1880s. Business was conducted downstairs, with living quarters up above. The space now houses the popular Clay Pit Restaurant, but diners may share the space with previous inhabitants. Is the apparition of a small child Bertram's young son who died of typhoid fever? And are the upstairs party noises an echo of wild times at the brothel that was joined to the saloon through a basement tunnel?


Cover image by Daniel Mingus

Exploring the Texas Album of the Eighth Legislature

Locating photos of Texas legislators from the pre-Civil War period is no easy task. The composites that currently decorate the Capitol's ground floor halls were not yet a tradition, and photography was a relatively new technology.


That rarity means the Legislative Reference Library was especially pleased to learn about The Texas Album of the Eighth Legislature. The album is an early attempt to document all of the state's officials, created by a traveling photographer, William DeRyee and his business partner, R.E. Moore. DeRyee took individual albumen portraits of the Eighth Legislature (1860), along with Governors Hardin R. Runnels and Sam Houston, Lieutenant Governor Edward Clark, and Speaker Marion DeKalb Taylor. A short biography and the counties the member represented accompany many of the portraits. Most of the biographies are the usual recitations of the member's family and work, but Rep. George McKnight's stands out—his bio page includes an original poem, "The Wanderer," musing on the loss of his parents and siblings.


Original copies of the album are held by the Texas State Library and Archives Commission (TSLAC), the Bancroft Library at University of California-Berkeley, and the Dolph Briscoe Center for American History. Looking at the different copies, you can see evidence of their prior owners' use. In the TSLAC edition, someone scribbled over the faces of some of the officials. They also wrote little notes in the margins, like—on Sam Houston's photo page—"Old Uncle Sam father of Texas — Sam 72 years old."


Many of the photos in the Bancroft copy have faded, and someone attempted to recreate some of the disappearing eyes, mouths, and other features—not to good effect. (Trying to pencil in eyes and noses on a photo never works well.) In some instances where the photo was missing all together, a previous owner attempted penciled-in portraits. Let us say that these portraits are more cartoonish than realistic. See page 237's cartoon of Rep. L.B. Camp—who has a perfectly respectable portrait in TSLAC's copy—as one example, and scroll to the end of our digital album to check out more caricatures/doodles. (Some of the drawings at the end of the album appear to be women; however, there were no biographies to go with them.) The photos and the bios in Bancroft's album are also jumbled up: Sam Houston's photo is almost 350 pages after his biography.


In an effort to pull the best of the originals together, the LRL has compiled a digital album and integrated photos and information from it into our Texas Legislators: Past & Present database, where you can view information about legislators in Texas from 1846 through the present.

Interesting historical side note: Following the 1860 publication of The Texas Album of the Eighth Legislature, photographer William DeRyee continued his photography business a little longer, but the Confederacy saw another use for his chemistry background. He was appointed state chemist and put in charge of the Texas Percussion Cap Manufactory. He also worked with the Confederate Nitre and Mining Bureau. He made various innovations and developments in explosives, but the Confederacy lacked well-trained chemists to assist him with his work. Following the Civil War, he opened a drugstore in Corpus Christi and developed a treatment of chlorine water with creosote as an antiseptic that helped alleviate a yellow fever epidemic. His son, Charles DeRyee, is credited with first documenting the presence of the boll weevil in Texas.

Legislating on the Range: Ending the Fence Cutting War of the 1880s

For most of the 1800s, Texas was open range. Then barbed wire came along, and even a trail driver like William H. Day saw the benefits of owning and then fencing off his newly purchased land in Coleman County. His wife, Mabel Doss Day, wrote about his efforts in a September 1879 letter: "Col. Day is building a fence around his pasture, which when done will contain forty thousand acres of land….He has twenty men at work on the fence and it keeps him busy bossing them."[1]


Mabel Day's involvement in the ranch became much more hands-on in 1881, after her husband died from injuries sustained in a stampede. To address debt and other concerns, she reorganized as Day Cattle Ranch Company, sold half-interests in her cattle to investors in Kentucky (while retaining full title to the land), and by 1883, Day Cattle Ranch was the largest fenced ranch in Texas.[2] Mabel Day became known as the "Cattle Queen of Texas."[3]


