According to a Press Release sent by the League of Women Voters it's been 100 years since Texas Women first voted in state primary election.
On July 27, 1918, Texas women had the right to vote in the democratic primary because of a law passed by the Texas legislature on March 26, 1918 that permitted women to vote in all primary elections and nominating conventions in Texas. In 1918, voting in the democratic primary was essentially equivalent to selecting the winner of the race in the general election.
This step gave the suffrage movement even greater power and led to Texas becoming the ninth state in the union, and the first state in the South, to ratify the nineteenth amendment to the United States Constitution, which gave women the right to vote in all elections throughout the country.
It was not an easy path for suffragists to achieve the right to vote in the primaries. There were many fierce opponents to suffrage in the Texas government, including Governor James Ferguson. However, following misconduct, Texas suffragists and allied groups helped campaign for Ferguson’s impeachment. When Lieutenant Governor William P. Hobby became governor he ensured a vote on Texas Representative Charles Metcalfe’s bill to allow women to vote in primary elections and nominating conventions.
Minnie Fisher Cunnigham, leader of the Texas Equal Suffrage Association, reported to the National American Woman Suffrage Association in 1915, “The press of the State is with us, as are the Federation of Labor, the Federation of Women’s Clubs, the Farmer’s Institute, the Farmer’s Congress, the Texas Farm Women, the Texas Press Women, and the W.C.T.U. [Women’s Christian Temperance Movement]” It took three more years for this coalition to be successful!
In 1919, the Texas Equal Suffrage Association became the League of Women Voters of Texas. While the ability to vote in primary elections was a huge win for the suffrage movement, voter suppression continued with force in Texas. Texas, among many other southern states, held “white primaries” meaning that no person of color was allowed to vote in a primary.
The fight for free and fair elections was not over. Yet, women in Texas were still leading the fight for a more perfect democracy. Black suffragist and activist Christia Adair helped lead Texas and other states to finally end white primaries. The lawsuit filed by Houston branch of the NAACP and argued by Thurgood Marshall at the Supreme Court in 1944 finally ended discriminatory white primaries around the United States.
The United States has made progress in expanding voting rights, but there is still much work to be done. Voter suppression continues, but the League of Women Voters continues to fight for a democracy where every person has the desire, the right, the knowledge and the confidence to participate.
The League of Women Voters of Texas represents over 6,000 grassroots advocates across the State of Texas. The Texas League has been "educating and agitating" since 1919. The League is a nonpartisan organization - it does not support or oppose any candidates or parties. Instead, the League encourages active and informed civic participation in government and increased understanding of major public policy issues.
The League of Women Voters' nonpartisan Voters Guide is highly respected and sought after by voters in local and statewide elections in Texas. Click here for more information about the League and Texas voting.