Equal Rights for Women, Civil Rights for All

The Women's Power, Women's Vote exhibit logo showing that text with a check mark acting as a V in the word vote. Links to the home page of the online exhibit.

Passage of a Texas Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) provided a rallying point in the years after attaining woman’s suffrage. It served as the continuation in the battle to secure equal rights for all. In 1957 under the leadership of Dallas attorney Hermine D. Tobolowsky, the Texas Federation of Business and Professional Women’s Clubs undertook a coordinated campaign to further the rights of all Texans. The Federation held talks around the state, brought the issue to national media and partnered with other women’s groups to build support for the amendment, which would grant equality under the law for all Texans, regardless of sex, race, color, creed or national origin.

Tobolowsky dedicated her life to civil rights. She was instrumental in the repeal of dozens of discriminatory Texas laws and in the enactment of laws requiring fair and equal treatment of citizens. She is called the “Mother of the Texas Equal Rights Amendment” to honor her essential role in advocating for its passage.

The Texas ERA was introduced in seven consecutive legislative sessions from 1959 to 1971. The amendment was finally ratified in the election of November 7, 1972, with 80 percent of voters in favor. The U.S. Senate had passed the Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution on March 22 of that year, but the required majority of states failed to ratify it by the 1982 deadline. Texas remains one of only 26 states to have passed its own ERA.

The battle for equal rights for women continued throughout the 1970s. The United Nations declared 1976-1986 as the Decade for Women. The Conference on Women in Public Life held at the University of Texas at Austin in 1975 explored ways for more women to be elected and appointed to public office. In 1977, the Texas Women’s Meeting, also held in Austin, selected delegates to attend the National Women’s Conference in Houston that year and vote on a National Plan of Action to increase women’s roles in society.

Exhibit Items

Black typewriter text on yellow paper of Letter from Hermine D. Tobolowsky, President of the Texas Federation of Business and Professional Women’s Clubs to Gov. Price Daniel, January 6, 1959. Legislation for equal rights, Governor Price Daniel records, Box 1989/260-442

Letter from Hermine D. Tobolowsky, President of the Texas Federation of Business and Professional Women’s Clubs to Gov. Price Daniel, January 6, 1959. Legislation for equal rights, Governor Price Daniel records, Box 1989/260-442.

Hermine Tobolowsky was a Dallas attorney and president of the Texas Federation of Business and Professional Women’s Clubs, an organization at the forefront of the campaign to urge the public and legislators to support an Equal Rights Amendment to the state constitution. In the 1950s she researched Texas laws discriminatory to women and lobbied the legislature to change them. The political resistance she encountered to her efforts convinced her to instead advocate for an Equal Rights Amendment to the Texas Constitution, with the support of a coalition of women’s groups. Tobolowsky’s letter to Gov. Price Daniel was written at the start of this campaign. In 1959, the first Equal Rights Amendment was introduced in the legislature, though it did not come to a vote. It was reintroduced in each following legislative session until it finally passed on the seventh attempt in 1971, allowing the amendment to come to a statewide public vote in November 1972. Click or tap on thumbnail for larger image.

 

Black and white photograph of Rep. Frances “Sissy” Farenthold leaning over a lectern and looking up. Rep. Frances “Sissy” Farenthold, Texas House of Representatives chamber, March 1972. Current Events Photographic Documentation Program collection, Image 1972/174-20

Rep. Frances “Sissy” Farenthold, Texas House of Representatives chamber, March 1972. Current Events Photographic Documentation Program collection, Image 1972/174-20.

Rep. Farenthold was the only woman serving in the Texas House during the Texas 61st and 62nd Legislative Session, a time when Sen. Jordan was the lone female member of the Texas Senate. While representing House District 45-1 (Corpus Christi/Nueces County), Farenthold became convinced of the need for a Texas Equal Rights Amendment and went on to serve as the first chair of the National Women’s Political Caucus. Click or tap on thumbnail for larger image.



 

A black and white photograph of Rep. Frances “Sissy” Farenthold, speaking into a microphone on a lectern.  Rep. Frances “Sissy” Farenthold, Texas House of Representatives chamber, March 1972. Current Events Photographic Documentation Program collection, Image 1972/174-49

Rep. Frances “Sissy” Farenthold, Texas House of Representatives chamber, March 1972. Current Events Photographic Documentation Program collection, Image 1972/174-49.

