PBS Film - Citizens At Last

The Story of Women in the Texas Legislature

Watch "Citizens at Last"

"Citizens at Last" is a PBS film that tells the story of the Texas women who organized, demonstrated, and won the vote for women. It follows the early days of organizing, explores the strategic role Texas suffragists played in the national movement, and exposes the pro-Jim Crow policies of the anti-suffragists who stood in their way. Like all the former Confederate states, Texas saw woman suffrage as a threat to white male supremacy. Because of Texans like Minnie Fisher Cunningham, Annette Finnigan, Marianna Folsom, Jovita Idar, and Maude Sampson, Texas became the first state in the South and the ninth in the nation to ratify the Nineteenth Amendment. But it was a segregated victory. While white suffragists celebrated, African American women and Tejanas were left without the vote in Jim Crow Texas. Exasperated but undaunted, these women continued their fight for equal voting rights until the 1965 Voting Rights Act and later.

"Citizens at Last" elucidates the crucial role Texas women played in the long struggle for equal voting rights. The words of suffragist Jane Y. McCallum captured the thrill of voting for the first time after a long, hard fight, whether for the passage of the 19th Amendment in 1920, or the Voting Rights Act in 1965, when she wrote, “With what high hopes and enthusiasms women stepped forth into a world in which they were citizens at last!”​

Ellen C. Temple produced "Citizens at Last." Temple has been involved with researching, writing and publishing about women in Texas history for 50 years, including writing columns for the Diboll Free Press and publishing two pioneering books: Citizens at Last: The Woman Suffrage Movement in Texas, edited by Judith MacArthur and Ruthe Winegarten, and Jane Y. McCallum: Diaries and Writings of a Texas Suffragist by Janet Humphrey, both of which remain in print in the Texas A&M series Ellen C. Temple Classics of Texas Women’s History, sponsored by the Ruthe Winegarten Foundation for Texas Women’s History. It was her understanding that the exciting story of the Texas fight for woman suffrage had remained invisible that led her into the production of "Citizens at Last" with filmmaker Nancy Schiesari.

Nancy Schiesari produced, directed, and wrote "Citizens at Last." Schiesari is a director, producer, and cinematographer of broadcast documentaries and award-winning independent films. Her full-length documentary, "Canine Soldiers: The Militarization of Love," premiered at the Austin Film Festival and aired nationally on PBS in 2018. In 2010, she founded MO-TI productions, dedicated to making films with diverse talent committed to telling stories from new perspectives.