August 18, 2020 marks the centennial of the ratification of the 19th Amendment by Congress granting women all across the US the right to vote. The self-determined women of Texas, led by suffragists such as Minnie Fisher Cunningham and Mary Ellen Ewing, would play a pivotal role in this momentous occasion, conducting a grassroots suffrage campaign all across the state, organizing men and women, and lobbying local, state, and national politicians to their cause. As a result of their efforts over three hundred thousand Texas women voters were registered to vote at the polls in 1918.
With the national eye squarely on Texas at this time, and with the joint resolution of the 19th Amendment being passed by both the House and Senate of Congress in 1919, Cunningham would work and campaign tirelessly to ensure its ratification within the Texas Legislature. Texas would become the first southern state to ratify the amendment on June 28, 1919. Cunningham's statewide effort would also gain the notice and appreciation expressed by President Woodrow Wilson sent to her in a telegram.
The passage of the 19th Amendment was not the end of the women's movement for equality but only the beginning. In the decades to follow, the reverberations of what the women's suffrage movement started would mobilize millions of women to strive for equality in all aspects of American life. During the Feminist movements of the 1960s and 70s women would advocate for increased job opportunities, equal pay, representation in sports, childcare, and reproductive rights. Women increasingly ran for and won political office to improve not only government but issues that affected their individual lives.
Materials on display comprise documents and ephemera from the Minnie Fisher Cunningham Papers, Ewing Family Papers, Houston Area NOW Collection, Houston Area Women's Center Records, WomynSpace Records, Planned Parenthood of Houston Records, and the Marjorie Randal National Women's Conference Collection from the Carey Shuart Women's Research Collection. The exhibit was curated by UH History M.A. student Jennifer Southerland and Archivist Vince Lee. Special thanks to Digital Projects Coordinator Bethany Scott and Program Coordinator Greg Yerke, whose invaluable assistance made this digital exhibit possible.
Vince Lee, Archivist