During the Texas 61st and 62nd Legislatures, Rep. Farenthold was the only woman serving in the Texas House when Sen. Jordan served as the lone woman in the Texas Senate, for both the 61st and 62nd Legislature. While representing House District 45-1 (Corpus Christi/Nueces County), Farenthold became convinced of the need for a Texas Equal Rights Amendment, and she went on to serve as the first chair of the National Women’s Political Caucus.

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A newspaper clipping of Public notice for proposed Constitutional Amendment Number 7 on the ballot (SJR 16), General Election, November 7, 1972. Texas Secretary of State Elections Division election materials, Box 1989/092-50

Public notice for proposed Constitutional Amendment Number 7 on the ballot (SJR 16), General Election, November 7, 1972. Texas Secretary of State Elections Division election materials, Box 1989/092-50.

This is the public notice announcing the proposed Texas Equal Rights Amendment to be decided in the general election in November 1972, as it would have appeared in newspapers across the state.

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 Senator Barbara Jordan holding a gavel in the Texas Senate Chamber - image 1972/155-12. Sen. Barbara Jordan as President Pro Tempore of the Texas Senate, March 29 or 30, 1972. Swearing-in ceremony for Barbara Jordan as President Pro Tempore of the Senate, Current Events Photographic Documentation Program collection, Image 1972/155-12

 Senator Barbara Jordan holding a gavel in the Texas Senate Chamber - image 1972/155-13. Sen. Barbara Jordan as President Pro Tempore of the Texas Senate, March 29 or 30, 1972. Swearing-in ceremony for Barbara Jordan as President Pro Tempore of the Senate, Current Events Photographic Documentation Program collection, Image 1972/155-13Sen. Barbara Jordan as President Pro Tempore of the Texas Senate, March 29 or 30, 1972. Swearing-in ceremony for Barbara Jordan as President Pro Tempore of the Senate, Current Events Photographic Documentation Program collection, Image 1972/155-12 and Image 1972/155-13.

Sen. Jordan was the first African American woman to serve in the Texas Legislature, elected in 1966 to represent Senate District 11 (Houston/Harris County). She was elected President Pro Tempore of the Texas Senate on March 28, 1972, one of the highest honors that chamber can bestow upon one of its members. She is shown presiding over the Senate during the 2nd Called Session of the 62nd Legislature. Click or tap on thumbnails for larger images.
 

 

Legal size paper with typewriter text in the middle and numerous hand written signatures on the top and bottom. House Joint Resolution 16, 62nd Legislature, Regular Session, 1971. Texas Legislature bill files, Box 100-331

Legal size paper with typewriter text in the middle and numerous hand written signatures on right hand side. Senate Joint Resolution 16, 62nd Legislature, Regular Session, 1971. Texas Legislature bill files, Box 100-305House Joint Resolution 16, 62nd Legislature, Regular Session, 1971. Texas Legislature bill files, Box 100-331 and Senate Joint Resolution 16, 62nd Legislature, Regular Session, 1971. Texas Legislature bill files, Box 100-305.

Sen. Jordan and Rep. Farenthold were among the authors of the House and Senate joint resolutions proposing an Equal Rights Amendment to the Texas Constitution. Sen. Jordan’s signature in green ink stands out from those of the other senators who were joint authors of the Senate resolution. Rep. Farenthold’s signature appears in blue ink below the House joint resolution number. [Digital facsimile on display. Origina document transferred to the Legislative Reference Library.]

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A round button with white text on a blue background and a dove logo with a venus symbol. United Nations Decade for Women, 1976-1986, button. Conference buttons, Program Committee files, Texas International Women’s Year Coordinating Committee records, Box 1978/032-15

United Nations Decade for Women, 1976-1986, button. Conference buttons, Program Committee files, Texas International Women’s Year Coordinating Committee records, Box 1978/032-15.

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Typewritten text on yellow paper with a signature on the bottom. Conference on Women in Public Life invitation, 1975. Auxiliary organizations A-P, Outreach Committee files, Texas International Women’s Year Coordinating Committee records, Box 1978/032-7

Conference on Women in Public Life invitation, 1975. Auxiliary organizations A-P, Outreach Committee files, Texas International Women’s Year Coordinating Committee records, Box 1978/032-7.

