Sunday, March 29, 2009

Women's History Book Signings in Austin, Texas

I was in Austin, Texas over this weekend and enjoyed the happy experience of being at several book signings, all of which dealt with the history of Texas women. One of these book signings was for my own new biography Emily Austin of Texas, 1795-1851, which has just been published by the TCU Press. I was joined at that signing event by my friend Dr. Bruce Glasrud, a distinguished historian and the retired Dean of Arts and Sciences at Sul Ross State University. Bruce and Dr. Merlene Pitrie have just published a fine book of readings entitled Black Women in Texas History. We signed copies of our books at the TSHA meeting held at the Palmer Center. Later in the day, I attended a lively book signing held at the famous Scholz's Beer Garden and Saengerrunde Hall, which is one of the most tradition-filled places in Texas, especially relating to the history of politics in the Lone Star State. The event was a signing for a delightful new volume by Nadine Eckhardt entitled Lady of the Palms, the memoir of her 75-plus years of life in Texas. Nadie Eckhardt, seen at the right signing her book, has led a charmed and interesting life. A native of the Rio Grande Valley, she met and married famed novelist Billy Lee Brammer (The Gay Place) while a student at North Texas State Teachers College in Denton and thereafter served on the staff of Senator Lyndon B. Johnson in Washington. D.C. After her divorce from Brammer, she married Bob Eckhardt, who served as a representative in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1967 to 1981. Eckhardt was one of the most colorful and effective persons ever to represent Texas in Washington, and Nadine was with him every step of the way until the pressures of politics ended their marriage. She then opened the famous resturant Nadine's in Austin, which became one of the city's most popular watering-holes. Nadine befriended the humble and exhaulted, the poor and the rich, and became an icon for the transformation of what she calls the "1950's" woman into the modern woman. Her friend, the director Robert Benton, named the 1987 movie Nadine for her, atlhough it does not deal with the events of her life. This new memoir by Nadine Eckhardt transcends place and time as it brings the reader back into a Texas that once existed but is no more. It should be read by everyone who seeks to understand the state and the role that women played in it during the mid-to-late 20th century.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Texas State Historical Association

First Lady of Texas Anita Perry speaks to the THSA regarding
progress on restoring the Governor's Mansion
The Texas State Historical Association opened its 113th annual meeting today at the Palmer Events Center in Austin, Texas. The First Lady of Texas, Anita Perry, spoke at the Women’s History Luncheon and gave an update on the progress being made to renovate the Governor’s Mansion in the wake of last year’s arson attack. Professor Paula Mitchell Marks also spoke on the contributions of Mary Maverick and her family to mid-nineteenth century Texas. Fran Vick presided at the luncheon.
Dr. Patrick Cox talks on the career of former
Texas House speaker Ben Barnes
A full slate of historical sessions also highlighted the first day of the meeting, while the book exhibits and the silent auction provided the opportunity for attendees to gather and survey the rich collection of Texana available at the meeting. Interesting and entertaining sessions filled the morning and afternoon meeting slots. Topics of these sessions included early Protestantism in Nineteenth-century Texas, the Battle of the Pease River, Texas Folklore, and the history of Texas music. An interesting session that caught my attention was offered by Professor Patrick Cox of the Dolph Briscoe Center for American History and Professor Michael Phillips of Collin County Community College. It dealt with history of the speakers of the Texas House of Representatives. The first afternoon concluded with a reception honoring incoming TSHA president Walter Buenger of Texas A&M University. On the second day, Patrick Cox, Stephen Hardin, and Merlene Petrie were inducted into the Association as Fellows. My book, Emily Austin of Texas, 1795-1851, debuted at the TCU Press booth.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Light Cummins named Fellow of the Louisiana Historical Association

The Louisiana Historian Association met in Monroe, Louisiana, on March 20th and 21st. It was a stellar meeting that featured a number of fine papers dealing with various aspects of Louisiana and Gulf Coast history. Sessions dealing with the Civil War in the lower Mississippi Valley, the history of women in the Bayou State, and papers examining Louisiana foodways and cuisine highlighted the meeting. Professor Mark Fernandez of Loyola Unversity assumed the Presidency of the Association for the coming year after the excellent work of the outgoing President, Dr. Michael Wade of Applachian State University. An interesting plenary session dealt with the history of urban planning in New Orleans. A highlight of the meeting for me was my induction into the Company of Fellows of the Louisiana Historical Assocation. This honor is typically afforded to those historians who have published on the history of the state. I was installed by Professor Stephen Webre of Louisiana Tech University, a former President of the Association. The picture above shows the presentation of my award, (l. to r.), Dr. Stephen Webre, me, and Dr. Mark Fernandez.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

The Ruthe Winegarten Memorial Foundation for Texas Women's History

Yesterday an important new website debuted online that will greatly advance the cause of women’s history in Texas. This site will quickly become an essential reference for every person who wants to know more about the history of women in Texas. It will prove useful to students, teachers, and scholars alike. This new site is a project of the Ruthe Winegarten Memorial Foundation for Texas Women’s History. The late Ruthe Winegarten (at left) was one of the Texas’ leading historians of women, if not the effective founder of the field. Thirty-five years ago she began writing some of the earliest scholarly histories of Texas women that were solidly researched and which appealed both to academic historians and to general readers alike. Winegarten soon became the most articulate advocate in Texas for professionalizing the historical scholarship dealing with women and the role they have played in the southwest. The Texas State Historical Association recognized her contributions to this scholarship by naming her a Fellow. Now, two of her co-authors, Nancy Baker Jones and Teresa Palomo Acosta as board members of the Foundation, have created this website as part of its commitment to Texas women’s history, along with their colleague Cynthia Beeman who – like them -- has also long been active in the state’s historical community. This site, a link to which appears in the lower right side of this blog page, contains bibliographies, biographies, and lesson plans dealing with the history of Texas women, along with a very useful array of links to other sites dealing with the topic. One cannot help but think that Ruthe Winegarten is today smiling down on the efforts of her friends at the Foundation named in her memory, satisfied and pleased with their fine efforts.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Texas Women/American Women: New Historical Scholarship and Fresh Approaches

TCU hosted a conference on the history of women in Texas held on February 27th and 28th. Over one hundred historians and graduate students attended. This meeting brought together a Who’s Who of scholars working in the field. (Left: Rebecca Sharpless welcomes participants.) At Friday night’s banquet, Elizabeth Hayes Turner delivered an address on the use of female images in the of selling the Texas Centennial Celebration of 1936. Saturday’s sessions included talks dealing with women in the Spanish Borderlands by Juliana Barr; women in the 19th century by Laura Edwards; and women in the 20th century by Marjorie Spruill. Responses to these presentations centered on Texas scholarship, further focusing on Texas. These were delivered by Jean Stuntz, Angela Boswell, and Judith N. McArthur. Breakout groups allowed all participants to talk about their own research and writing projects. (Right: Jean Stuntz and Mary Kelley) This conference will be long remembered as an important milestone in the development of historical literature on Texas women. The meeting was organized by Rebecca Sharpless of TCU and Stephanie Cole of the University of Texas at Arlington, along with TCU’s Center for Texas History which was represented at the conference by Gregg Cantrell and Gene Smith.