Texas Primary Election Ballot
"The first ballot the women had to scratch in a primary election."
The first election that Texas women could vote in took place on July 27, 1918. This unused “souvenir” ballot was saved by suffrage leader Jane McCallum to mark the occasion. She handwrote along the edge, “The first ballot the women had to scratch in a primary election.” For McCallum and her fellow Texas suffragists, voting was an experience and a responsibility unlike anything they had known before.
Texas women gained the right to vote in state primary elections in March 1918. This was a significant victory because Texas was a one-party state. Being able to vote in the Democratic primary meant women decided which candidates moved to the general election. Since the Democrats were guaranteed to win, it was nearly equivalent to full suffrage.
Voter registration opened in June and Texas suffragists had a two-week window to register as many women as possible. Their massive recruiting efforts were a success and they registered 386,000 women by the July 11th deadline.
There are two campaigns of note on this ballot. The first was the race for governor between William P. Hobby and James Ferguson. Hobby was the interim governor running for a full term. Suffragists had promised to support Hobby if he granted them primary voting rights. After the primary suffrage law passed, Texas women kept their promise and overwhelmingly elected Hobby governor.
The second notable race was that of State Superintendent of Public Instruction. Annie Webb Blanton, a leading educator and suffragist, ran for the position and won, becoming the first woman in Texas to hold a state office.
Women continued their campaign for full suffrage on the state and national levels. Their bid for statewide full suffrage failed with voters in May 1919. But when the Nineteenth Amendment received final ratification in August 1920, it granted full suffrage to women nationwide and Texas women were able to participate fully in elections.
Austin History Center, Austin Public Library
Time Period: 1866 - 1936
Exhibit: Sister Suffragists
This artifact is currently on view.