On the Centennial of Women’s Right to Vote, We Honor 20 'Wild Women' of Conservation

In 1848, suffragists began their organized fight for women’s equality when they demanded the right to vote during the first women’s rights convention in Seneca Falls, New York. For the next 72 years, women leaders lobbied, marched, picketed and protested for the right to the ballot.

© Records of the National Woman's Party

The U.S. House of Representatives finally approved the Susan B. Anthony Amendment, which guaranteed women the right to vote, on May 21, 1919. The U.S. Senate followed two weeks later, and the 19th Amendment went to the states. Tennessee became the last state needed to ratify on August 18, 1920.

Today, more than 68 million women vote in elections because of the courageous suffragists who never gave up the fight for equality.

Early Texas women fought for more than the right to vote. Long before they stepped into the ballot box, they led explorers across rivers and forests, helped preserve great swaths of land, protected the state’s flora and fauna and tamed the wilderness. The land was wild, but they were wilder.

To honor them and the suffragettes, we chose (through an exhaustive process) 20 women of Texas conservation to feature in our 2020 issues. We called them Wild Women.

Before we introduce you to the remarkable women we’ve introduced since January, how about a sneak peek at our October Wild Women?

Bess Heard never married and was the first woman in McKinney to ride a horse astride or bicycle, but her real contribution to the town was her generosity in sharing her knowledge and treasures. Today, a museum and wildlife sanctuary carry on her legacy after her death at 101.

Photo courtesy Heard Museum

Mamie McKnight,
 the Historian of Black Dallas, stopped an expressway construction project while she protected and relocated one of the largest Freedman’s cemeteries in the nation.

Photo courtesy The Black Academy of Arts and Letters 

Helen Plummer examined the primordial roots of Texas by working as one of only a few female micro-paleontologists on the Gulf Coast of Texas and in Austin during the 1920s and ‘30s.

Photo courtesy BEG / AAPG

Tina Yturria Buford, sixth-generation Rio Grande Valley rancher, takes her family’s legacy and shares their love of Texas conservation leading a multitude of today’s best organizations. 

Photo courtesy TSSWCB

Two more issues to go. Five more Wild Women to make 20 heroes for 2020. Who do you think our next Wild Women should be? Hint: November is a big month for politics….

Here’s a look back on the truly remarkable Texas women we’ve featured so far in 2020. Click to read and learn more about these independent, determined souls who bucked the constraints of their times to forge ahead fearlessly conserving Texas, each in their own unique way.

Angelina, early Native American guide, and Big Thicket savior Maxine (Mickey) Johnston 

(l) Maxine Johnston courtesy Lamar University
(r) Angelina painting by Lance Hunter, photo © Chase Fountain/TPWD

19th century botanists Ynes Mexia and Maude Jeannie Young

(l) Ynes Mexia, (r) Maude Jeannie Young

Sharpshooter Plinky Topperwein and circus empresario Mollie Bailey

(l) Plinky Toepperwein courtesy TSHA, (r) Mollie Bailey

The mother of the Panhandle, Molly Goodnight, and the patron saint of black bears, Bonnie McKinney

(l) Molly Goodnight courtesy Sarday Foundation, (r) Bonnie McKinney

Ila Fox Loetscher (the turtle lady of South Padre, Connie Hagar (the bird lady of Rockport), ChristineFiggener (plastic straws and turtles), 

(top l) Ila Fox Loetscher courtesy TheTurtleLadyLegacy.org
(top r) Connie Hagar courtesy Alfred Eisenstaedt Collection
(bottom) Christine Figgener courtesy Pamela T. Plotkin, Ph.D.

To learn more about conservation history subscribe to Texas Parks & Wildlife magazine.  For a limited time enjoy three months of digital access to 600+ articles and our expanded 2020 Summer issue - all for only $1.99!

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