A Brief Timeline of Feminism in Dallas: The Nation’s Most Notorious Trailblazers

St. Vincent made feminist history designing the first electric guitar for women.
St. Vincent made feminist history designing the first electric guitar for women.
Mike Brooks
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Until recent years, with the wake of the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements, public consideration for the female struggle was regarded with the turn of a cheek or the draw of a blind. Though women continue to grapple with inequality today, most certainly with the recent abortion restrictions, the fortitude of feminism remains steadfast, even in the most conservative quarters.

A majority of feminist movements have been concentrated in historically progressive regions of the U.S. However, it’s the women who have stood up among multitudes of openly disdainful chauvinism who exemplify the true fortitude of feminism. Dallas isn’t the first place you think of when you consider the history of feminism in America. Believe it or not though, the grande dame has made her name known in our city since the beginning. And her sovereignty continues to reincarnate today.

Women of Dallas take on traditionally male-dominant roles as ranchers, business women, educators, and activists.

A utopian society called La Réunion is established in the area that is now Oak Cliff, inspired by the teachings of French philosopher Charles Fourier, who coined the term féminisme.

Belle Starr, “Bandit Queen,” becomes a notable Dallas con woman among the ranks of Jesse James and the Younger brothers. Her ability to present herself as a genteel lady in order to connive and cajole illustrates a powerful depiction of feminine autonomy.

Burleson County representative Titus H. Mundine raises the question of women’s suffrage during the Constitutional Convention of 1868-69, becoming the first man in a position of power in Texas to propose the idea.

Texas feminist groups become the first of the southern unions to take radical steps toward endorsing women’s right to vote. Texas remains the only state in the South to support the suffrage movement until 1893.

S. Isadore Miner becomes the first female editor of The Dallas Morning News, where she takes over the “Woman’s Century” column under her famous pen name, Pauline Periwinkle. Her writings dig deep into feminist issues and provide clever solutions, raising a new level of consciousness among female and male readers.

Ella Isabelle Tucker and Adella Kelsey Turner are elected to the Dallas School Board, making Dallas the first major Texas city to have two women serve as school trustees.

Texas becomes the first state in the South to ratify the 19th Amendment, breaking the Solid South’s resistance to women’s suffrage.

Katherine Ripley founds the first family planning and birth control center in the state, Dallas Birth Control Center (later Planned Parenthood).

Women challenge the norms of what it takes to be a woman in power and begin to move the barometer in categories of social life, beauty and media.

Mary Kay Ash is faced with unequal pay in the retail workplace, when she decides to build a beauty business, now empire, where women could thrive through the selling of Mary Kay Cosmetics, one of the leading employers for women today.

Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders attract national spotlight and become a staple of “America’s Team.” The first of their kind, the cheerleaders’ fame reflects a sexual revolution during this time and stands as a symbol of female power and beauty.

Dallas resident Norma McCorvey, under the alias of Jane Roe, serves Dallas County District Attorney Henry Wade with court papers in order to seek legal abortion in the state of Texas. Roe v. Wade becomes the first landmark Supreme Court case to name abortion legal, to which it would stand as a beacon in the fight for female reproductive rights to this day.

Dallas elects its first female mayor, Annette Strauss, who is said to have pulled the city through some of its most turbulent and racially divisive years with grace and compassion.

Senator Wendy Davis stands for an 11-hour filibuster against an abortion bill in the Austin Capitol, signifying a victory for abortion rights advocates.

St. Vincent disrupts the traditionally male-reserved industry of rock 'n' roll and designs the first electric guitar for women, made exclusively to fit the female body.

Amid pro-life movements in various conservative states, Texas’ proposed "heartbeat bill" is stalled until its failure. Despite being traditionally "red" on issues as such, the failure of the bill retains the legality of abortion and protects female reproductive rights in the state.

The further the leading ladies of our city adjust the norms of feminism, the more room they make for political change. Just like in the past, Texas remains a beacon of hope for southern feminists, and a refuge for those women in states that have denied them their rights.

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