Minnie Fisher Cunningham: A Suffragist's Life in Politics / Edition 1

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Overview

The principal orchestrator of the passage of women's suffrage in Texas, a founder and national officer of the League of Women Voters, the first woman to run for a U.S. Senate seat from Texas, and a candidate for that state's governorship, Minnie Fisher Cunningham was one of the first American women to pursue a career in party politics. Cunningham's professional life spanned a half century, thus illuminating our understanding of women in public life between the Progressive Era and the 1960s feminist movement.

Cunningham entered politics through the suffrage movement and women's voluntary association work for health and sanitation in Galveston, Texas. She quickly became one of the most effective state suffrage leaders, helping to pass the bill in a region where opposition to women voters was strongest. In Washington, Cunningham was one of the core group of suffragists who lobbied the Nineteenth Amendment through Congress and then traveled the country campaigning for ratification. After women gained the right to vote across the nation, she helped found the nonpartisan National League of Women Voters and organized training schools to teach women the skills of grassroots organizing, creating publicity campaigns, and lobbying and monitoring legislative bodies. Through the League, she became acquainted with Eleanor Roosevelt, who credited one of Cunningham's speeches with stimulating her own political activity.

Cunningham then turned to the Democratic Party, serving as an officer of the Woman's National Democratic Club and the Women's Division of the Democratic National Committee. In 1928 Cunningham became a candidate herself, making an unsuccessful bid for the U.S. Senate. An advocate of New Deal reforms, Cunningham was part of the 1930's movement to transform the Democratic Party into the women's party, and in 1944 she ran for governor on a pro-New Deal platform.

Cunningham's upbringing in rural Texas made her particularly aware of the political needs of farmers, women, union labor, and minorities, and she fought gender, class, and racial discrimination within a conservative power structure. In the postwar years, she was called the "very heart and soul of Texas liberalism" as she helped build an electoral coalition of women, minorities, and male reformers that could sustain liberal politics in the state and bring to office candidates including Ralph Yarborough and Bob Eckhardt. A leader and role model for the post-suffrage generation, Cunningham was not satisfied with simply achieving the vote, but agitated throughout her career to use it to better the lives of others. Her legacy has been carried on by the many women to whom she taught successful grassroots strategies for political organizing.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Popularly known as Minnie Fish, the subject of this biography was one of the most important political actors of 20th-century Texas. A natural organizer, she moved from involvement in local women's club work to participation and then leadership in the state's woman's suffrage movement. After the vote was attained, she worked with national organizations such as the League of Women Voters and the Women's National Democratic League and ran for the U.S. Senate and governor of Texas. Over the years, she fought sexual, economic, and racial discrimination and inspired generations of women to take an active role in politics. University of Houston, Victoria, professors McArthur (Creating the New Woman: The Rise of Southern Women's Progressive Culture in Texas, 1893-1918) and Smith (British Women's Suffrage Campaign, 1866-1928) have based their work on sound scholarship, drawing on a wide selection of primary sources to produce a readable text. They offer some new interpretations of political events in which Cunningham played a significant but hitherto unacknowledged role. Nevertheless, the book's main value is its being the only biography of this significant Texan. For academic libraries and collections focusing on women's political activity and Texas politics.-Theresa McDevitt, Indiana Univ. of Pennsylvania Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
From the Publisher
"A seamless, well-organized, and thoroughly researched political biography of Minnie Fisher Cunningham... this work is thoroughly grounded in twentieth-century state and national history—politics, reform, race relations, labor issues, war and economic depression, and women's movements. This is the book's most impressive and edifying achievement."—The Journal of American History

"excellently written and well-documented biography . . . . a welcome and substantive contribution to the study of women's political activism in the fight for state and federal suffrage laws."—H-Net

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195304862
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication date: 10/27/2005
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 296
  • Product dimensions: 8.90 (w) x 5.80 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Judith N. McArthur and Harold L. Smith teach at the University of Houston-Victoria. McArthur is the author of Creating the New Woman: The Rise of Southern Women's Progressive Culture in Texas and Smith is the author of The British Women's Suffrage Campaign, 1866-1928.

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Table of Contents

Foreword
Abbreviations
Introduction 3
1 A Daughter of the New South 8
2 The Rise of a Public Woman 24
3 Suffrage First 44
4 Washington Lobbyist and National Leader 68
5 In League with Women Voters 89
6 Woman Citizen and Democratic Partisan 109
7 "Too Gallant a Walk"?: Running for the Senate, 1928 131
8 A Woman's New Deal 148
9 At War with the Texas Regulars, 1944-1946 166
10 Left Feminism, 1947-1964 184
Epilogue 204
Notes 207
Index 259
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