Written by Nancy Baker Jones
Read by Sara Hickman
Considered the "mother of Texas women’s history," Ruthe Lewin Winegarten was a free-spirited iconoclast who shaped the field of Texas history without having formal training in it. Born in 1929 to Jewish parents in Dallas, Winegarten developed a strong social conscience. She briefly saw Communism as a solution for discrimination, but gave that up.
In the 1940s, her discovery that Blacks in Dallas had no running water crystallized her conviction that powerless people were silenced by being deprived of their history. She earned a masters in social work and began a Ph.D. in history as a way to collect stories of "forgotten" women, but found academia too restricting, so she left.
In Austin, as research director for the Texas Women’s History Project, Winegarten and her staff discovered the stories of nearly 600 women and over 20,000 artifacts for the first multicultural traveling exhibit about women’s history, in 1981. By 2003, she had published 20 books, videos, and a musical about Jews, African American and Native American women, Tejanas, women in politics, and "unknown" women, like Annie Mae Hunt.
She founded the Texas Women’s History Network, gave countless speeches promoting women’s history, suggested hundreds of entries about women for the New Handbook of Texas, advised the new Texas State History Museum, and was named a Fellow of the Texas State Historical Association.
She married and divorced four times and raised three children. Ruthe Winegarten died in 2004.
Jones, Nancy Baker, "Ruthe Lewin Winegarten," in Patrick L. Cox and Kenneth E. Hendrickson, Jr., eds. Writing the Story of Texas. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2013.
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.