Adlene Harrison, first woman mayor of Dallas. Image from the Portal to Texas History.
Kay Bailey Hutchinson:
In 1993, former journalist and attorney Kay Bailey Hutchinson, who was then serving as the state treasurer, made history when she was elected to the United States Senate and became the first woman senator in Texas history, a position she held until 2013. Today (2020), she serves as the U.S. Ambassador to NATO.
Although many people think of Annette Strauss as the first woman mayor of Dallas (1987-1991), that honor actually went to Adlene Harrison a decade before Annette’s election. (Adlene was also Dallas’s first Jewish mayor and in fact, the first Jewish woman to serve as mayor of any major U.S. city.) Prior to becoming mayor, Adlene served on the city council from 1973 to 1977; she was the mayor pro tem when Mayor Wes Wise resigned in 1977 to run for Congress, thus elevating Adlene to the top office. She finished Wise’s term three months later. “Hard-working with a great malarkey detector, she should run for governor,” Texas Monthly proclaimed when naming her ‘best mayor’ in 1976.” (From the Dallas Morning News)
Suzanne Schmeck Azar is an inductee of the El Paso Women’s Hall of Fame, and for good reason. In addition to being a member of The Ninety-Nines, an organization of women pilots and flight instructors, Suzie is the first woman ever elected as mayor of El Paso, serving from 1989-1991. During her campaign, she was disparagingly referred to as a “cheerleader” by her male opponent. She turned the moniker to her advantage, incorporating pom-poms into her campaign and describing herself as an “unabashed cheerleader for El Paso”, and won the election with a 65% majority vote.
Ella Isabelle Tucker and Adella Kelsey Turner:
In 1908, clubwomen Ella Tucker and Adella Turner were elected to the Dallas School Board—elected by men, since this was a full ten years before women were allowed to vote in Texas. Their election made Dallas the first major Texas city to have women serving as school trustees.
Hattie Mae White:
Hattie Mae White was the first black woman to serve on the Houston ISD Board of Trustees, defeating two white opponents in the general election in 1958—thus additionally making her the first African American to be elected to public office in Houston history. She remained in her position for nine years, serving as a vocal champion for desegregation policies, and helped elect the school board’s first African-American man (Asberry B. Butler) in 1964.
In 2018, Lina Hidalgo made history when she became the first Latina and the first woman to be elected as county judge (the chief executive for county government) in Harris County, the third-largest county in the U.S. That same year, 19 African-American women were also elected to Harris County judicial positions—which also made headlines around the country in an election year dubbed “The Year of the Woman” for its record number of women running for and winning office.