Written by Cynthia J. Beeman
Read by Ben Sargent
Women won the right to vote in 1920, but no women served in the Texas Senate until 1927, when Margie Elizabeth Neal became the first. Born near Carthage in 1875, Neal taught school in several Texas towns and later ran her own newspaper, the East Texas Register, which she used to support woman suffrage and the Democratic Party.
Her passion for education led Neal to become the first female member of the Board of Regents for state teachers’ colleges in 1923. Her frustration with the legislature’s inability to raise academic standards propelled her to run for a seat herself. With the overwhelming support of her family and the voters in her deep East Texas district, she won.
Neal was the only woman in the entire legislature during her first term and the only female Senator throughout her four terms. While there, she helped establish the State Board of Education and the Texas Centennial Commission; won major funding for rural education; certification of public school teachers; rehabilitation for disabled people; and better conditions at prisons and mental institutions.
Neal gave up her $10-a-day senator’s pay to direct the women’s division for the New Deal’s National Recovery Administration until 1945. She retired to Carthage where Governor Allan Shivers and Senator Lyndon B. Johnson declared "Margie Neal Day" to honor her in 1952. She remained active until her death, at age 96, in 1971.
Margie E. Neal Papers, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.
Harris, Walter Lawrence. The Life of Margie E. Neal. M.A. Thesis, University of Texas at Austin, 1955.
Jones, Nancy Baker and Ruthe Winegarten. Capitol Women: Texas Female Legislators, 1923-1999. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2000.
Margie Neal historical marker file (Panola County), Texas Historical Commission, Austin.
"NEAL, MARGIE ELIZABETH," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fne02.
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.