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Texas’ Role in the Passage of the 19th Amendment: Looking Back to Move Forward

The women’s suffrage movement began in 1848 when women’s rights pioneers began educating the public about women’s rights and later organizing, petitioning, and lobbying Congress to pass a constitutional amendment. On August 18, 1920, the 19th Amendment was passed and many, but not all, women won the right to vote. Now 100 years later, voting and partaking in the political process is more important than ever.

Over the past century, across Texas, we have seen women continue to make strides in government and other fields for the betterment of our communities. In 1908, Ella Isabelle Tucker and Adella Kelsey Turner became the first women elected to serve on the Dallas Independent School District when they were sworn in as trustees. Their legacies help build a foundation of political leadership for women in Dallas by inspiring us to get involved in government.  Today, women in Texas are running for city council, state legislature, Congress, and even the governorship. In spite of the accomplishments of the last decade, we still have a long way before reaching equal representation. 

ReflectUS, a national coalition of nine leading women’s representation organizations across the ideological spectrum, works in Dallas county and surrounding areas to bring together local efforts and national resources towards achieving gender parity in Texas politics. ReflectUS, for instance, gathered information from all 31 cities within Dallas County to create a visual map depicting our progress towards gender parity. The Dallas County Heatmap shows that only 5 of the 31 cities in the county have women mayors and only about 34% of appointed leadership roles are held by women – yet women make up roughly  51% of the Dallas County population. While Texas was the first southern state to vote to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment, the state of gender parity in Dallas county is appallingly low – among the lowest in the country.

Through the work of our Dallas Leadership Council, we began creating ways to address the lack of women in political leadership. In the past year, ReflectUS has hosted online webinars that cover a variety of topics such as Organizing Communities Towards Political Leadership, The Importance of Raising Latina Women for Leadership Roles, and Understanding City Governance. Most recently we’ve published the first ever Boards and Commission Guides for Dallas County. This publication provides important information on how to seek appointments to City Boards and Commissions. The Guide details Appointment Eligibility, Application Process, Appointment Timeline, Mailing Address, Point of Contact Information and links to apply directly. 

Only one week after the Guides were published, we received an outpour of support from community members, telling us how valuable the resource is. In fact, one of our interns that worked on the Guides was so inspired that she applied and was appointed to the Cedar Hill Zoning Commission, becoming the youngest woman to serve on the commission! 

With the help of our nine lead organizations, Asian Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies (APAICS), Empowered Women, Higher Heights for America, IGNITE, LatinasRepresent, Represent Women, She Should Run, Vote Run Lead, and Women’s Public Leadership Network, ReflectUS is more than ready to help women in Dallas and Texas beyond launch their political leadership journeys. 

As we celebrate the 100th Anniversary of the 19th Amendment, we reflect upon the accomplishments of the women who came before to help direct our path forward. Together, we will mobilize women to lead cultural shifts and create institutional change towards a more reflective democracy … because representation matters.

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