TEXAS WOMEN HAVE BEEN IMMORTALIZED BY song, stereotyped in film, and made legendary by myth. From Denton to Dime Box, Big Spring to Beaumont and from Harlingen to Haskell, Texas women are as diverse as the state itself. They have made invaluable contributions as writers, activists, politicians, athletes, and actresses. Although we can’t recognize them all, we would like to tip our hats to 30 of the greatest.
Pioneers and Heroines
1. Jane Long (1798-1880) Jane Long will always be remembered as the mother of Texas. One of the earliest pioneers to make Texas her home, it is believed that she was one of the first English-speaking women to bear a child in Texas. Migrating from Mississippi at the beginning of the 19 th Century, she and her husband, James Long, settled at Bolivar Point. Jane was left there with daughter Ann while James went to join the fight for independence from Spain. While others began to evacuate the area Jane remained. “My husband left me here to wait for him and I shall stay until he returns,” she said. Her husband never returned. Upon learning the news that he had been killed in Mexico City, Jane moved her family to Brazoria where she opened a prosperous boarding house that was frequented by such prominent characters as William Barrett Travis. Long’s boarding house was used as a meeting place before the war, and it is said that Stephen F. Austin delivered an impassioned speech calling Texans to war under her roof.
2. Angelina Eberly (1798-1860) In 1842, in the midst of the Archive War, president Sam Houston ordered three wagon loads of state archives moved to Houston ostensibly to protect them from the Mexican Army who had re-taken control of San Antonio, Goliad, and Victoria. His real aim was to begin quietly moving the capital to Houston. It was Eberly who took a bead on the escaping document thieves and fired a six-pounder across their path, thereby alerting the citizenry. A vigilante posse was quickly formed and Houston’s henchmen were relieved of the archives at gunpoint just beyond Brushy Creek in nearby Williamson County.
3. Susana Dickinson (ca 1814-1883) Susana Dickinson or “The Lady of the Alamo” is said to be the only Anglo survivor at the battle of the Alamo. She experienced every hour of the two-week-long siege alongside the defenders. Her husband, Almaron Dickinson, took both Susana and their child into the fortress so that they could be near him during the ensuing battle. The Dickinsons moved into the Alamo on February 23, 1836. After the battle of the Alamo, she was found in the powder magazine. Shortly thereafter she was interviewed by Santa Anna, who sent Susana to Gonzalez to inform the Texans that he would ‘put down all resistance,’ and unless they surrendered they would suffer the same fate as those at the Alamo. It is said that upon delivering this message Susana sent, not a note of warning, but rather a battle cry for Texans to rally.
4. Clara Driscoll (1881-1945) and Adina De Zavala (1861-1955) Although it is Clara Driscoll who retains the title, “Savior of the Alamo,” it was the work of both she and Adina De Zavala that kept the Alamo from being razed in the early part of the 20 th century. It was 1904 and although the state had purchased the chapel, the long barracks of the Alamo were in jeopardy. A grocery wholesaler was interested in a portion of the Alamo grounds and Adina De Zavala was determined to keep it from falling into corporate hands. In a last ditch effort, Adina attempted to meet with the proprietors of the Menger Hotel in downtown San Antonio. They were out of town, but the hotel informed her that a Miss Clara Driscoll was a guest at the hotel. Driscoll, herself a dedicated preservationist, took an interest in Adina’s crusade. The result was a handsome sum of Clara’s own money put forth to purchase the Alamo. Both ladies worked tirelessly to preserve historical sites around the state, but will always be remembered most for their role of saving the Alamo.
5. Dale Evans (1912-2001) If you have ever heard the tune Happy Trails and were reminded of the famous cowboy Roy Rogers, you are missing half of the picture. It was Dale Evans who wrote this signature song and taught it to Roy and the Sons of the Pioneers a mere 40 minutes before a performance one evening. Dale Evans, originally from Uvalde, Texas, married Roy Rogers in 1947, and spent the next 41 years with him both on and off the silver screen.
6. Sissy Spacek (b. 1949) Although her official movie debut was in Michael Ritchie’s Prime Cut in 1972, her breakthrough role was the lead in Brian De Palma’s adaptation of Stephen King’s Carrie, which garnered her an Oscar nomination for Best Actress. Born and raised in the northeast Texas town of Quitman, she originally aspired to become a singer and moved to New York where she landed gigs in Greenwich Village coffee houses billing herself as “Rainbo.” Anyone who has seen her memorable portrayal of Loretta Lynn in Coal Miner’s Daughter in 1980, which earned her an Oscar, will know that a singing career wasn’t too far off the mark. After taking time off to concentrate on raising her kids, she continues to turn in award-winning performances like her role in the recent Golden Globe-garnering In The Bedroom.
7. Janis Joplin (1943-1970) Often considered one of the greatest white women to ever sing the blues, Janis Joplin had a brief yet prolific career. Born and raised in Port Arthur, Texas, she was said to develop a ‘taste’ for the blues at an early age. Just after graduating high school she quickly made her way to Austin where she worked the club circuit playing at such well-known venues as Threadgill’s. She eventually moved west to San Francisco where she delivered a show stopping performance at the Monterey pop festival. She soon gained