Ann Richards (Sep. 1, 1933 - Sep. 13, 2006)
Although she was the second of the only two female governors of Texas, Ann Richards is certainly not the least of our state’s leading ladies. On the contrary, she is considered by most to be the true first woman elected governor of Texas, since the twice-elected Miriam Ferguson is often considered to have been a proxy for her husband, impeached governor James Ferguson.
As governor, she was able to save $600 million through audits on the state bureaucracy, implemented effective reforms to the prison system (including increasing prison space to help with the growing prison population, creating substance abuse programs for inmates, and reducing the number of violent offenders released back into the public), required vehicle owners to have a valid auto insurance policy to be able to obtain or renew anything pertaining to their vehicle, and launched the famous Robin Hood Plan in the 1992 – 1993 biennium as an attempt to increase the equal distribution of school funding across school districts.
Barbara Jordan (Feb. 21, 1936 - Jan. 17, 1996)
Barbara Jordan may be one of the most impressive women on our list. She shattered so many glass ceilings for women (particularly women of color) in Texas. She was the first woman of color to be elected to the Texas State Senate, the first African American to be elected after the Civil War Reconstruction, the first African American woman elected to the US House of Representatives, the first person of color and the first woman to deliver a keynote address at the 1976 Democratic Convention, and the first black woman to be buried in the Texas State Cemetery.
- Member of the Peabody Awards Board of Jurors
- Chair of the US Commission on Immigration Reform
- Inducted into the Texas Women’s Hall of Fame & the National Women’s Hall of Fame
- Recipient of the Spingarn Medal from the NAACP & the Elizabeth Blackwell Award from Hobart and William Smith Colleges
- Awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom
- The second-ever female awardee of the United States Military Academy’s Sylvanus Thayer Award
Bessie Coleman (Jan. 26, 1892 - Apr. 30, 1926)
Born in Atlanta, TX in 1892 to an African American mother and Native American father, Bessie had big dreams that expanded beyond the fields of her sharecropper family’s origins. She aspired to be a pilot, but American flight schools didn’t admit people of color or women at the time. This didn’t deter her from working toward her goal of being a pilot. She left Texas and headed for Chicago where her brothers lived in order to take a French course at the Berlitz Language School, then traveled to Paris so she could earn her pilot license. After earning her license, she visited the Netherlands to meet with one of the world’s most distinguished aircraft designers of the time, Anthony Fokker, in hopes of expanding her aviation knowledge. After meeting with Anthony, Bessie went to Germany to receive additional advanced flight training from one of the Fokker Corporation’s chief pilots.
When she completed her studies in Europe, she returned to the US and became the Barnstorming stunt flier known as Queen Bess. She drew huge crowds, was invited to important events and interviewed by newspapers, she was admired by people of all ages and races. She became the first black woman and first Native American to earn an aviation pilot’s license as well as the first black person and Native American to earn an international aviation license from the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale. She delivered stunning daredevil flight demonstrations to the end, stopping at nothing to complete a difficult stunt. She spoke to audiences across the country about the pursuit of aviation and the goals of African Americans as part of her commitment to combating racism and promoting aviation.
Carrie Marcus (May 3, 1883 - Mar. 6, 1953)
Carrie did not receive a traditional education but was educated at home by her Jewish German immigrant parents. She often read German newspapers and studied European fashion magazines as a way to expand her education. In 1899, she left her family home in Hillsboro and moved to the booming city of Dallas, where she worked for the department store A. Harris and Company as a saleswoman and blouse buyer. By the age of 21, she had become one of the highest-paid working women in Dallas. She met and married her husband Abraham Lincoln “Al” Neiman and joined him and her brother Herbert in a business venture, the Neiman Marcus Sales Firm, based out of Atlanta GA. They sold the business two years after its inception and returned to Dallas.
Carrie noticed a void in the Texas fashion industry in regard to ready-made clothing. In the 1900s, most women of means went to dressmakers for their clothing, even traveling as far as New York and Europe to find the best seamstresses and the most contemporary styles. In partnership with her sister-in-law, husband, and brother, she opened Neiman Marcus in 1907. It became a center for fashion for southern women and was known as a store of quality. She encouraged weekly and seasonal fashion shows, and eventually created the annual Neiman Marcus Awards for designers of outstanding service in the field of fashion. Though strongly invested in quality couture, Carrie was also a huge proponent of conservation and rationing during WWII. She encouraged designers to create fashions that aligned with this goal of rationing certain materials, including nylon and other fabrics.
Carolyn Jones (Apr. 28, 1930 - Aug. 3, 1983)
The last woman on our list is a lot closer to home. An Amarillo native, Carolyn Jones may be best known for her role as Morticia Addams in the original tv iteration of the Addams Family. She had an expansive career in film and television, with a total of 98 acting and audio recording credits. Some of her most notable film appearances include House of Wax, The Seven Year Itch, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, and How the West Was Won. She also acted in 35 tv productions, including Dragnet, Batman, Wonder Woman, and the miniseries Roots. She was a mysterious and somewhat enigmatic woman but loved by many.
- Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress
- Golden Globe New Star of the Year
- Golden Globe for Best Female TV Star
There are so many amazing women to remember and learn about during Women’s History Month. If you’re interested in diving deeper, check out all the fantastic books the AC Library is showcasing on their “That’s What She Said” display, or view their bulletin board for recommendations and QR codes.
You can also check out the Roaring 1920’s Flapper Fashion exhibit at the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum to find out all about the impressive ladies who were considered the first generation of independent American women to push economic, political, and societal boundaries.