Women in Texas History

In recognition of Women’s History Month, People’s History in Texas celebrates the innumerable contributions of Texan women with our educational articles, documentaries, and podcasts.
People’s History in Texas presents Talkin’ Union, a four-part oral history of four women who organized labor unions in Texas in the 1930s, 40s, and 50s.

The women are Alberta Snid, participant in the 1938 Pecan Shellers Strike in San Antonio, the largest strike in the Southwest during this period; Charlotte Graham, leader of the 1935 Dallas garment worker strike and member of the International Ladies’ Garment Workers Union; Olivia Rawlston, president of the Black ILGWU local in Dallas for twelve years; and Andrea Martinez, leader of the ILGWU in Laredo during the 1950s and 1960s. Talkin’ Union raises significant issues about women in the Texas workforce. In 1930, one in four women worked outside the home. Today, one in two women work. The problems women faced in 1930 are the problems they face now: low pay for women’s work with few benefits and poor working conditions. Though some of their attempts to win better pay and improve working conditions failed, they remain convinced of the importance of their experience in their own lives and the lives of others. The documentary is an hour long and is broken into four segments for internet viewing purposes.  It is black and white. It was produced in 1977 by People’s History in Texas with the use of National Endowment of the Humanities Youth Grant, and can be viewed in full here.

People’s History in Texas has initiated a podcast series to explore and present to out listeners the oral histories that have been collected by PHIT and others as well. Judy Smith worked for the Rag in Austin, Texas. A committed woman’s activist, she also was instrumental in encouraging Sarah Weddington to take the case of a woman’s right to choose to the Supreme Count which is famous as the Roe v Wade case.

If The Rag interests you, People’s History in Texas has also produced a three-part documentary featuring interviews and photography from members of The Rag collective. Rag staffers published an influential Underground Press newspaper in Austin, Texas from 1966-1977. Their activism and writings propelled the local anti-war, pro-Civil Rights, Women’s Liberation, and countercultural movements of the sixties and seventies. Individuals who participated in producing and distributing The Rag revolutionized Austin politics and local media. Many have continued to lead lives committed to social progress and radical thought. The complete docu-series is available for viewing here.

People in Texas History’s Building Hope documentary also features interviews from women who experienced life on experimental New Deal farms. During the Great Depression of the 1930s, the U.S. Government created many programs to help unemployed Americans. The Building Hope video documentary tells the story of three different communities that were built in Texas through support from President Roosevelt’s administration to address widespread poverty among tenant farmers and sharecroppers. In “Ropesville”, original settlers tell the story of building a farm community from the west Texas soil in the Dust Bowl days of the 1930’s. “Sabine Farms” is the story of the only African American community built in Texas as part of this national program. In “Dalworthington Gardens,” original settlers and their descendants tell the story of building a better life in their community of subsistence truck gardens between Dallas and Ft. Worth. Descendants of original settlers still live and farm or garden on a portion of these settlements. The three part Building Hope docuseries can be viewed here.