Political Pioneers

 

Political Pioneers

 

PICB 00623

[Bickler Family], circa 1880, PICB 00623. Martha Bickler, Texas’ first female employee, is pictured with her husband Jacob, whom she met while working at the General Land office, and their children.

 

 

Martha Lungkwitz Bickler

The path to holding elected office was gained in small incremental steps, one of which was simply holding a paid job outside of a traditional role like teaching. Martha Bickler not only held employment outside of domestic work, but she holds the distinction of being the first female employee for the Texas government.

Bickler was the daughter of Karl Friedrich Hermann Lungkwitz, a Prussian immigrant well known as a landscape painter. Lungkwitz arrived in Texas in 1851 and raised cattle for a living. Later, he learned photography and was appointed as photographer to the General Land Office by his brother-in-law, Commissioner Jacob Kuechler. During this time his daughter Martha took on a clerkship at the General Land Office. While working there, Martha met Jacob Bickler, an assistant draftsman and calculator at the Land Office who also came from a German immigrant family. They married in 1874 and eventually had nine children. Jacob went on to found the Texas German and English Academy, was superintendent of Galveston public schools, and then started the Bickler Academy in Austin.

The Bickler Papers (AR.Y.005) and the Von Rosenberg Family Papers (AR.1995.002) are housed at the AHC, and both collections contain materials related to Martha and her family.

 

 

Bickler was employed as the first female state worker at the General Land Office Building. This building still stands and is currently the Visitor’s Center for the Capitol complex.

 

[General Land Office], circa 1860-1880, J338, Hubert Jones Glass Plate Collection.

 

 

 

Rebecca Jane Gilleland Fisher

A preservationist who became known as the “Mother of Texas,” Rebecca Jane Fisher exemplifies how women could be involved indirectly in politics and have a subtle influence on history.

Fisher was born in Philadelphia in 1831. Her family moved to Texas, settling in Refugio County in 1837. In 1840 her home was attacked by Comanches, her parents were killed, and she and her brother William were kidnapped. They were rescued by soldiers and then lived with relatives in Galveston. She studied at Rutersville College from 1845 to 1848 when she married Orceneth Fisher, a Methodist minister. The couple had six children. Eventually the family settled in Austin.

Fisher is remembered for her many contributions to preserving Texas history. She was a charter member of the Daughters of the Republic of Texas and served as its president for eighteen years. Fisher worked with Clara Driscoll to save the Alamo from destruction. She delivered the oration at the unveiling of the Sam Houston monument in Hunstville. She was elected to the Texas Veterans Association and was its last surviving member. For many years, she gave the opening prayer at the Texas Legislature, and her portrait was the first woman’s portrait to be hung in the Senate chamber of the Capitol. She died in 1926 and her body lay in state in the Texas Senate where her funeral was held. She is buried in Oakwood cemetery.

 

Pioneer Magazine of Texas

The Pioneer Magazine of Texas, May 1922, Rebecca J. Fisher Papers. AR.A.002.

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