Author Ruthe Winegarten talks about her ties to Texas women’s history and her presentation at the Texas Book Festival.
texasmonthly.com: When did you first decide you wanted to be a writer?
Ruthe Winegarten: I guess about 25 years ago.
texasmonthly.com: Was there a particular event that made you start writing?
RW: Well, I went to England and I saw a lot of pretty guide books and I realized Dallas didn’t have one, so a friend of mine and I decided to write one. So that was the first thing I wrote. And then I started writing for the feminist newspaper.
texasmonthly.com: When did you become interested in historical research?
RW: I was hired to be the research director for an exhibit on Texas women, sponsored by the Foundation for Women’s Resources, and curator for the exhibit. And we had so much information that we couldn’t put in the exhibit, we decided to get some books out of it. Out of that I’ve done a lot of books.
texasmonthly.com: What have been some of your major influences?
RW: Texas women’s history, and particularly black women. I’ve just finished a book on Mexican-American women called Las Tejanas: 300 Years of History. (Ms. Winegarten co-authored this book with Teresa Palomo Acosta.)
texasmonthly.com: So you have covered different cultures of women in Texas.
texasmonthly.com: Has being a Texan particularly affected your writing?
RW: Well, I specialize in Texas women, so yes I believe so.
texasmonthly.com: You said you worked for a feminist newspaper, how has being a woman affected the writing process, specifically getting into the field?
RW: Well, it all came out of the woman’s movement, really. It was a political act on my part to try and establish women.
texasmonthly.com: What will you speak about at the Texas Book Festival?
RW: I’m on a panel, I’ll be discussing a Black woman who self-published a book in 1925 called Tuneful Tales and then we kind of lose track of her and the book went out of print so Texas Tech has reprinted it. Her name is Bernice Love Wiggins. She was born in Austin and then moved to El Paso.
texasmonthly.com: What has been your favorite project?
RW: The Texas Women’s History Project exhibit called “Texas Women: A Celebration of History.” It’s on permanent display at Texas Woman’s University in Denton.
texasmonthly.com: What do you feel has been your greatest success as a writer and historical researcher?
RW: I wrote a book called Texas Women: A Pictorial History: From Indians to Astronauts and it was really the first of its kind.
texasmonthly.com: Do you have any plans for future projects?
RW: We just finished a major book, so we are planning a symposium around next October.
texasmonthly.com: One last question, your daughter Debra is involved in writing also?
RW: Yes, she has published a book about Katherine Stinson, one of the first flying schoolgirls, and she also wrote a book about a Black woman in Dallas called Strong Family Ties: The Tiny Hawkins Story.
texasmonthly.com: Has it been rewarding to have you daughter in the same field?
RW: Oh, it is.
texasmonthly.com: The family tradition continues.