However, 1883 also saw an extensive drought and with it, the beginning of the fence wars. Cowmen without land struggled to find adequate grass and water on public land, and landowners sometimes were guilty of enclosing public land and roads with their fences. At least three men were killed in fights between fence cutters and ranchmen, and by fall 1883, damage from fence wrecking was estimated at $20 million.[4]


On September 13, 1883—135 years ago this week—the Austin Weekly Statesman noted that wire fence cutting had arrived in Coleman County.[5] Mabel Day was one of the many whose fence suffered. "They cut more than five miles of her fence and tacked a notice on her gate post that if she put the fence back up 'there would be the largest coroner's inquest in that pasture ever held in Texas.'" She did put the fence back up, only to have 10 more miles cut in broad daylight. Even when she sent armed men out to protect her fence, they were outnumbered, and she lost more than 100 miles of fence.[6]


Mabel Day became one of the leading voices in urging the legislature to action. Her letter to the editor of the Coleman Voice was reprinted in several newspapers, including the October 11, 1883, Austin Weekly Statesman: " For my part I think the men (?) who destroyed five miles of my fence last week could have with as much justice burnt my house…. I would like to address a question to the stockmen of this section. Is there no recourse for us in the matter? Should you, as business and law abiding men adopt any plan to protect your property I would beg to considered as one among you."[7]


A few days later on October 15, Gov. John Ireland called a special session of the 18th Legislature to convene in January 1884 and address fourteen topics, including "to consider and provide a remedy for wanton destruction of fences." In his message to the Legislature when they convened, Gov. Ireland casted blame on both the ranch owners and fence cutters. The House Committee on Fence Cutting was formed, several versions of bills to address the matter were introduced, and much debate ensued.


A central point of dispute for the lawmakers was whether punishment should be equal for illegal fence cutting and illegal fence building. In the final January 31 vote on House Bills 2, 8, and 9, Reps. Wortham, Galt, Garrison, and Burns are recorded in the House Journal saying, "We vote "no," because we believe that the punishment for the unlawful fencing of land and the cutting of a fence should be alike—that is to say, if the crime of fence cutting is declared a felony, the unlawful fencing of land should also be declared a felony. To do otherwise will very naturally be construed to mean class legislation, and create widespread dissatisfaction, well calculated to aggravate the evil now afflicting the State."


However, the bills passed in a 71-22 vote. Acts 1884, 18th 1st C.S.,ch. 21, General Laws of Texas, set out punishment for fence cutters; Acts 1884, 18th 1st C.S.,ch. 24, General Laws of Texas, required gateways in every three miles of fencing. Faced with jail time, the fence cutters put down their wire cutters; ranch owners installed gates. Mabel Day married Captain J.C. Lea in 1899 and moved with him to New Mexico, but she continued to oversee her Coleman County ranch. At the time of Mabel's death in 1906, her daughter inherited debt-free (and fenced) land.[8]


Tile image by Flickr user eflon and used under a Creative Commons Attribution Generic license.

[1] "Colonel William H. Day: Texas Ranchman," by James T. Padgitt, The Southwestern Historical Quarterly v. 53, July 1949-April 1950, Texas State Historical Association, Austin, TX (, accessed August 27, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History.

[2] Handbook of Texas Online, Elizabeth Maret, "Lea, Mabel Doss," accessed August 21, 2018,

[3] Texas Historical Foundation. Texas Heritage, Fall 1984; Austin, Texas. ( accessed August 27, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History.

[4] Handbook of Texas Online, Wayne Gard, "Fence cutting," accessed August 21, 2018,

[5] "Mrs. Mabel Day and the Fence Cutters," by James T. Padgitt, West Texas Historical Association Year Book, October 1950,, accessed September 5, 2018.

