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Meet Sissy Farenthold

Election Day is coming. So today I'd like to introduce you to one of Texas' pioneering female elected officials. Hat tip to The Princess for research and initial draft. I know, I'm lame, but give me a break, people! It's election season, and I'm busy! I'm in grad school and working for a candidate who I won't name, because Texas NOW can't endorse, but his name rhymes with Hark Drama.


Frances "Sissy" Farenthold, a Texas native, received her bachelor's degree from Vassar College, then a JD from the University of Texas Law School. In a student body of 800, she was one of only three women. After graduation, she worked as a field lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union from 1965 to 1967. She also served as the Nueces County legal aid director. Her work in both of these roles exposed her to a world of poverty and injustice that she had never known. Farenthold turned to politics.

She ran in several political races in the late 1960s and early 1970s. In 1968, she won a seat in the Texas House of Representatives representing Corpus Christi. She and Barbara Jordan were the only two women serving in the Legislature at the time. Farenthold was one of the so-called Dirty Thirty - the thirty House members who rebelled against a corrupt Speaker back in the early '70s. In fact, she sponsored a resolution calling for an internal investigation into the Speaker's shady financial dealings. Brave lady!

She was part of the organizing conference for the Texas Women's Political Caucus. In 1972, six women were elected to the Legislature, and the TWPC endorsed Farenthold as a gubernatorial candidate. Sissy lost, but TWPC remained active in politics and in 1973 hosted the first convention of the National Women's Political Caucus. At that meeting, Farenthold was elected chair of the national caucus.

Farenthold was also active in national politics. She served as a delegate to the 1972 Democratic National Convention in Miami and was nominated for Vice President of the United States. This was the first time a woman had ever been nominated and voted on for the position. She came in second, but her nomination proved that women were contenders for the top spots on the ticket.

From 1976 to 1980, Farenthold served as president of Wells College – the first woman to be named so since its founding in 1868. While there, she founded the Public Leadership Education Network, a national consortium of women’s colleges that together offer opportunities for women to develop into public policy leadership roles.

In the 1980s, Farenthold continued to influence national politics. In 1984, she again served as a delegate to the national convention. In 1988, she was a delegate to the Platform Committee of the Democratic National Convention, and that year she received the Lyndon Baines Johnson Lifetime Achievement Award from the Texas Democratic Party in 1998.

Farenthold has also been active in international affairs. She has served as a human rights observer in Iraq, El Salvador, Honduras, South Korea, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Cuba, and the former Soviet Union.

Farenthold currently lives in Houston. She lobbies in both Austin and Washington for progressive and humanitarian causes. She also serves as board chair of the Rothko Chapel in Houston.

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