M. F. C.: Portrait of an Independent Woman in a low wicker chair with her back to the Open fireplace sewing and hearing the children recite their lessons; propped up in bed reading or sewing. She had a habit of quoting Shakespeare when she was ill. “I never loved that great man’s works as I should because of the terror I felt when mother was really sick.” Sundays Minnie Fish recalls seeing the long processions of Negroes in their Sunday clothes winding along the nearby railroad bed. Then from the “baptizing hole” came the shouting and the hymns. The same kind of processions went by when any of the old slaves were buried in the graveyard, and “the singing borne to our ears from out the deep pine woods was very sweet.” “My father’s affection and my mother’s grave courtesy shown to these old Negroes are things I like to remember,” says Minnie Fish. “Often they brought some small gift such as a few choice potatoes or a head of cabbage or hickory nuts out of the woods tied in the end of a spotlessly clean old flour sack. And always they received gifts to take home, usually sugar or coffee or flour or clothes; things it required money to purchase. And always they wanted to drink water from the old well and pronounced it the best water in the world.” `Meddlesome’ Minnie Fish was sent to school in. Houston one term, but she was country in her gingham dresses and unknowing ways \(“I didn’t know you weren’t supposed to talk when you were lined up, and nobody told me, so I embarrassed sented to let her stay home if she would go to school to a “little old lady governess in a little tiny house in the middle of a corn field. So we went on our little ponies the rest of that year.” When time came for her to graduate from the school at New Waverly, a friend of hers and she “decided there should be a celebration of our achievement and sent notes to everybody in town announcing this and telling everybody to bring a basket lunch. This was my first initiative!” Everybody came and had lunch, but there wasn’t any program. At 16 she qualified for a teachers’ certificate and was hired. by Gourd Creek School. She didn’t feel up to teaching, though, so Gourd Creek put off school opening until she could go to Galveston to watch her sister teaching there. Her sister talked her out of the idea altogether, and instead she went to medical school in pharmacy. She became the second woman in Texas to graduate in pharmacy. Before she was 18that would be before 1900she struck out for a better world. Clara Barton was collecting used clothing then, and Minnie Fisher persuaded her mother to give a tea”we’d never done anything like that”with everybody bringing some clothes. “I rode all over the community on my little horsey and gave out the notes,” she said. The house was full, and all the clothing went to Clara Barton. “I do realize now,” Minnie Fish says, “that it was unusual to do, because nobody else was doing anything. It was sort of symptomatic of a meddlesome Character, don’t you think?” She took a position as prescription clerk at the drug store in Huntsville. “And I was a woman and they paid me $75 a month and everybody else $150. And now you could see what made a suffragette out of meEqual Pay for Equal Work, only it wasn’t equal work, I was the profes sional!” Another girl “who was not so flirtatiously inclined” took up her prescription work and she was moved up to the front of the store, since she was attracting so many customers. Part of her work was selling a new edition of Browning’s love letters, and one old lady “took me to pieces” for this. “She was an old maid, too. Maybe she was reading ’em on the sly.” Then she had a long sickness, during which time a great many beaux sent her a great many flowers and came to see her. “It was all a great deal of trouble and it seemed more convenient to marry one of them.” He was Beverly Gene Cunningham, a lawyer from Indiana to St. Louis to Huntsville and “undoubtedly the best looking man I ever saw in my life. He died in 1928 … you know I can’t talk very much about him. He was the best hearted man, he was always helping people. … He encouraged me in all my naughtinesses and financed me in much of it.” They moved to Galveston for his law and insurance work, and in 1912 Mrs. Cunningham joined the Texas Suffrage Assn., which had been formed by Anna Maxwell Jones of New York and Annette Finnegan of Houston. During one of the cotton carnivals Mrs. Cunningham spoke for the right of women to vote from the back seat of a touring car. It was her first speech to the public; she had become one of the New Women. \(Was she a Bloomer Girl? “I approved of them enough not to wear them, if you know what `There They Sat’ During the winter of 1914-1915 the young suffragette spoke on a tight schedule all over Texas at the behest of Miss Finnegan in Houston. She finished the train tour in Austin on schedule “and looked down on the legislature; and boy! was I astonished. There