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A black and white photograph of a nun in a habit wearing a Stop ERA button. Nun against the ERA at Texas Women’s Meeting, 1977. Extra photographs, Public Relations Committee files, Texas International Women’s Year Coordinating Committee records, Box 1978/032-7Nun against the ERA at Texas Women’s Meeting, 1977. Extra photographs, Public Relations Committee files, Texas International Women’s Year Coordinating Committee records, Box 1978/032-7.

 

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Cover of the Program showing three black and white photographs and the venus symbol on yellow paper.  Front Cover. Texas Women’s Meeting program, 1977. Brochures and flyers, Public Relations Committee files, Texas International Women’s Year Coordinating Committee records, Box 1978/032-6

Pages 2 and 3 of the Program showing black text on yellow paper and the venus symbol.  Texas Women’s Meeting program, 1977. Brochures and flyers, Public Relations Committee files, Texas International Women’s Year Coordinating Committee records, Box 1978/032-6 Pages 4 and 5 of the Program showing black text on yellow paper and the venus symbol.  Texas Women’s Meeting program, 1977. Brochures and flyers, Public Relations Committee files, Texas International Women’s Year Coordinating Committee records, Box 1978/032-6 Pages 6 and 7 of the Program showing black text on yellow paper and the venus symbol.  Texas Women’s Meeting program, 1977. Brochures and flyers, Public Relations Committee files, Texas International Women’s Year Coordinating Committee records, Box 1978/032-6

Pages 8 and 9 of the Program showing black text on yellow paper and the venus symbol.  Texas Women’s Meeting program, 1977. Brochures and flyers, Public Relations Committee files, Texas International Women’s Year Coordinating Committee records, Box 1978/032-6 Pages 10 and 11 of the Program showing black text on yellow paper and the venus symbol.  Texas Women’s Meeting program, 1977. Brochures and flyers, Public Relations Committee files, Texas International Women’s Year Coordinating Committee records, Box 1978/032-6 Pages 12 and 13 of the Program showing black text on yellow paper and the venus symbol.  Texas Women’s Meeting program, 1977. Brochures and flyers, Public Relations Committee files, Texas International Women’s Year Coordinating Committee records, Box 1978/032-6 Pages 14 and 15 of the Program showing black text on yellow paper and the venus symbol.  Texas Women’s Meeting program, 1977. Brochures and flyers, Public Relations Committee files, Texas International Women’s Year Coordinating Committee records, Box 1978/032-6 Pages 16 and 17 of the Program showing black text on yellow paper and the venus symbol.  Texas Women’s Meeting program, 1977. Brochures and flyers, Public Relations Committee files, Texas International Women’s Year Coordinating Committee records, Box 1978/032-6 Pages 18 and 19 of the Program showing black text on yellow paper and the venus symbol.  Texas Women’s Meeting program, 1977. Brochures and flyers, Public Relations Committee files, Texas International Women’s Year Coordinating Committee records, Box 1978/032-6 Back cover of the Program showing black text on yellow paper and the venus symbol.   Back Cover. Texas Women’s Meeting program, 1977. Brochures and flyers, Public Relations Committee files, Texas International Women’s Year Coordinating Committee records, Box 1978/032-6

Texas Women’s Meeting program, 1977. Front Cover, Pages 2 and 3, Pages 4 and 5, Pages 6 and 7, Pages 8 and 9, Pages 10 and 11, Pages 12 and 13, Pages 14 and 15, Pages 16 and 17, Pages 18 and 19 and Back Cover. Brochures and flyers, Public Relations Committee files, Texas International Women’s Year Coordinating Committee records, Box 1978/032-6.

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Black and white photograph of a woman wearing glasses and holding a baby with the printed Program at her side. Mother and baby at plenary session, Texas Women’s Meeting, 1977. Extra photographs, Public Relations Committee files, Texas International Women’s Year Coordinating Committee records, Box 1978/032-7

Mother and baby at plenary session, Texas Women’s Meeting, 1977. Extra photographs, Public Relations Committee files, Texas International Women’s Year Coordinating Committee records, Box 1978/032-7.

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A flyer on yellow paper with a photo showing women holding signs at a rally. Houston Equal Rights for Women Welcoming Rally flyer, 1977. Brochures and flyers, Public Relations Committee files, Texas International Women’s Year Coordinating Committee records, Box 1978/032-7

Houston Equal Rights for Women Welcoming Rally flyer, 1977. Brochures and flyers, Public Relations Committee files, Texas International Women’s Year Coordinating Committee records, Box 1978/032-7.

