The Woman's Hour

Timeline: Women's Suffrage in Houston

From the founding of the first women's suffrage club to seeing three Black candidates on the 1920 ballot, Houston has deeper ties to suffrage than you might think.

By Emma Schkloven August 26, 2020

The delegation from Texas marching in Washington, D.C. (April 7, 1913)

The delegation from Texas marching in Washington, D.C. (Apr 7, 1913)


Annette Finnigan and her sisters, Katherine and Elizabeth, form the Houston Equal Suffrage League. The Texas Woman Suffrage Association (TWSA), later the Texas Equal Suffrage Association (TESA), is organized later that year.

Carrie Chapman Catt, president of the National American Woman Suffrage Association, gives a lecture in Houston.


The Houston Equal Suffrage League petitions unsuccessfully to have a woman named to the Houston School Board.

 A female suffrage fancy, J. Keppler (1880)


The Houston chapter of the TESA, along with most chapters in the state, becomes inactive. 


The TESA is revived, as is the Houston club, following a tour of Texas by Anna Howard Shaw, president of the National American Woman Suffrage Association.


Texas women join suffragists from all over the country in Washington, D.C. to march for suffrage on the eve of Woodrow Wilson's inauguration.


Annette Finnigan is elected president of the TWSA and establishes its headquarters at Houston’s Hotel Brazos on Washington Avenue.

A “Votes for Women” campaign kicks off with a first-ever open-air rally in Houston’s Hennessy Park.


Suffragists from all over the state lobby the Texas legislature to address the issue of women’s right to vote, but the resolution fails.

Women are among the founding members of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People's Houston branch.


The Texas branch of the National Woman's Party is founded in Houston. 


The United States enters World War I. Suffragists support the war effort through various activities, including selling Liberty Bonds and volunteering with the Red Cross.


Hortense Sparks Ward is elected president of the Houston Equal Suffrage Association. Suffragists win the right to vote in Democratic Party primary elections (there weren’t Republican primaries at the time). Ward becomes the first woman in Harris County to register to vote and is followed by approximately 14,000 other Harris County residents over the next 17 days.

Houston suffragists staff an Equal Suffrage Liberty Loan booth at Rice Hotel for a week in April and raise $177,500 in war bonds; by the end of the war the Equal Suffrage Association will have sold $2,339,000 worth of bonds in Harris County.   

Votes for women bandwagon, Clifford Berryman. Washington Evening Star (Jan 10, 1918)


In January Gov. William Hobby recommends the Texas Constitution be amended to offer full voting rights to women. The amendment is defeated in May. Less than a month later, the Texas legislature approves the national constitutional amendment for woman suffrage, becoming the ninth state and the first Southern state to ratify the amendment.

The TESA is replaced by the League of Women Voters of Texas; the Houston/Harris County chapter of the League of Women Voters is organized that same year. 


Tennessee becomes the 36th and final state to ratify the 19th Amendment on August 18, and women are given the right to vote. That September three Black women in Houston announce their candidacy for office during a rally at Emancipation Park.

Sources: Heritage Society exhibit, Women Cast Their Ballots; Texas State Historical Association; The Houston Review; Women History in Texas