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Local Legitimacy: City Councilwomen

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[Emma Long], circa 1940s, PICB 05228


Emma Long

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.

Click below to hear an excerpt from an oral history interview with Emma Long conducted by Anthony Orum on April 13, 1982. [Tape 1530]



Margret Hofmann

Hofmann, also known as Austin’s “Tree Lady,” was born in Germany in 1925, and during World War II she survived the bombings of Dresden. She immigrated to the U.S. after the war and attended the University of Detroit. In 1950 she married Otto Hofmann, and they moved to Austin in 1953.

One of Hofmann’s early concerns was the need for sidewalks so children could walk to school safely, but she was also interested in environmental issues. In 1973 she served on the Energy Conservation Committee and a year later was appointed to the Citizens Board of Natural Resources and Environmental Quality. In 1975 she was elected to her only term on City Council. While on Council, she dealt with many issues including the prevention of urban sprawl, leash laws, the establishment of recycling centers, and the “spaghetti bowl,” a proposed 5-level interchange at IH-35 and Highway 290.

Hofmann is best remembered for her dedication to trees. She conceived of and chaired for five years “Think Trees Week” which helped raise awareness of the importance of trees in the city and started a registry of the city’s oldest trees.

Beyond her work on City Council, Hofmann was a member of the League of Women Voters, the South Austin Democrats, Travis County Democratic Women’s Committee, and We Care Austin. She wrote articles for the Saturday Review, Ladies Home Journal, and the Austin American-Statesman. A life-long peace activist, she also wrote two books on non-violence. A grove of trees south of City Hall was named for her in 2010. She died in 2012.


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[Margret Hofmann], October 1976, PICB 19127


[Betty Himmelblau], circa 1970s, PICB 03998



Betty Himmelblau

Betty Himmelblau was born and raised in Illinois. She earned a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in physical medicine from the University of Wisconsin and served in the U.S. Navy during World War II before finally moving to Austin with her husband in 1957. She was a member and then head of the American Association of University Women, headed the Austin Civic Ballet, and was a member of the City Planning Commission from 1973 to 1975.

Elected to Council in 1975, Himmelblau promoted expanding urban transit options, decentralizing health and medical facilities, creating after-school programs for children, and she established the Arts Commission and the Austin Commission on the Status of Women. After three terms on City Council, Himmelblau decided not to run again in 1981. She became a board member of the Central Texas Health Systems Agency and then was appointed by Governor Clements to the Texas Health Facilities Commission. She also supported women’s athletics and served on UT’s Council for Intercollegiate Athletics.



Emma Lou Linn

Originally from Rocksprings, Texas, Emma Lou Linn came to Austin to attend UT. She earned her bachelor’s degree in 1960, taught in Houston schools for a few years and then returned to Austin to work on an M.A. and Ph.D. in Psychology at UT. She worked at the Child Evaluation Research Center and then became a professor at St. Edward’s University.

Linn was very active in civic organizations related to historic preservation before she ran for City Council. She chaired the Travis County Historical Survey Committee, was vice-president of the East Sixth Street Conservation Society, and also worked with the Austin Historic Zoning Commission and the Austin Heritage Society. Once elected to City Council in 1975, Linn worked on utility rate benefits for the poor and elderly, a revision to the ethics and financial codes for Council members, and better lighting in high-crime areas. She lost her re-election bid in 1977. She continues to teach at St. Edward’s.


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[Emma Lou Linn being sworn in to City Council by Representative Sarah Weddington], 1975, PICB 05249


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[Sally Shipman], circa 1984, PICB 13321



Sally Shipman

A native of Beaumont, Texas, Shipman was married to Bob Shipman, with whom she had three children. She studied liberal arts at UT, earning her bachelor’s degree in 1960.

Shipman’s concern about the lack of sidewalks in her neighborhood for her kids to use on their walk to school drover her to become political. When the city denied her request to build more sidewalks, her interest in neighborhood issues was born, and she went on to earn a master’s degree in Community Planning. Shipman was Chair of the Austin Building Standards Commission from 1974 to 1977 and then was Vice Chair of the Austin Planning Commission from 1977 to 1982.

Shipman won a position on City Council in 1983, was re-elected in 1985 and 1987, and was elected Mayor Pro-Tem in 1988. While in office, she remained devoted to improving neighborhoods. A major initiative during her tenure was to create the “Capitol-views corridors” to prevent views of the Capitol building from being marred. She also worked to get land near Town Lake dedicated as park space and to maintain environmentally sensitive areas.

In addition to her work on City Council, Shipman taught at St. Edward’s University and at Austin Community College. In the 1990s she and her family moved to Houston for her husband’s job where she worked for the Coalition for the Homeless of Houston. She died there in 2007.


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