As we celebrate 100 years since the U.S. Congress certified the ratification of the 19thAmendment to give women the right to vote, it is important to understand the history of the Suffrage Movement and to learn the contributions of many women in Denton County.
On Aug. 26, 1920, Congress certified the ratification, thereby approving the 19thAmendment to the United States Constitution: “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex. Congress shall have the power to enforce the article by appropriate legislation.”
A total of 2,808 Denton County women, according to Denton Record-Chronicle archives, had registered to vote as of July 12, 1918. In fact, the Denton County Tax Collector kept his office open late to allow women to register to vote by the deadline.
On June 28, 1919, Texas became the ninth state and the first in the South to ratify women’s right to vote. Years later in 1972, Texas would also be among the first 10 states to ratify an amendment to its constitution stating, “Equality under the law shall not be denied or abridged because of sex, race, color, creed or national origin” as part of the Equal Rights Amendment movement.
In a 1984 article, the Washington Post notes four Denton County women for their involvement in local politics in Texas at a time when the winds of political change were blowing. Mary Denny, then Denton County Republican chairman, and former Precinct 3 County Commissioner Lee Walker, were two women who sought office at a time of significant growth in the region. Denny would later serve many years as State Representative. Walker chose to pursue office following a personal tragedy in the rape-murder of her daughter. As she told the journalist, Walker attended the trial in the Denton County Courthouse and, when the proceedings became more than she could bear, she would walk to another room, listening to the proceedings of the Commissioners Court.
“There was no reason I could see that a woman could not do that commissioner’s job,” she told the Post. She became the first woman to serve on the court and the first Republican elected to a courthouse office. Walker’s campaign slogan was “She’s the man for the job.”
In the years since, women have held political offices in Denton County at several levels. Jane Nelson, a former schoolteacher, was first elected to the State Board of Education. Today, she serves as a Senator in District 12 – an office she has held since 1993. Myra Crownover served 16 years in the Texas House of Representatives. Currently, Precinct 3 Commissioner Bobbie Mitchell has served on the Denton County Commissioners Court since 2000 after having served as mayor and council member with the City of Lewisville for 10 years.
These are only a few of the many women who serve in Denton County on school boards, university boards of regents, planning and zoning commissions, city councils and state-level positions. Many women serve as school superintendents, district judges, CEOs, presidents and much more.
Our history in Texas and in Denton County has demonstrated the commitment of many women who have dedicated their lives to ensuring women have equal rights.
Our Denton County Office of History & Culture has created an extensive look at the Suffrage and ERA movements through a virtual tour entitled: Century of Action: Women and the Vote. You can see it on their YouTube page: https://youtu.be/mJyUjoA29dc. The exhibit at the Courthouse-on-the-Square Museum will remain in place through August of 2021.
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If you have any questions or comments, please let me hear from you. My email is [email protected], and my office number is 940-349-2820. For more information, register for my newsletter at www.Dentoncounty.gov/countyjudgenewslettersignup