Rae Bryant, Ginny Douglas, Monica K. Andersen, Mary Ramsey Hollis, and Barbara Richards are the original group. Lynda Collins, Randy Pace and Carolyn Shimek later offered much appreciated help identifying the women on the 1920 poll tax list. The website materialized when Walter Steets joined us.
We are long time, active members of the Houston Genealogical Forum (HGF). In late summer 2019 we discussed the upcoming 100th Anniversary of the 19th Amendment. What could we learn about the Houston suffragist story? Could we identify the newly enfranchised women in 1920? It would not be enough to find recognizable family names, or names that predictably appear in articles about early Houston. We wanted to find all the women, and to know their names.
Phone calls, emails, books, and online resources were the first steps, followed by visits to Houston libraries and archives. The archivist at Harris County Archives found the Supplemental Roll of Polls in Harris County, Assessed for Taxation, and Taxes Collected for the Year 1919, by A. R. Miller, Tax Collector. Transcription began, with the expectation of finding the women who voted in 1920.
At the University of Houston MD Anderson Library, the librarians and archivists for Special Collections generously retrieved boxes of papers from the Minnie Fisher Cunningham Collection. Every letter, photograph, and membership list generated new ideas. Archivists and librarians at Clayton Library Center for Genealogical Research and The African American Library at the Gregory School assisted with photographs, maps, and suggestions. An archivist at Harris County Historical Document Room found the J. D. Harvey court records, allowed us to study them, and posted them online at The Harris County District Clerk Historical Documents page. Grandchildren of suffragists offered stories and photographs.
In March Stirpes, the journal of the Texas State Genealogical Society, published our introductory article, as we continued researching the women on the list. When the Covid 19 pandemic shut down Houston in mid-March, our field trips to libraries and archives stopped. With no other activities to distract us, we spent innumerable online hours researching 1920 Houston women. Our research enabled Rae Bryant and Mary Hollis to supply information and assistance to the Houston Heritage Society’s current suffragist exhibit.
The project grew from a list of women on a poll tax list to the story of a community of women achieving the right to vote. It includes a spreadsheet of 3,583 Houston women, an interactive map, a website, and a fascinating story of women in Houston in 1920. The Houston Suffragists Project continues to identify the women on the list and add content to the website.
Are you curious about your family during this exciting period? Find out how the 19th amendment changed the women in your ancestral home. Start searching.
Do you have a Houston story? Clean out your closets. Look for diaries and scrapbooks. Find the photographs and news clippings. Talk to your family. Was your grandmother or great grandmother eligible to vote in 1920? Send us the stories and photos of your suffragists. We will post them on the Houston Suffragist Project website. You can help us identify more of these women.
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Copyright Houston Suffragists Project: August 1, 2020
Last Updated: November 12, 2020