Jane Yelvington McCallum
Born: 1877 in LaVernia, TX
Died: 1957 (interred in Austin, TX)
Noted For: Among many other “firsts”, suffragist writer and leader Jane McCallum is the longest-serving Secretary of State of Texas (1927-1933).
Before the advent of TV and social media, the pen—particularly when deployed in letters and newspaper articles—was an essential and formidable instrument when it came to influencing public opinion.
Jane McCallum, president of the Austin Woman Suffrage Association, knew how to leverage the power of the written word for maximum effectiveness, which is probably why the Texas Equal Suffrage Association entrusted her to manage the group’s statewide public relations activities.
In the years leading to ratification, the mother of five penned a number of newspaper columns in support of votes for women (and prohibition, another issue important to Jane.) Jane also used her journalistic influence to lead a fundraising drive that yielded the very impressive sum of $700,000 in support of the World War I effort.
In later years, the name of her Austin American-Statesman column became “Woman and Her Ways”, appearing in that paper until the 1940s.
Jane’s foray into politics wasn’t the first time she challenged the status quo . As a young woman, she was one of the first mothers to attend the University of Texas, as well as the first married woman to join a UT sorority (Alpha Delta Pi). These were the beginnings of many “firsts” that Jane would achieve throughout her lifetime.
From suffragist to Secretary of State…
After the passage of the 19th Amendment, Jane remained heavily involved in state and national politics. She served on Austin’s first city planning commission, and was also the first female commissioner of a Travis County grand jury.
She also lobbied for laws related to education, child labor, health care, and prison reform—all while still finding time to author a history of the suffrage movement, a profile of the noted sculptor Elisabet Ney, and a collection of early American leaders, entitled “Women Pioneers”.
In 1927, Governor Dan Moody appointed Jane secretary of state, a position she retained even after Moody’s successor Ross Sterling took office a few years later. To date, Jane is the only Texas secretary of state who has served for two terms under two governors.
While in office, Jane discovered an original copy of the Texas Declaration of Independence, which she eventually helped restore and properly display. She would later cite this effort as one of the more noteworthy accomplishments of her public life.
1929: Texas Secretary of State Jane McCallum poses with other state officials and an original copy of the Texas Declaration of Independence. From the Texas State Library and Archives Collection.
“Somehow I felt too thankful to be jubilant,” Jane Y. McCallum wrote in her diary on June 28, 1919, the day that the 19th Amendment was ratified in Texas. “We have a great responsibility and I pray God we may meet it squarely and successfully.”
Additional Listening and Places of Interest:
Jane McCallum—Women in Texas History [Sound file]
Austin Oakwood Cemetery—1601 Navasota Street in Austin, TX
Jane McCallum House—613 W 32nd Street in Austin, TX