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.
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.
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.