[6] "Fence Cutting War Was Stormy Time," Coleman Democrat-Voice, August 12, 1980, (, accessed August 27, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History.

[7] The Austin Weekly Statesman, v. 13, No. 6, Ed. 1, Thursday, October 11, 1883, ( accessed August 29, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History.

[8] Handbook of Texas Online, Elizabeth Maret, "Lea, Mabel Doss."

Pest Practices: A Legislative Battle with the Boll Weevil

In 2015, Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller announced that the boll weevil had been completely eradicated in the West Texas Maintenance Area, and that it was functionally eradicated in several other regions. Around a hundred years after the cotton crop pest was first noted to be in Texas, the bugs are finally, mostly, gone...or at least more controlled.


But in the late 1800s and early 1900s, the snout beetle's destructive impact on the Texas cotton industry was looking quite dire. Described in the Handbook of Texas Online as "one of the most devastating pests ever introduced to American agriculture," an estimated 700,000 bales were lost to the boll weevil in 1904, at a cost of $42 million. The blow to Texas' cotton culture kept growing as the insects spread to every cotton production area in Texas. Boll weevils resisted all of the agriculture industry's conventional insecticides and anti-pest practices of the time.


Something had to be done. In 1899, the state appointed Frederick W. Mally as state entomologist and charged him with combating the weevils. His plans were lauded by subsequent entomologists, but heavy rainfall and the Galveston hurricane of 1900, along with inadequate funding, derailed his efforts.


E. Dwight Sanderson was named the next state entomologist in 1901. The state also decided to try a new tactic. With HB 243, 28R, the legislature appropriated a $50,000 prize "to be paid to any one who will discover and furnish a practical remedy that will exterminate the cotton boll weevil, and $2,500.00 for expenses and per diem of committee to pass on the findings of said person or persons." In today's dollars, that prize would be more than $1 million—but still just a fraction of the money that was lost annually to the boll weevil's destruction. Gov. S.W.T. Lanham announced the award 115 years ago this week, on the steps of the Capitol in July 1903. 


According to the Handbook of Texas, "the prize offered by the legislature made both themselves and the boll weevil a figure of fun for newspapers throughout the nation, and this episode is sometimes found in civics or government texts as an illustration of the foolishness of lawmaking bodies." Although Texas newspaper articles testify to citizens' interest in the prize, it was never claimed.


Between 1899 and 2013, 32 bills were introduced with "boll weevil" in the caption, illustrating the ongoing battle with the bugs. The current statutes on "Cotton Diseases and Pests" can be found in Chapter 74 of the Agriculture Code. Starting around 1903, boll weevil pest management efforts began to see more promising results on Walter C. Porter's demonstration farm at Terrell, under the leadership of Seaman A. Knapp. Most recently, with the help of the Texas Boll Weevil Eradication Foundation (established by SB 30, 73R), boll weevils are much fewer and farther between in Texas now…without the incentive of cash prizes from the Legislature. 


The Austin-American Statesman, Saturday, July 18, 1903 excerpt courtesy of Tile image courtesy of the Internet Archive and Flickr Creative Commons, from the 26th Annual Catalogue and Pricelist of Seeds, 1899 (Alexander Seed Company), U.S. Department of Agriculture, National Agriculture Library.

New Exhibit: Texas Law & Order...And The Compilers Behind It

It's easy to take for granted the work of compiling the law. Once the session is over and the governor signs the bills, everything is done, right? Far from it. Preparing volumes that update the law requires time and careful consideration. In this display we took a look at some of the important resources for studying Texas legislative history and the people who laid the foundations for the structure of our laws.


Drawing from our "Who Is..." blog series, the exhibit profiles the lives and work of George W. PaschalJohn SaylesH.P.N. Gammel, and Joseph W. Vernon, all of whose contributions we see reflected in our contemporary Texas legislative publications. Learn who hung up the laws to dry after the Capitol fire, who represented the Cherokee Nation in several important cases, who helped establish the law department at Baylor University, and who never resided in Texas but has his name on our law publications today. (And if you can't make it in person, click on the collages below to learn more about Texas' law compilers.)



