Texas women won the right to vote in primary elections in 1918, two years before the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified. In January 1919, an amendment to the state constitution enfranchising women finally passed through the legislature but was defeated at the ballot box by male voters in May of that year. Women were still barred from voting in that general election. The following month, after decades of arguments across the country, Congress passed the federal women’s suffrage amendment on June 4, 1919. On June 28, 1919, the Texas legislature voted to ratify the 19th Amendment – the first Southern state to do so. By August 18th 1920, 36 states (including Texas) approved the amendment and it became part of the United States Constitution.
Edith Eunice Therrel Wilmans was born on December 21, 1882. Wilmans was the first woman elected to the Texas Legislature – she unseated a long-term incumbent. During her tenure, Wilmans became the first woman to preside as speaker of the House. As a mother of three, Wilmans endorsed legislation for child care and child support and for the creation of the Dallas County District Court of Domestic Relations. Wilmans’ own experience as a domestic violence survivor made her a passionate advocate as she worked to ensure a legal system where survivors could seek protection. Wilmans was also a suffrage leader, a lawyer, and helped create the Dallas Housewives League and the Dallas Equal Suffrage Association.
Sarah T. Hughes was an attorney, legislator, women’s rights activist, United Nations supporter, and Texas’ first female state and federal judge. A member of a Dallas law firm from 1923 to 1935, she was elected to her first term in the Texas House of Representatives in 1930 and voted “Most Valuable Member” her second term. In 1935, Judge Hughes became Texas’ first female district judge and was re-elected seven times. She was also a national president of the Federation of Business and Professional Women’s Clubs in 1952.
Born in Austin in 1919, Louise Ballerstadt Raggio was the only woman in her 1952 law class at Southern Methodist University, and in 1954 became the first female assistant district attorney in Dallas County. During her tenure she created a legal task force that spent two years writing, then lobbying for, the Marital Property Act. The Marital Property Act ended the archaic requirement that Texas women turn over control of their personal finances and real estate to their husbands upon marriage. Raggio’s work gave married women independent legal rights for the first time in Texas history once the Marital Property Act became law in 1967. She later became the first woman ever elected as a director to the Texas State Bar Board of Directors.
Calvert Collins was an advocate for education and healthcare as well as a longtime philanthropist. Collins ran for Dallas City Council in 1957 after getting a phone call from then-Mayor Robert L. Thornton, asking her to run. She was a believer in homeowners’ rights, was elected after a runoff and served two terms from 1957-1961. At age 32, Calvert became the First Female Council Member for the City of Dallas.
Anita Martinez served on the Dallas City Council from 1969-1973, but began serving her community by going door-to-door at age 14 collecting signatures to pave Pearl Street in “Little Mexico.” In addition to being the first Hispanic Council Member of Dallas, Martinez was the first Mexican-American to hold any elected government position in the city of Dallas. During her tenure, she fought to build a recreation center for West Dallas and pushed for numerous improvements, including library branches and street repair in low-income neighborhoods. Her work led to a new recreation center, which Dallas City Council named after her as a tribute to her service and hard work. After serving as a Councilwoman, Anita Martinez founded Anita N. Martinez Ballet Folklorico at the site of the recreation center to inspire confidence and cultural pride in Hispanic youth.
Adlene Harrison Harrison served as Mayor for three months in 1976 to complete the term of Wes Wise, who resigned. In addition to being the first woman mayor of Dallas, Harrison was the first Jewish woman to serve as mayor of a major U.S. City. She also served on the Dallas City Council, was regional administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and was the first chair of the Dallas Area Rapid Transit board.
Annette Strauss Prior to her election as mayor, Strauss raised millions as a fundraiser for various charities and organizations in Dallas. In 1983, Strauss was elected to the Dallas City Council, and in 1987 she was elected mayor. She was then re-elected to a second mayoral term in 1989. During her tenure as mayor, Strauss helped to lead a city suffering from a sharp economic downturn and founded a shelter for homeless families that still operates today as The Annette G. Strauss Family Gateway Center.
Carolyn Wright was the first African-American to serve as Chief Justice on any of the 14 intermediate courts of appeal in Texas, and the first African-American woman to win a multi-county election in Texas history. A Texas judge for over 30 years with civil law, family law, criminal law, and mediation experience, Wright served as a practicing attorney, Dallas County associate judge, and state district judge before being appointed as a Justice on the Court of Appeals by Governor Bush in 1995. Over her storied career, she has authored thousands of legal opinions in cases involving legal issues in every area of Texas law.
In 2004, Lupe Valdez drew national headlines when she was elected as the nation’s first openly gay Hispanic sheriff. Valdez served four terms as Dallas County Sheriff before resigning to run for Governor of Texas in 2018. She won the most votes in her party’s crowded primary and the run-off primary election. Ultimately, she lost the general election, but she was the first Latina and first openly gay person nominated for governor by a major party in Texas.
In the 105-year history of the NAACP, Lorraine C. Miller, a native of Fort Worth, was the first woman to lead the historic civil rights organization as the interim President and CEO. She is the first African-American to serve as an officer of the House of Representatives and the third woman, but first Black woman, to serve as Clerk of the U.S. House of Representatives. She has also worked for three Speakers of the House, including as Director of Intergovernmental Relations.
Ulysha Renee Hall joined the Detroit police force in 1999 and quickly climbed the ranks, being promoted from sergeant to deputy chief in eight years. In May 2014 she was appointed as deputy chief of police in Detroit, and in September 2017 became Dallas Police Chief, and the first African-American woman to hold the position. As Dallas Police Chief, Hall plans to establish a civilian advisory board to make sure that command staff is held accountable for the issues of which they are in charge.
Trustee Karla Garcia was inspired to run for Dallas Independent School District 4 (DISD 4) Trustee because she wanted to address the inequities that she saw in the public school system, particularly in her native community of Southeast Dallas. Garcia is also a daughter of immigrants from Mexico and was the first in her family to attend college, where she studied public policy and entrepreneurship at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC). After graduating from UNC, Garcia returned to Dallas with the intention of making an impact in her local community. As a trustee, Garcia’s goal is to represent the perspective and needs of students in her community.