To honor its birthday, the magazine fashioned a tribute to Texas women. Coolly posed on the cover were Kay Bailey Hutchinson, Norah Jones, and Sissy Spacek - highly photogenic women, which makes for good cover copy. But the heart of the story lay inside on a list entitled "30 Texas Women"- the magazine's bids for the greatest in Texas history.
The list began with Jane Long, an English-speaking settler, the first to give birth inside the colonial lands of Tejas, then México; she is now remembered as "the mother of Texas." No disrespect to JL, but women were giving birth on these lands well before her arrival.
Over 150 years of statehood - not to mention our stint as a republic, tenure as a state of México, and before that, tribal homelands - a raging tumult of wars, peoples, and ideas, yet TM listed only three Latina and two African American women of note.
No Native women. "The more things change ... "
History, like Texas, is a mix of myth and fact; Texas, like history, is full of stories, waiting to be told. Both will continue to depend on the point of view of their makers. TM had covered a certain angle - the inside angle. I decided to re-orient myself, get a different view - the outside-in, the bottom up. And to achieve my bottom-up view, I was moved to conduct an informal survey among the women of Texas present.
I sent a request to 75 Texas women: politicians, working-class women, abuelas, businesswomen, academics, chicas, college students, artists, writers, teachers. Give me names, I asked, please reply within 10 days. Within 12 hours, five had returned answers, complete with notes.
What my experiment yields is a plethora of stalwart Texas women who, in many cases, share the common trait of voracious determination to make better the course of their lifetimes. In this, their actions complicate, challenge, and enrich what one respondent called "the official story."
Here is a short cut of the responses, a fraction of redress to these important women. For a longer list, go to WOMEN — MAKING HISTORY, MAKING TEXAS here at the San Antonio Current website.
Gloria Anzaldúa: Anzaldúa's groundbreaking book, Borderlands/La Frontera helped to change the course of Border Studies.
Maria Antonietta Berriozabal (five nominations): First Chicana elected to the City Council of San Antonio.
Sandra Cisneros: Writer. Cisneros declined a berth on the TM list in protest of its lack of Latino writers and diversity in general.
Dahteste, or Tah-des-tehua: Apache woman who fought in late 19th-century wars against both México and the United States.
Carmen Lomas Garza: An artist whose solo exhibition credits include the Hirshhorn Museum/Smithsonian Institution and the Whitney Museum in New York City.
Lydia Mendoza (four nominations): Known as "The Lark of the Border.'" Recipient of the National Heritage Award from the NEA (1982) and first Tejana admitted to the Conjunto Hall of Fame (1991).
Chipita Rodríguez: The first woman to be hanged after a trial in Texas.
Graciela Sanchez (four nominations): One of the founders and now executive director of San Antonio's Esperanza Peace and Justice Center.
Sarah Weddington: In 1973, at age 26, she argued the winning side of the landmark case Roe v. Wade.
Sure, you can quibble that it's only the opinion of 75 women. But, that's the most common retort of "the official story."
As I write this, Irma Rangel (four nominations, first Mexican-American woman in the Texas House of Representatives) is being laid to rest. The fact that the U.S. House of Representatives honored her work with a resolution drawn in her name highlights the depth of TM's caveat. A singular candidate, perfectly suited for their "30 Greatest," perfectly ignored.
Mil gracias to the women who gave of their time and knowledge to help generate this list. •Irma Mayorga is an artist, a cultural critic, and a native of San Antonio.
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