Legislative Foundations for the Capitol

Next week will mark the 130th anniversary since the State of Texas dedicated our current Capitol building. From May 14–19, 1888, more than 20,000 people came from all over the state to participate in festivities such as drill team competitions, military displays, band concerts, and fireworks. The events culminated with the official dedication on May 16, when Sen. Temple Houston (the youngest son of Sam Houston) accepted the building on the state's behalf.


The Constitution of 1876—which is still our constitution today—made financial provision for the new building in Article XVI, Sec. 57, authorizing the use of 3 million acres of public land in the Texas Panhandle to pay for the new capitol and calling on the Legislature to pass the necessary bills to begin the project. (That land would become XIT Ranch.)


In 1879, the 16th Legislature passed SB 21, 16R, "Relating to providing for designating, surveying and sale of three million and fifty thousand acres of the unappropriated public domain for the erection of a new state capitol and other necessary public buildings at the seat of government, and to providing a fund to pay for surveying said lands" and SB 153, 16R, "Relating to providing for building a new state capitol."


To facilitate the passage of Capitol-related bills, several committees were formed. During construction, committees were charged with the "programme" for the laying of the corner stone (1885) and considering the "new Capitol, grounds and cost of furnishing" (1887).


On May 2, 1888, HB 38, 20(1) was approved, "an Act to provide for the reception of the new State Capitol Building." They accepted the Capitol—contingent on the completion of all remaining work—and on May 10, authorized the moving of furniture from the temporary Capitol to the new one. Most offices were established in their new spaces by May 11, and the Legislature convened in its new chambers for the first time.


After the dedication, the work continued: in 1889, committees were formed to investigate the cost of running a capitol elevator, the acoustics of the House chamber, and Capitol grounds considerations like placing "a neat and substantial iron fence around said grounds" and "the cost of properly wiring the Capitol building, with all necessary fixtures, with the view of placing electric lights in said building." Fortunately, they did not use all of the money from the sale of the XIT land to construct the building, so they had some funding left over to address these and other budgetary needs—allocating that money was the reason for the 20th Legislature's special session in April–May 1888.


The work continues today—since 1853, more than 40 committees have been charged with Capitol-related topics. Modernizing the building, repairing after 1983 fire damage, and maintaining the grounds has kept the Legislature (and of course, the State Preservation Board) busy over the years. But, Sen. Houston said it well:


It would seem that here glitters a structure that shall stand as a sentinel of eternity, to gaze upon passing ages, and, surviving, shall mourn as each separate star expires. ~Sen. Temple Houston, Capitol Dedication Speech, May 16, 1888

See the Handbook of Texas' entry on the Capitol to learn more about the process of designing and constructing the building. 



Top: [Capitol Construction], photograph, 1887~; ( accessed May 4, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History,; crediting Austin History Center, Austin Public Library.

Bottom: [Cavalry Troops Marching in Texas Capitol Building Dedication Parade], photograph, April 28, 1888; ( accessed May 4, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History,; crediting Austin History Center, Austin Public Library.

Cover: [Construction of Capitol Dome], photograph, 1888; ( accessed May 4, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History,; crediting Austin History Center, Austin Public Library.


Sources consulted:

"Capitol," Handbook of Texas Online, Texas State Historical Association

"Capitol History," Texas State Preservation Board

A Nobler Edifice: The Texas State Capitol, 1888-1988An Exhibit, the Lorenzo de Zavala State Archives and Library Building. Texas State Library, 1988.

The Texas Capitol: A History of the Lone Star Statehouse. Texas Legislative Council, 2016.

Votes for Women: The 100th Anniversary of Texas Women's Suffrage

A couple of weeks ago, Texans exercised their right to vote in the primary election. But they probably didn't know that they were voting in a landmark year: 2018 is the 100th anniversary of the first time Texas women were able to vote.


