[Emma Long], circa 1940s, PICB 05228
Emma Long was Austin’s first female City Council member and first female Mayor Pro Tem. She was born on February 29, 1912, on a ranch in the Texas panhandle. The first in her family to attend college, she graduated from the University of Texas in 1936 with a bachelor’s degree in history and government. While there she met Stuart Long who soon became her husband. After World War II Stuart started Long News Service at the Capitol.
Long was first elected to City Council in 1948. She served until 1969, during which time she won nine elections, lost two and sat out one. During her tenure she worked to improve parks and libraries, to modernize streets by getting them paved, to make phone and utility service more affordable, and to create better working conditions for public employees. She also supported civil rights by advocating for the integration of libraries, playgrounds and swimming pools and by pushing an ordinance prohibiting racial discrimination in housing sales.
She was very well liked by the public because of her actions that benefited citizens; the business community, however, did not like her progressivism quite as much. It was her candidacy that prompted a change in the City Council election system. Previously, the top five candidates won seats on Council, but in 1953 the charter was changed to a place system. Thus Long would have to run for a specific seat against a specific opponent (who was backed by the business community), which would make it harder for her to win. Despite the changes to the system, Long won six more elections.
Long was active in many organizations, including the League of Women Voters, the Federated Business and Professional Women’s Club, the American Association of University Women, the American Legion Auxiliary, and the Texas Democratic Party. She died in 2011.