FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 19, 2008
For years we studied the great accomplishments of men almost exclusively when reviewing history. As recently as the 1970s, women's history was virtually an unknown topic in the K-12 curriculum according to the National Women's History Project.
Change was necessary and fortunately inevitable, so much so, that we now commemorate National Women's History Month every March.
One of the most notable women of history is Susan B. Anthony, a leader of the 1870 women's suffrage movement. Her words are a grim reminder of why older generations of Americans missed learning a vital part of our country's history and why we needed a new approach: "It was we, the people; not we, the white male citizens; nor yet we, the male citizens; but we, the whole people, who formed the Union."
Equally interesting is Rebecca Henry Hayes of Galveston, who was appointed by Anthony to the National American Woman Suffrage Association and formed the first Texas Equal Rights Association in 1893.
Hayes' reason for her activism on behalf of women's rights was: "The Equal Suffrage Club will appear before the next Texas legislature with a petition a mile or thereabouts long...asking...for the franchisement of women, who are tired of having no higher mission than making dumplings."
While dumplings were being dumped, progress was inching forward. It took 50 years for women to win the vote since the movement started. The Texas Legislature led the South in ratifying the Nineteenth Amendment in special session on June 28, 1919, and was the ninth state to do so.
And it wasn't until 1922 that the first woman was elected to the Texas House of Representatives and four years later the first woman became a Texas state senator. In 1925, Miriam Ferguson was inaugurated our first woman governor.
So as North Texas women may have been cooking dumplings and South Texas women rolling tortillas, their ranks in city councils, county commissions, state legislatures, the U.S. House and Senate, and state and federal agencies picked up momentum.
Women eventually began heading corporations, banks, universities, hospitals, chambers of commerce and businesses of all sorts and sizes.
Today, out of 31 Texas senators, four are women and out of 150 Texas representatives, 32 are female. And for the first time in the country's history, we have a woman, U.S. Senator Hillary Clinton, running for U.S. President.
The Presidents of the University of Texas at Brownsville, the University of Texas Pan American and South Texas College are all women. And the first professional school in South Texas at Texas A&M University-Kingsville is named the Irma Rangel School of Pharmacy after the late state Rep. Irma Rangel, a Kingsville native and advocate for improving health care in underserved regions of the state.
Overcoming stereotypes and attitudes is never fast, but the role of the woman leader continues in a positive direction. The goal is that more of today's young women and school girls will have and seek opportunities of leadership in both the private and public sectors.
Through the years, mothers and grandmothers, often homemakers with limited education, were instrumental in guiding their daughters and granddaughters toward the education that often creates the historical figures we honor every March.
My own daughter, a school counselor, obtained an advanced degree, and she hopes that her daughter surpasses that accomplishment. My wife, through her own hard work and civic involvement, helped pave the way for our daughter and now granddaughter.
As another staunch supporter of higher education along with my Father, my Mother insisted that my nine siblings and I pursue education beyond high school. My success is definitely a credit to my Mother, a homemaker who helped shape history.
I fully support the cause of advancing women and their issues. We must remember to recognize the accomplishments and abilities of women, and to push for pay scales and promotions equivalent to those of their male counterparts. But it is equally important to recognize that even if a woman is not visible, she may be an unsung volunteer hero, a teacher, a nurse or an office manager. It is how she executes her role in the community that qualifies her as a leader more than the position that garners public attention and media publicity.
My challenge to everyone is to read an article or book this month of a woman who has made tremendous strides, while overcoming bias and obstacles in achieving her goals and advancing humankind.
As always, if you have any input or questions regarding these or other matters, please do not hesitate to contact Doris Sanchez, my press secretary, 512-463-0385.