HB 105, 35-4 (1918) was the bill that made it possible, but it was not the Texas Legislature's first effort for women's suffrage. Beginning with the 1868-1869 Texas Constitutional Convention, a resolution was submitted recommending "every person, without distinction of sex" be entitled to vote. However, that provision was amended to read "every male person." In the 1875 Texas "Redeemer" Constitutional Convention, two women's suffrage resolutions were proposed but did not move forward.


In 1893, a statewide women's suffrage convention was held in Dallas, and the Texas Equal Rights Association (TERA) was chartered. At that point, the 23rd legislative session was almost over, but in the 24th Legislature (1895), Rep. A.C. Tompkins introduced HJR 29 to amend Section 2, Article 6 of the Texas Constitution, allowing all female persons not subject to other disqualification the right of suffrage. The resolution was reported to the Committee on Constitutional Amendments, but was never reported out. TERA ceased functioning in 1895.


In 1903 the Texas Equal Suffrage Association (TESA) was formed, and the legislature saw more women's suffrage bills. HJR 17, 30R (1907), by Rep. Jess Baker, was reported favorably out of the Committee on Constitutional Amendments; HJR 8, 32R (1911), also by Baker, received a second reading, and HJR 9, 33R (1913) by Rep. F.H. Burmeister was reported favorably with amendments—but still, women's suffrage bills stalled.


Opposition efforts certainly didn't aid the suffragists' cause: The Texas Association Opposed to Woman Suffrage was formed in 1916, and Gov. James Ferguson was vocally against women's suffrage. TESA worked toward the impeachment of Gov. Ferguson through the Women's Committee of Good Government, supported the war effort, and then, in the 4th called session of the 35th Legislature (1918), lobbied Gov. William P. Hobby to include "consideration of the subject of amending the election laws of Texas" among the 172 topics for the special session.  


The called session began on February 26, 1918. On March 12, Rep. Charles B. Metcalfe, along with 14 co-authors, introduced HB 105. This bill took an incremental approach: rather than amending the constitution to allow women to vote in all elections, it provided for women to vote in all primary elections and nominating conventions in Texas. The bill passed the House (84-34) on March 15, and passed the Senate (18-4) on March 21.


On March 26, 1918, Gov. Hobby signed HB 105 in the presence of Rep. Metcalfe and other legislators, as well as leaders of the women's suffrage movement, including Minnie Cunningham, Nell Doom, Elizabeth Speer, and Jane McCallum. Rep. Metcalfe provided a fountain pen for the governor and presented it to Cunningham after the signing.

However, the bill did not go into effect for 90 days, and the next primary election was on July 27—this left less than three weeks for women to register to vote. TESA organized to assist women with registering, and more than 386,000 women registered in 17 days.


Of course, the push toward full women's voting rights was not complete. In its regular session, the 36th Legislature passed SJR 7 to amend the Constitution to allow equal suffrage, but the measure was defeated at the polls on May 24, 1919 (with 141,773 votes for and 166,893 votes against).


About a month later, on June 28, 1919, Texas became the ninth state and the first southern state to ratify the Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. In the 36th Legislature's second called session, legislators passed HJR 1, "Ratifying an amendment to the Constitution of the United States which provides, in substance, that the right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex."


Visit the LRL to see our "desk" of Rep. Metcalfe as it might have appeared in 1918 when he worked toward the passage of the first women's suffrage bill signed into law in Texas.


Images from top: HB 105, 35-4, as it appears in the session law; Rep. Charles B. Metcalfe, courtesy of the Texas State Preservation Board; Gov. William P. Hobby (seated middle) signing HB 105 in the presence of Rep. Metcalfe (seated to the governor's right) and other legislators, courtesy of a private collection via the West Texas Collection, Angelo State University, San Angelo, TX.


Cover image: San Antonio Express. (San Antonio, Tex.), Vol. 53, No. 86, Ed. 1 Wednesday, March 27, 1918, newspaper, March 27, 1918; San Antonio, Texas. ( accessed March 15, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History,; crediting Abilene Library Consortium.

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