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Cover showing a black and white photograph of a woman marching holding an American flag on a pole. National Women’s Conference program, 1977. Publications and programs pertaining to the National Women’s Conference in Houston, Texas, National Women’s Conference and women’s rights activities files, Betty I. Hook Rienstra papers, Box 1988/292-44

Inside front cover showing pin buttons on the left page and photos of women carrying Olympic torches on the right page. National Women’s Conference program, 1977. Publications and programs pertaining to the National Women’s Conference in Houston, Texas, National Women’s Conference and women’s rights activities files, Betty I. Hook Rienstra papers, Box 1988/292-44Page 2 and 3 showing a poem of Maya Angelou on the left side and a photo and introduction by Bella Abzug on the right. National Women’s Conference program, 1977. Publications and programs pertaining to the National Women’s Conference in Houston, Texas, National Women’s Conference and women’s rights activities files, Betty I. Hook Rienstra papers, Box 1988/292-44Page 4 and 5 featuring a letter from Mayor Fred Hofheinz and Niki Hightower on the left and the title From Seneca Falls to Houston on the right. National Women’s Conference program, 1977. Publications and programs pertaining to the National Women’s Conference in Houston, Texas, National Women’s Conference and women’s rights activities files, Betty I. Hook Rienstra papers, Box 1988/292-44

 

 

Pages 8 and 9 showing Declaration of American Women on the left and Goals of the State Meetings and National Conference on the right. National Women’s Conference program, 1977. Publications and programs pertaining to the National Women’s Conference in Houston, Texas, National Women’s Conference and women’s rights activities files, Betty I. Hook Rienstra papers, Box 1988/292-44Pages 18 and 19 showing 15 headshot photos of the speakers on the left side and conference activities on the right hand side.  Publications and programs pertaining to the National Women’s Conference in Houston, Texas, National Women’s Conference and women’s rights activities files, Betty I. Hook Rienstra papers, Box 1988/292-44. Pages 28 and 29 showing a photo of a woman running with a torch on the left with Torch Relay info and Official Events for Friday and Saturday on the right hand side.  Publications and programs pertaining to the National Women’s Conference in Houston, Texas, National Women’s Conference and women’s rights activities files, Betty I. Hook Rienstra papers, Box 1988/292-44

 

 

Pages 30 and 31 showing Official Events for Sunday and Monday on the left side and National Commission on the Observance of International Women's Year Houston Committee. Publications and programs pertaining to the National Women’s Conference in Houston, Texas, National Women’s Conference and women’s rights activities files, Betty I. Hook Rienstra papers, Box 1988/292-44.  Inside back cover showing text of Special Thanks on the left hand side and a drawing of a woman with a bull horn on the right hand side. National Women’s Conference program, 1977. Publications and programs pertaining to the National Women’s Conference in Houston, Texas, National Women’s Conference and women’s rights activities files, Betty I. Hook Rienstra papers, Box 1988/292-44 Back cover showing a drawing in blue color of a woman in uniform with the text If You Want to Fight Join the Marines. National Women’s Conference program, 1977. Publications and programs pertaining to the National Women’s Conference in Houston, Texas, National Women’s Conference and women’s rights activities files, Betty I. Hook Rienstra papers, Box 1988/292-44

National Women’s Conference program, 1977. Front Cover, Inside Front Cover, Pages 2 and 3, Pages 4 and 5, Pages 8 and 9, Pages 18 and 19, Pages 28 and 29, Pages 30 and 31, Inside Back Cover and Back Cover. Publications and programs pertaining to the National Women’s Conference in Houston, Texas, National Women’s Conference and women’s rights activities files, Betty I. Hook Rienstra papers, Box 1988/292-44. Click or tap on thumbnails and links for larger images.

 

Black and white photograph of a woman sitting down looking at the conference program. African American participant at Texas Women’s Meeting, 1977. Extra photographs, Public Relations Committee files, Texas International Women’s Year Coordinating Committee records, Box 1978/032-7

African American participant at Texas Women’s Meeting, 1977. Extra photographs, Public Relations Committee files, Texas International Women’s Year Coordinating Committee records, Box 1978/032-7.

