Written by Nancy Baker Jones
Read by Spike Gillespie
After Texas became the first state in the South to ratify the 19th Amendment, giving women the right to vote, women in Texas saw the opportunity not only to vote, but also to lobby elected officials to support their causes. In 1922, following the lead of a nationwide collaboration among women’s groups to lobby the U.S. Congress, five women’s groups in Texas formed the Joint Legislative Council to lobby the Texas Legislature.
Hoping to reform society, the Council worked to secure surveys of prisons and education, a state match of federal funds for mother and infant health care, public school funding, and prohibition of alcohol. One House member called their efforts "the most audacious piece of Bolshevism ever permitted to clutter up this chamber," and other opponents nick-named the Council the "Petticoat Lobby" to embarrass and silence the women.
But some legislators’ fears of a female block vote made them support enough ideas that the Council continued to lobby through 1929, pressing for child labor and school attendance laws, a state board of education, day nurseries, children’s homes, adoption agencies and more. The Joint Legislative Council did not get everything it wanted, but its nearly ten years of activism taught many women about legislative procedure, political organizing, and persuasion, and encouraged more and more women to run for office themselves, a feat that changed the face of Texas politics for good.
Sherilyn Brandenstein, "JOINT LEGISLATIVE COUNCIL," Handbook of Texas Online
Jones, Nancy Baker and Ruthe Winegarten. Capitol Women: Texas Female Legislators, 1923-1999. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2000.
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.