they sat, with their feet up on the desks, looking like nothing I ever saw in a bunch before. Complete relaxation!” The women had a bill and lobbied for it. She had what she called “my lobbyer dresses” and testified and wheeled and dealed. Her senator, Hall from Wharton, a violent anti-suffragette, was obliged, upon Mrs. Cunningham’s direct request in the Senate antechamber, to “take me down the aisle of the Senate to register me as a lobbyist for a bill he wasn’t for. For his sins!” The ladies got 90 or so of the 150 . votes in the House, she remembers, but 100 were required. The suffragettes had a convention at the Hotel Galvez in 1915″it was very stylish and we all had very good clothes”and Mrs. Cunningham took over as the state president. Miss Finnegan had diabetes and had to drop out. “Poor soul … tall and slender, and rather good looking, not a beauty, but brains, and lots of money. It just seemed natural that she was doing the workYou see we sort of believed in people those days.” In 1916 the women turned up at the Democratic national convention in yellow parasols seeking endorsement of the pending federal amendment. Gov . Jim Ferguson was very much opposed to suffrage and worked at the convention against it. That summer “we went into the Ferguson campaign from the seats of our cars all through SouthTexas. He got elected as you know, and then he went on to get impeached, as you very well know,” she said, laughing. During the war Minnie Fish was the Liberty Loan chairman for the state, “and boy did I turn in the Liberty Loans!” The legis lature granted the women stiffrage in the primaries. At the September state Democratic convention in 1918, Mrs. Cunningham confronted a dodging Gov. W. P. Hobby, who was up for re-election, and asked for the convention’s support of the federal amendment. “He said that he was sorry but Mr. Johnson was very much opposed and he thought that he ought to regard Mr. Johnson.” \(Mr. Johnson had the Houston A LIFE OF COMBAT … And the Difference Between Victory and Progress Post at the time, she explained. Gov “I said the women had voted for him in the primary. I told him we would spend the entire night preparing for a floor fight for that resolution. … We really did organize a fine floor fight, it’s a pity we didn’t have to have it. We would have shown them something in termagants they had never seen!” Mrs. Cunningham recalls that Sen. W. C. Dean of Huntsville told her she ought not to “do this” to Gov. Hobby and that he had a fine political future. “I said, still feeling a little pert, ‘Mr. Dean, if he doesn’t support this amendment, he doesn’t have any future!’ ” The boys had devised a plan to shunt her aside by making her the chairman of the entire convention, but when the motion was offered she rose and rejected the honor, saying that the only thing she was there for was a resolution endorsing federal suffrage and that she reserved the right to speak on the subject if the committee report was not satisfactory. The men gave up and brought in. an endorsement of the federal amendment. “It really was wonderful,” she says. “After all we were amateurs; but we knew we were right and just started yelling.” In Washington in 1918, lobbying for the federal. amendment, she was designated the chairman of the women’s delegation to Woodrow Wilson. \(“He was so much better looking now than his pictional president of the suffragettes had drilled her, she remembers, to say that the Democratic Party ought to get credit for giving the women the vote and that the women were not supporting the war as enthusiastically as they .might. “When I said this to him,” she says, “he very calmly replied that all patriotic citizens were doing all that they could possibly do. Her only mistake in drilling me on the questions was in failing to drill the President on his replies!” Wilson however, did submit the amendment as a war measure and it missed adoption ‘by one vote. It was passed the next year. In May and June Mrs. Cunningham went to all the western states urging ratification. She carried her $1500 expense money in a buttoned cloth purse swung across the front of her petticoat. “We pursued governors all over the west.” She was home at New Waverly in 1920 when she received a telegram that the 36th state, Tennessee had ratified suffrage. A nephew, then about 16, presented her the telegram and said, “Aunt Minnie, now I hope ‘that you’re going to stay home and behave yourself.” `Fighting’ Needed That same year she threw herself into organizing the national League of Women Voters. In 1924 she was chairman of the national league’s get out the vote campaign. She is disgusted with the ‘non-partisan’ turn of the present leagues, which prohibit officers and board members from participating in partisan politics. “I think it’s foolish,” she said. “I think we never contemplated anything like that. It’s a thing the Republicans dehydrated. We contemplated a fighting organization! There