Activist and librarian Martha P. Cotera is one of the co-founders of the Texas Women’s Political Caucus. Image from Wikipedia.
In 1971, more than 200 women gathered in Austin to form the Texas Women’s Political Caucus, a state-level extension of the National Women’s Political Caucus held earlier that year.
The purpose of the multi-partisan group was to increase the number of women in elected and appointed offices, in the effort to improve or combat conditions that were relevant to Texas women, such as economic security and violence. The keynote address for the organizing conference was Liz Carpenter, a noted political commentator and humorist who was considered a leader of the women’s movement in Texas.
Other noteworthy members included Representative Barbara Jordan of Houston and Representative Frances “Sissy” Farenthold of Corpus Christi.
The group enjoyed immediate success when a handful of women were added to the rolls of the Texas Legislature the following year—progress which the members hoped to extend by endorsing Sissy Farenthold and Alma Canales for governor and lieutenant governor, respectively. Neither candidate was successful in her election bid, but additional Texas women continued to run for and win state legislature seats in the years following.
The TWPC was also instrumental in securing voter approval for the Texas Equal Rights Amendment in 1972, which paved the way for women legislators to introduce a bill that made it illegal for husbands to abandon and sell homesteads without their wives’ consent, as well as legislation that prohibited gender discrimination in loan and credit applications.
In 1973, the same year that Texas ratified the federal Equal Rights Amendment, the TWPC hosted the first convention of the National Women’s Political Caucus in Houston, which saw the election of Sissy Farenthold as the national group’s new leader.
By the 1990s, the TWPC’s membership ranks had swelled to more than 1,000 members (including men), and was actively engaged in candidate endorsements, conventions, advocacy, and political education.
Today the group is branded as the National Women’s Political Caucus – Texas Chapter. According to the website: “NWPC-TX is a diverse, bipartisan, grassroots organization dedicated to increasing women’s participation in the political process and creating a true women’s political power base in Texas.”