Minnie Fisher Cunningham
Cunningham, born in 1882, was involved in politics from her childhood as her father, a state Representative, often took her to political meetings. At 16 she earned a teaching certificate, but then went to the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston to become one of the first women in Texas to receive a degree in pharmacy. She left the field, though, because of the inequity in pay which turned her into a “suffragette.”
She was a founding member and president of the Galveston Equal Suffrage Association in 1912 and in 1915 became president of the Texas Equal Suffrage Association. In 1917 Cunningham moved to Austin so that she could open suffrage headquarters near the Capitol to have better lobbying power.
Cunningham proved to be a shrewd negotiator. She promised prohibitionist legislators that if they supported primary woman suffrage, women would then vote to support “dry” legislators and William Hobby for governor. Hobby did not outright support woman suffrage, afraid it would cost him votes (he would soon be up for re-election). Suffragists gathered a petition of signatures from legislators promising a majority vote for suffrage in both houses should a bill be introduced. Representative Charles Metcalfe then introduced a primary suffrage bill, it passed by a large majority, and Governor Hobby signed it into law on March 26, 1918. Those women able to vote in the primary in turn helped to re-elect Hobby as Governor in a landslide.
In 1927 Cunningham became the first woman in Texas to run for the U.S. Senate. In the 1930s she worked for the Texas A&M Extension Service and then in Washington, D.C. for the Women’s Division of the Agricultural Adjustment Administration. In 1944, angered by divisions in the Democratic party, Cunningham decided to run for governor of Texas, though she lost. Cunningham continued to campaign for the Democratic party, helped found the Texas Observer in 1954, and managed the local campaign headquarters for John F. Kennedy in 1960. She died in 1964.
[Minnie Fisher Cunningham], circa 1920s, AR.E.004(113). Jane Y. McCallum Papers.