are plenty of organizations to send out good educational materialsThere ought to be a fighting women’s organization to take up this school thing. The whole school system of Texas is going to rack and ruin and there is no fighting organization of women.” Mrs. Cunningham became president of the National Federated Women’s Clubs, and, in 1925-’28, was chairman of women’s work in the Democratic National Committee in Washington, instructing women in politics and conducting “schools for politics” for them. In 1928 she ran for the Senate, a step that attracted national publicity. In fact a Honolulu newspaper ran her picture with the caption, “She Would a Senator Be,” and the Paris Times identified her as “one of the shrewest women who have come to the fore in politics in America since the suffrage amendment was adopted …. Mrs. Cunningham is comely and youthful, and she is credited with having political sense…” Ten or eleven candidates announced; in the runoff Mrs. Cunningham supported Tom Connally against Ku Kluxer Earl Mayfield. Judge Sarah Hugses of Dallas says she made a lot more sense than the rest of them. She was extension editor at Texas A&M in the thirties and, in 1938, went to Washington as an information specialist. She arranged 1,100 round table discussions among women on the New Deal’s agricultural policies in one year. Resigning during the war after protesting that the information program for the food production effort was being seriously damaged, she returned to Texas and, in 1944, ran, against Coke Stevenson for governor. Stevenson was against rationing gas and sugar, OPA, and “all the rest” of the economic war measures. She and some of her friends felt he should be opposed. They tried to draft J. Frank Dobie, then teaching in England, with a series of cables, but he declined. On the last day Margaret Redding, a friend of hers, and she decided she should run. “We hadn’t intended to campaign, but we got a good number of requests, So Margaret bought the gas and we went and spoke a good many times to a good many kinds of people.” It was, however, a token candidacy. In January, 1945, Mrs. Cunningham and friends organized a committee for an economic policy for Texas, with the first chairman Mrs. Lillian Collier of Mumford, a devoted partner of Mrs. Cunningham’s ever since. When Dr. Homer Rainey was fired at the University of Texas Minnie Fish constituted a women’s committee for academic freedom to take up the case and attended many regents’ meetings. In 1946 she super vised the secretarial and stenographic staff in Rainey’s campaign for governor. With Dr. Rainey’s defeat Mrs. Cunningham “came home and went to farming.” With the help of some relatives she built the house; there was a big dinner under the trees, and many of her friends came. The oven was brick, there was no refrigerator, no stove, no bathtub, no water, for she had exhausted most of her resources in the Rainey campaign, but she had returned to the land of her family and her youth. She works in politics now as her farming allows her time, especially through the Texas Democratic Women’s Committee, of which she is the treasurer by preference. Closed Schools Sitting at the dining table in her farmhouse, she says: “I get so mad about the school situation I’m incoherent. Even. if I wasn’t for desegregation, which I am, I would still be against the closing of the public schools. The schools belong to all the people. The rich people had better support the school system. Thomas Jefferson said it’s only three generations from shirt-tail to shirttail. The grandchildren of these rich men now will depend on the rich men then for an education. “In the two Virginia schools there are 51 Negroes excluded and 10,334 whites. The parents of one of those families are suing Gov. Almond as being responsible, and if the schools get closed in Texas it will be on. Daniel’s proclamation. I bet he burns his hands on that yet.” “I’m a member of DOT. I’m a card carrying Democrat in other words. The Democratic Party’s not perfect, but it’s the only organized expression f o r those things that liberals stand for, progressive things. Democracy with a little ‘d’ was what Jesus Christ was standing for on earth. “What’s the matter with the Democratic Party? Lyndon Johnson and Sam Rayburn. If they’d been perfect it wouldn’t have been right for two men from the same state to have that much power. They’re dangerous. “Rayburn was a great man but Lyndon operates Rayburn now, and Lyndon was never a great man and he never will be. He doesn’t have the capacity for greatness. I think Eleanor Roosevelt put her finger on it when she said he’s a great maneuverer. Of course that’s all he is. But he’s a ruthless maneuverer. He has no principlesnone of that stuff I call integrity. “That is a great disappointment to the whole state. As congressman from the tenth district Lyndon’s good. He was under the
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