Women in Texas served as trailblazers, paving the way for other women running for office in the Lone Star State. Just 100 years after women were granted the right to vote with the 19th amendment, the country soon will have its first female vice president, Kamala Harris.
“While I may be the first woman in this office, I will not be the last,” Harris said in her victory speech Saturday.
Texas has proved that female firsts in politics are just the beginning. Former Texas Gov. Miriam A. “Ma” Ferguson was the second woman to be elected governor of a state in 1925 and the first to be elected during a general election. Since then, the U.S. has had 42 women serve as governors.
Experts say that Harris becoming the first female vice president and the first female vice president of color are milestones that will open new doors for women running for public office.
“It’s that old saying: you can’t be what you can’t see,” said Jean Sinzdak, the associate director of the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University.
“Whatever your background, whatever your party affiliation or your feelings about it, it would still be important to have a woman in this position… That question of electability put to rest, we can have women at the highest level of our government.”
‘Grit, grace and guts’
Women politicos in Texas have a history of female firsts, said Nancy Bocskor, political analyst and inaugural director of the Center for Women in Politics & Public Policy at Texas Woman’s University.
Since the beginning of the 20th century, Texas women have served as an example of “grit, grace and guts,” Bocskor said.
Texan Minnie Fisher Cunningham, the first executive secretary of the League of Women Voters and the first Texas woman to run for U.S. Senate was the reason why Texas was the first southern state to ratify the 19th amendment. Ferguson became the second female governor in the country just five years later.
But it took almost 50 years after the 19th amendment was passed for the first Texas woman to be elected to the U.S. House of Representatives — Barbara Jordan, a Black woman and a powerhouse as an orator. Jordan was the first Black woman to give a keynote speech at the Democratic National Convention, and she is famous for her opening statement during the House Judiciary Committee during President Richard Nixon’s impeachment. Jordan’s keynote speech has gone down in history as one of the best in the 20th century.
Since Jordan was elected in 1972, dozens of Texas women have held state and national positions.
“Women that were the trailblazers — the Ann Richards, Kay Bailey Hutchison, Kay Granger, Barbara Jordan — these are women that were bigger than life,” Bocskor said.