Image by Neal Douglass, from the Austin History Center
Born and Died: 1865 and 1956 in Kyle, TX
Noted For: Mary Lucy Kyle Hartson is noted as an early woman mayor of Texas who presided over an all-woman city council during the Depression.
In the late 1930s, most people outside of Hays County had never heard of Kyle, Texas.
After all, Kyle was just a tiny railroad community at the time, indistinguishable in most ways from hundreds of other small towns across Texas. But all of that changed in May of 1937, when Kyle staked a claim to fame in nothing less than the pages of Life magazine, one of the most-read publications of its day. That month the venerable periodical ran a feature about Kyle’s top government official, Mary Lucy Kyle Hartson, who was believed to be the only woman mayor in Texas at that time.
The daughter of the town’s namesake (who was also a state legislator) and a former teacher and postmistress, Mary was a 72-year-old grandmother when she was elected mayor, serving until 1941 and again from 1944-1946. (She was also the sister of agricultural expert and diplomat Edwin Jackson Kyle, the namesake of Kyle Field at Texas A&M.)
In 1944, she presided over an “all-woman” city council that was included in that year’s roundup of “oddities” chronicled by “Ripley’s Believe It Or Not”.
During her tenure as mayor, Mary supervised the installation of street lights, updates to the fire department, and the construction of a municipal water system. She recalled later: “We balanced the budget, and cleaned up the town. Then when everything was under control, I retired.”
Additional Learning: “Ladies who led: In the 1940s, Kyle’s mayor and city council were all women”—Austin 360