Written by Nancy Baker Jones
Read by Khotan Shahbazi-Harmon
White Texas women petitioned for a suffrage amendment to the state constitution in 1868, but racism prevented most of them from working with African American suffragists as the movement grew. When Texas women won the right to vote in 1918, prejudice—in the form of poll taxes, white primary laws, and the Ku Klux Klan—disfranchised black women. “That just hurt our hearts real bad,” Kitty Simmons recalled when a Kingsville official said her race disqualified her from voting.
Black women still tried to register. Beaumont women hired an attorney to force the sherriff to comply, but the case was dismissed. They met some success in Austin, Houston, and Waxahachie, but still faced opposition on election day. Even so, Black women became delegates to the 1918 state Republican convention and formed their own Voters’ League.
In 1920, when the Republican Party had one wing called the Lily White and another called the Black and Tan, a black Houston woman—Mrs. R.L. Yocome—may have been the first female to run for the state legislature. She lost.
Black clubwomen continued the push, especially with the NAACP. But it took the end of the white primary in 1944, the Civil Rights Act in1964, the Voting Rights Act in 1965, the death of the poll tax in 1966, and the decline of the Klan before African American Texans gained full access to voting.
Glasrud, Bruce A. and Merline Pitre, eds., Black Women in Texas History. College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 2008.
Jones, Nancy Baker and Ruthe Winegarten, Capitol Women: Texas Female Legislators, 1923-1999. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2000.
McArthur, Judith N., "WOMEN AND POLITICS," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/pwwzj).
McArthur, Judith N. and Harold L. Smith, Texas Through Women’s Eyes: The Twentieth-Century Experience. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2010.
Winegarten, Ruthe, Black Texas Women: 150 Years of Trial and Triumph. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1995.
Audio Source Information
Our project, "Texas Women's History Moments," received the 2012 National Council on Public History Outstanding Public History Award and the American Association for State and Local History Leadership in History Award. The audio clips were broadcast on KUT radio from 2011-2016 during Women’s History Month.