Women in Texas Politics

[ Silence ]>>Women in Texas were not
allowed to vote until 1918 and even then it was only
in the state’s primaries. The following year Texas voted
to ratify the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution,
which granted women the right to vote in the United States. 70 years after women
secured voting rights, Ann Richards was elected
Governor of Texas. She was only the second woman in the state’s history elected
governor and was the first woman to hold the office since Miriam “Ma” Ferguson served her
second term in the 1930s. The former governor has
been involved in politics since she was in college. When asked about the gains women
have made during her political career she talked of
the progress she’s seen in securing equal
rights for women.>>Oh, there’s no
question that the very fact that young women have the
same opportunity in college, that they have a chance to
place sports because of Title 9, that they have the right
to terminate a pregnancy that doesn’t make sense in their
life or for the life of a child, the fact that we have equal
opportunity in the workplace, all those things would never
have happened if those of us who were participants in the women’s movement had not
been there and fought so hard.>>Geanie Morrison is a
Republican State Representative from Victoria. She was 1 of 36 women among 181
members of the 78th Legislature. We asked her if she thought that
being a woman had any impact on being a legislator.>>Oh, absolutely. I think so. When you look at the numbers of
the women in the legislature, and there are very few of us, but the Texas Legislature
is wonderful to women because in the House we
are definitely equals. I have been to numerous states
and conferences and talked to other women legislators in
other states and they don’t feel like they’re on the same playing
field even though they’ve been there a long time with seniority and that is not the
case in the Texas House. The men welcome us;
and actually they like our organizational skills. They enjoy, I think,
some of those assets and they recognize those
but we are definitely on a level playing field. I just wish that we could
encourage more young women to run and have more
women in the legislature. But I think definitely
being a woman, you see things differently
on the emotional side of some things and I think it’s
great to have both, both sides, the male and the
female take on issues. But I think it’s made a big
difference being a female in the legislature
and being a role model for other young women. I think there will be
more women that will run. Most of us, I would say the
majority, are in a stage in our life where are children
are out of, out of the home and that we feel like that
we can make that commitment. We do have several women
that do have younger children but I think we have
experienced, you know, the raising of children and can
use that expertise also as far as issues but I think
we will see more and more women getting
into the legislature.>>When asked about
whether she thought women in the legislature felt a
particularly strong bond as women, she downplayed
the notion that women tended
to band together.>>As women we all have
the common denominator of being together and you’ll
see us rally around each other on issues but I, I just that
camaraderie, I mean it is there. I mean, definitely it’s there
but I don’t think it’s something that we single ourselves out. We don’t have a female
caucus or anything like that. We all work together
because we work, we work all together so well. The men accept us very
easily and so it’s just, we’re comrades with everyone. And so you see that bond across
the board but not necessarily as just a group of
1 individual group.>>Representative
Morrison paints a portrait in which women seem integrated
on an equal plane with men. In what is perhaps a reflection
of their differing politics, Governor Richards
appears appreciative of the progress women have made
but less than fully content.>>You sound satisfied.>>Oh, I’m hardly satisfied. I’m outraged most of the time at
how the progress seems to stall, how difficult it is for
young people to realize that their very freedoms
are in jeopardy if they’re not willing
to fight for them. But you also have to look
back and accept and be pleased that things have changed. My grandmother, during
a period of her life, did not have the right to vote. The law in Texas was that
idiots, imbeciles, the insane, and women could not
vote and less than 1 generation later I
was the Governor of Texas. Now that will tell you
that we have progressed.>>How about women
in office in general? Do you think there’s been enough
progress in that area in terms of women being elected
to office?>>I think women
elected, getting elected to office is a, it’s
a slow thing. Women have to prove
themselves more than men do. And we also have the
continuing challenge of the fact that we are the ones that have
the babies and everyone wants to know how’re you gonna take
care of a baby and be in office? Of course, they don’t
ask that question about how’re you gonna
have a baby and have a job when you have to have the money to help support the
guy you married. But that, that stress and that
contest between the importance and the responsibility
of childrearing a plus, public service on top of it,
means that you’re willing to give a dedication to, of your
life, and an energy in your life that not everyone
has, male or female. Our future really has
always been in the pipeline. That is we have to get
elected to the local level, city council, county level. We have to then go to
the state legislature. Then we might have an
opportunity to run statewide. Then, we might have an
opportunity to run for Congress or the United States Senate
and it takes a long time, a long time to make
those changes. It’s the same for blacks and
it’s the same for Hispanics, because we’re going
against the tide. The tide has always been
that white males are the ones that are gonna occupy these
big elective positions. But we have made
a dramatic change in this country and
it will continue. I expect to see a woman
president in my lifetime.

Maurice Vega

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