Written by Nancy Baker Jones
Read by Debra Winegarten
In 1976, a former Social Studies teacher named Ann Richards took her family to the Institute of Texan Cultures in San Antonio to instill a love for Texas in her children. After watching a dramatic slide-and-film show designed to illustrate the “universal character” of Texas people, Richards’ daughter Ellen said to her, “Where were all the women?” Richards realized they were missing from the show, and she decided to do something about it.
With Sarah Weddington and four other friends, Richards formed the Texas Women’s History Project in 1978 to research and reveal the women’s history that had been omitted from the show. With Mary Beth Rogers, Ruthe Winegarten, and scores of others, the project did what no one had done before: searched the state for artifacts and documents, discovered stories about 600 women, and produced a museum exhibit that was displayed at the Institute of Texan Cultures and in four other cities in 1981 and 1982.
This exhibit shattered old definitions of Texas history, which Richards had laughingly called “the saga of what men do outdoors.” The documents and the bibliography used to create the exhibit laid the foundation for a whole new field—Texas Women’s History—through which historians continue to discover and explain what it means to have been a woman in Texas. Ann Richards went on to make history herself, becoming a Travis County Commissioner, then State Treasurer, and finally, Governor. In 1991, her first official proclamation as governor was to declare March to be Women’s History Month.
Jones, Nancy Baker. “Making Texas Our Texas: The Emergence of Texas Women’s History, 1976-1990.” Southwestern Historical Quarterly (January, 2017).
Jones, Nancy Baker. “Ruthe Winegarten,” in Patrick L. Cox and Kenneth L. Hendrickson, Jr., eds. Writing the Story of Texas. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2013.
Richards, Ann. Straight from the Heart: My Life in Politics and Other Places. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1989.
Rogers, Mary Beth. Texas Women: A Celebration of History Austin: Texas Foundation for Women's Resources, 1981.
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.