Written by Nancy Baker Jones
Read by Ben Sargent
A self-described bleeding-heart liberal who donated monthly to First Amendment causes and once mooned the KKK, Molly Ivins was a Columbia University-trained journalist who felt most at home with ordinary people and most compelled to mock the powerful. She once said of a Republican Congressman that if his "IQ slips any lower, we’ll have to water him twice a day," and described a Democrat Texas attorney general as "so mean he wouldn’t spit in your ear if your brains were on fire." She was tall, red-headed, gregarious, and generous with her money and her laugh.
Ivins grew up in Houston, in a wealthy, big-oil family. She was educated at private schools, traveled widely, and spoke French fluently, but she cultivated a plain-spoken and richly metaphoric Texas persona that eventually defined her, and, combined with wit and skewering prose, brought her both admiration and criticism.
She wrote for the Minneapolis Tribune, New York Times, Texas Observer, Dallas Times Herald, and Ft. Worth Star-Telegram, always chafing at editors’ efforts to sanitize her tone, as when she called a rural chicken festival a "gang pluck."
Ever resistant to authority, she sought independence as a syndicated columnist, public speaker, and book writer. She found mentors in Bob Bullock, Ann Richards, and John Henry Faulk. Ivins saw her fortunes rise, but she was also debilitated by alcoholism, which she never conquered. She died of breast cancer in 2007, at age 62.
Minutaglio, Bill and W. Michael Smith. Molly Ivins: A Rebel Life. New York: Public Affairs, 2009.
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.