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Black and white photograph of two women facing each other. Participants talking at Texas Women’s Meeting, 1977. Extra photographs, Public Relations Committee files, Texas International Women’s Year Coordinating Committee records, Box 1978/032-7Participants talking at Texas Women’s Meeting, 1977. Extra photographs, Public Relations Committee files, Texas International Women’s Year Coordinating Committee records, Box 1978/032-7.

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Black text on yellow paper with the City of Houston logo on top. Letter from Nikki R. Van Hightower, City of Houston Women’s Advocate, to Texas Exhibit Committee, Texas Woman’s University, October 27, 1977. Photograph album, Program Committee files, Texas International Women’s Year Coordinating Committee records, Box 1978/032-15

Letter from Nikki R. Van Hightower, City of Houston Women’s Advocate, to Texas Exhibit Committee, Texas Woman’s University, October 27, 1977. Photograph album, Program Committee files, Texas International Women’s Year Coordinating Committee records, Box 1978/032-15.

The Texas exhibit at the National Women’s Conference featured invited responses from leading Texas women about their hopes for International Women’s Year. Nikki Van Hightower was a member of the Texas delegation to the conference and an outspoken feminist. At the time, she served as Women’s Advocate for the City of Houston. In 1977, the all-male city council voted to reduce her annual salary to $1.00 as a tactic to oust her from the position. Mayor Fred Hofheinz, who had appointed her, recrafted her position as an Affirmative Action Specialist to keep her on the job. When James McConn was elected mayor in 1978, he fired her. As Hightower’s message so eloquently expresses, feelings of hope and determination are often mixed with an understanding of the enormous difficulties involved in securing women’s rights in our society. Click or tap on thumbnail for larger image.

 

Black and white photograph of Representatives Rex Braun (foreground), Dave Allred, and Frances “Sissy” Farenthold in the chamber of the Texas House of Representatives, 62nd Legislature, 1971. Texas House of Representatives House Photography records, Box PP0884

Representatives Rex Braun (foreground), Dave Allred, and Frances “Sissy” Farenthold in the chamber of the Texas House of Representatives, 62nd Legislature, 1971. Texas House of Representatives House Photography records, Box PP0884.

Representative Rex Braun, a Democrat from Houston, was author of House Joint Resolution 16.

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Black and white photograph of committee members sitting on tables on a stage. Black and white photograph of Representatives Rex Braun (foreground), Dave Allred, and Frances “Sissy” Farenthold in the chamber of the Texas House of Representatives, 62nd Legislature, 1971. Texas House of Representatives House Photography records, Box PP0884

International Women’s Year press conference committee members, 1975. Unmarked images, Public relations committee files, Texas International Women’s Year Coordinating Committee records, Box 1978/032-7.

The United Nations declared 1975 as International Women’s Year, which led to the next ten years being designated as the UN Decade for Women and conferences on women’s issues being held throughout the world.

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Black and white photograph of Liz Carpenter. Liz Carpenter, 1977. Exhibit mounted photographs, Program committee files, Texas International Women’s Year Coordinating Committee records, Box 1978/032-17

Liz Carpenter, 1977. Exhibit mounted photographs, Program committee files, Texas International Women’s Year Coordinating Committee records, Box 1978/032-17.

Journalist and political aide Liz Carpenter served as a National International Women’s Year Commissioner and organized the 1975 Conference on Women in Public Life. She co-chaired ERAmerica, a nationwide alliance to promote ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment.

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Black and white photograph of C. DeLores Tucker, Keynote speaker. Program committee files, Texas International Women’s Year Coordinating Committee records, Box 1978/032-15C. DeLores Tucker, Keynote speaker. Program committee files, Texas International Women’s Year Coordinating Committee records, Box 1978/032-15.

Pennsylvania Secretary of the Commonwealth C. DeLores Tucker was the keynote speaker at the Texas Women’s Meeting. She helped Pennsylvania become one of the first states to pass its own Equal Rights Amendment.

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Black and white photograph of  Ann Richards. Photograph album, Program committee files, Texas International Women’s Year Coordinating Committee records, Box 1978/032-15

Ann Richards. Photograph album, Program committee files, Texas International Women’s Year Coordinating Committee records, Box 1978/032-15.

Future Texas Governor Ann Richards was serving as Travis County Commissioner in 1977 when she chaired the nominations committee that planned the Texas Women’s Meeting.

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