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A 1920s beauty

By 1920, the clothes and hairstyles of fashionable women reflected the increased freedom of women's lives.

1920s women and children

The vote and changing times brought new responsibilities for homemakers as well as working women.

I'm a Voter!

In November 1919, Holland's magazine published this humorous celebration of a new voter.

League of Women Voters report, 1923

Jessie Daniel Ames reported in 1923 on the first four years of the League of Women Voters.



The Battle Lost and Won

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The League of Women Voters

With the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment, the Texas Equal Suffrage League happily convened in October 1919 and reorganized into the Texas League of Women Voters. The League took on the task of researching issues and candidates and providing citizenship education and support for new voters across the state. Jessie Daniel Ames was elected president of the organization and served until 1923.

In its early years, the League of Women Voters published a monthly newsletter, conducted citizenship schools, held poll tax and get-out-the-vote campaigns, and published voting calendars, interviews with candidates, and citizenship booklets. The League established a policy of providing objective, nonpartisan advice, but it was active in projects of the Joint Legislative Council (JLC), a lobby group for women's welfare. As part of the JLC, the League endorsed measures such as a minimum wage for women, better maternity and infant care, a ban on child labor, jury service for women, prison reform, and improved rural education. The League also promoted the participation of women in all levels of politics.

As the years went by, the League of Women Voters continued to be an active organization. It played a key role in securing the secret ballot for Texans in 1949 and finally helped win passage of a constitutional amendment allowing women to serve on juries in 1954. Over the years, the League worked for the establishment of family courts, the elimination of legal discrimination against women, the revision of the state constitution, abolition of the poll tax, reform of the voter-registration laws, and better procedures for the selection of judges.

Today, the League continues its work, publishing the Voters Digest to inform voters about upcoming elections and the Texas Government Handbook for use in schools.

The Petticoat Lobby

The suffragists had long promised Texas that there would be big changes in the state once women had the vote. Now, with the vote won, the former suffrage activists aimed to make good on their words. They formed the Joint Legislative Council to lobby for causes of particular interest to women. The Joint Legislative Council, headed by Jane Y. McCallum, represented the lobbying interests for the Texas Federation of Women's Clubs, the Texas Mother's Congress (later the Parent-Teacher Association), the Women's Christian Temperance Union, the Graduate Nurses Association, and the League of Women Voters.

The group was dubbed the "Petticoat Lobby" by the male legislators, who were still shocked to find themselves approached by genteel but assertive women. The JLC was particularly effective in the legislative session of 1923. Their activism, and the women's vote that backed it up, led to significant reforms. The legislators found that they now had to pay attention to issues that were of concern to their female constituents.

In 1923, the women successfully persuaded the Legislature to participate in a federal program for women's and infant health (something that states' rights advocates opposed). They secured funding for a study on how to improve Texas schools. They successfully pushed for passage of laws controlling the disposal of contraband whiskey. And they achieved several significant prison reforms, from more accountability for prison management to improved conditions for prisoners.

In the 1925 session, the JLC obtained better funding for rural schools, stronger child labor laws, continued funding for the mother-infant health care program, prison consolidation, and funding for a girls' correctional facility. In 1927, they helped persuade the legislature to establish a state board of education, an appointed prison board, and a paid prison manager, and again renewed funding for the mother-infant program.

By 1929, burnout and changing times were taking their toll on the JLC. There was no longer consensus among the women on prohibition, which was proving to be a failed experiment. The Mother's Congress pulled out to focus on a more limited agenda, as did the Texas Federation of Women's Clubs, which wanted to return to being primarily a social organization. Although the 1929 session saw successful passage of health measures promoted by the graduate nurses, the JLC had lost the common voice that had given it power in the early 1920s, and the organization disbanded. Its legacy was permanent change in state policy on education, prisons, and health care.


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Page last modified: August 24, 2011