Have you ever heard of Sissy Farenthold–The Honorable Frances Tarlton Farenthold? I’m embarrassed to say that I hadn’t until this February, when she received the 2010 Pathfinder Award from Texas Women Lawyers for helping open the door for women’s leadership in the American political system.
A Corpus Christi native, Farenthold gained a seat in the Texas legislature in 1968. She went on to run for the Texas Governor’s office in 1972, the same year she was nominated (by Gloria Steinem) as the first female Democratic candidate for the US vice presidency. From 1976-1980 she served as the first women president of Wells College.
Here’s some of what Farenthold said to us at the TWL award ceremony:
Thank you to all the men here today, because all we are striving for is equality. It’s as simple as that. I commend each of you as a pathfinder doing the work that is still there. It’s not as conspicuous as it was, but it’s still there. Sometimes it’s deja vu. Particularly when I saw how the insurance companies opposed health reform legislation. Because insurance companies charge women so much more. It’s as simple as that. Follow the money.
Nothing raised my consciousness like being in the [Texas] legislature for two terms.
I had not supported the ERA before I joined the legislature because the State Bar was against it. My “tradition of timidity.”
Until 1954, women could not serve on a criminal jury in Texas. I researched what the federal judges in Texas thought. They had two reasons to oppose the change. First, there were 254 courtrooms. It would be too expensive to build 254 additional restrooms. Second, they claimed that women would be too preoccupied with what was going on at home with the children. After that modest research, I co-sponsored the ERA.
Further Reading: “Unsung Heroines: Frances ‘Sissy’ Farenthold, Tenacious Texas Politician”