An effective lobbyist, Jane Y. McCallum used her many talents to bring about votes for women and laws that helped women and children. As an Austin housewife and mother of five, she handled statewide publicity for the woman suffrage movement from 1915 to 1920. Once women had voting power, McCallum organized the Women's Joint Legislative Council, better known as the Petticoat Lobby, to promote laws affecting prisons, schools, maternal and infant health, and child labor. It became one of Texas' most successful public interest lobbying organizations. She was appointed by Texas Governor Daniel J. Moody as Secretary of State, a position she held from 1927 to 1933. While Secretary of State, McCallum rediscovered the original Texas Declaration of Independence and placed it in public view.
Written by Janet G. Humphrey
Read by Jacqueline Jones
Best known for her dedication to winning the right to vote, Jane Y. McCallum was a lifelong activist, a prolific writer, and influential opinion maker. Born in 1878 in La Vernia, Jane Yelvington married Arthur McCallum, who became superintendent of Austin’s public schools. They had five children.
In 1915 she became president of the Austin suffrage association and began years of lobbying legislators for the vote, giving pro-suffrage speeches, and writing for two local newspapers. With Minnie Fisher Cunningham, president of the Texas Woman Suffrage Association, McCallum directed a successful statewide publicity campaign to win the right to vote in Texas primaries in 1918 and was among the first Austin women to register. With others, she then successfully lobbied Texas senators to ratify the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in 1920. From 1923 to 1926, as head of the Women’s Joint Legislative Council, she lobbied the state legislature for laws friendly to families, education, and public health.
McCallum’s political savvy caused Governors Dan Moody and Ross Sterling to appoint her secretary of state from 1927 to 1933. In 1954, the year Texas women finally won the right to serve on juries, she was named the first female commissioner of a Travis County Grand Jury. Jane Y. McCallum died in 1957. A collection of her diaries and writings, edited by Janet G. Humphrey, was reprinted in 2015 in the Ellen Temple Classics book series at Texas A&M University Press.
Duncan, Roberta S. “MCCALLUM, JANE LEGETTE YELVINGTON,” Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fmc07), accessed January 04, 2016. Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
Humphrey, Janet G. A Texas Suffragist: Diaries and Writings of Jane Y. McCallum. Austin: Ellen C. Temple, 1988. Reprinted College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 2015.
Biography Source Information
Biographies are reprinted from the Foundation for Women’s Resources (now Women’s Resources), Dallas, Texas. They originally appeared in "From Gutsy Mavericks to Quiet Heroes: True Tales of Texas Women," video study guide, Austin: The Foundation for Women's Resources, 1997. Death dates have been added where needed.
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.