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May 2013

A Mother is ...

Mothers, what would we do without them?

This issue of the SSOM is dedicated to mothers everywhere. The focus will be on some of the famous, and not so famous mothers that shaped Texas history.

Jane Herbert Wilkinson Long
"Mother of Texas"

Jane was one of the first Anglo women to come to Texas. It has been erroneously reported that she gave birth to the first Anglo child in Texas. While her legacy may not claim that feat, there are many other accomplishments that qualify her for the title of "Mother of Texas."

It seems that Jane stormed through life like a frigid Norther' cuts through the Texas Panhandle. She was orphaned, married at 16 and became a mother at 18. She was then made a widow at the age of 23. Even though she had been courted by the likes of Ben Milam, William Travis, Stephen Austin, Sam Houston and Mirabeau Lamar, Jane died a widow of her first and only husband, James Long.

James Long left for Texas in 1819, leading an expedition from Mississippi with the goal of grabbing Texas from Spain. Jane was pregnant at the time so she waited until Rebecca was born to set out after him. Her little troop consisted of the infant Rebecca, toddler Ann, and slave girl Kiam. Becoming ill, Jane left her infant with relatives in Louisiana before she continued on to Nacogdoches, Texas. Before she could return, Rebecca passed away.

James took off to try and recruit Jean Lafitte, the infamous pirate or privateer, whichever you prefer, in his efforts to split Texas off from Spain. Jane fled Nacogdoches as Spanish troops approached, briefly rejoined James on the Bolivar Peninsula.
Her third child, the one mistakenly referred to as the first Anglo born in Texas, came into the world at Bolivar Point on December 21, 1821. The only attendants she had were her six-year-old daughter and twelve-year-old Kian, because her husband was off on yet another expedition. It was James' resolve to seek more volunteers for his cause. It didn't work out so well. He was captured, transported to Mexico City, and killed

Jane refused to leave. She had not yet received word that James had been killed. It was in miserable condition that an immigrant family found them and rescued them from starvation. Little Mary James Long died at the age of two.

The Austin Colony gave Jane a land grant. In 1832 she purchased an inn in Brazoria, running it with the help of her surviving daughter and Kian. Many prominent leaders of the Texas Revolution met there to discuss politics. About five years later Jane opened a second inn and developed a prosperous plantation. By the year 1861 she managed more than 2,000 acres. She only wore clothing made from the cotton on her own plantation during the Civil War. She refused to buy anything from the Yankees.

Irish Proverb

Miriam Amanda Wallace "Ma" Ferguson
First female governor of Texas
June 13, 1875

Ma Furgeson
Where to start? Ma, called that due to her initials or quite possibly because the affectionate name Ma was popular at the time, was the first woman governor of Texas. She was the second woman governor in the U.S. by a couple of weeks. Nellie Ross was sworn in as governor of Wyoming to finish the expired term of her late husband.

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Her husband, James Edward Ferguson, was a Democrat governor from 1915 to 1917. He was impeached, convicted and removed from office during his second term. As part of his conviction, James was not allowed to hold state office in Texas again. He had been instrumental in giving state aid to rural schools and pushed for compulsory attendance. In the name of education, the taxes increased from 12 1/2 cents to 30 cents. After re-election the rate was elevated to the maximum of 35 cents. Not long after that James was brought up on nine charges, seven of which were related to misapplication of public funds, one to embezzlement, and one to the diversion of a special fund.

After her husband's impeachment and conviction, Ma ran as a Democrat. Her motto was that Texas would get "two governors for the price of one." A common campaign slogan was, "Me for Ma, and I Ain't got a Durned Thing Against Pa."

In 1924, Miriam Ferguson defeated a Ku Klux Klan endorsed Democrat Felix Robertson, and then went on to gather 58.9% of the vote to 41.1% for the University of Texas dean, George C. Butte.

Ma came under scrutiny due to her habit of pardoning 100 criminals a month. She was accused of taking bribes, but was not successfully convicted. However, she did lose the next two primary bids. Not one to give up, she ran again in 1932 and narrowly won for her second term. Despite rumors that the state highway contracts only went to companies that advertised in the Fergusons’ newspaper, the House committee investigation never came to anything.

As governor, she tackled some tough issues. She and her husband were both teetotalers but they came down on the side of the "wets." They were also very anti Ku Klux Klan. During her two terms as governor, Ma issued almost 4,000 pardons, partly due to over crowding, and also a soft heart towards prohibition related offenses. Because of her liberal pardons, the state constitution was changed to strip the governor of the power to issue pardons

With the exception of an unsuccessful bid to replace Governor W. Lee "Pappy" O'Daniel in 1940, the Fergusons remained retired from politics after 1934.

Miriam Ferguson died from congestive heart failure in 1961 at the age of eighty-six. She had two daughters, Ouida and Dorrace.
Dorothy Ann Willis Richards
September 1, 1933 - September 13, 2006

Whatever you think of Ann Richards' politics, there were few in the state that did not believe, "what you saw is what you got." A true Texan, through and through, Ann was born in Lakeview, Texas. She grew up in Waco and attended Baylor University on a debate scholarship where she earned a bachelor's degree. After marrying her childhood sweetheart, David Richards, she earned a teaching certificate from the University of Texas. Her children were, Cecile, Daniel, Clark and Ellen.

Pure and simple, Ann was a liberal, progressive Democrat. Whether you subscribed to her politics, her moxie was never in question. She went up against the biggest and the best. At the 1988 Democratic National Convention she was heard to say such quotable utterings as, "I'm delighted to be here with you this evening, because after listening to George Bush all these years, I figured you needed to know what a real Texas accent sounds like" or "poor George, he can't help it. He was born with a silver foot in his mouth." ... two women in 160 years is about par for the course. But if you give us a chance, we can perform. After all, Ginger Rogers did everything that Fred Astaire did. She just did it backwards and in high heels."

She won the gubernatorial fight due to her opponent conducting a nasty campaign. He brought up her alcohol problem too many times. Ann had overcome her alcoholism in 1980. While it ruined her marriage, she came back strong, worked hard and made a huge impression at the 1988 Democratic National Convention.

As history will record it, Ann's nasty comments came back to haunt her. George Bush's son defeated her in 1994.

Denzel Washington Quote Buckaroos, it is time. Y'all have a great month. Don't forget to call your mother. She's the best one you'll ever have.

Ride em if ya go em!