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Before Women Could Vote, Texas Had A Female Mayor

Courtesy of Falls on the Colorado Museum
Ophelia "Birdie" Harwood, former mayor of Marble Falls.

From Texas Standard:

Before Texas women could vote, Texas men elected a female mayor.

Ophelia “Birdie” Harwood was elected mayor of Marble Falls in 1917, according to Suzanne Freeman, editor-in-chief of The Picayune Magazine.

Harwood’s election came a year before white women were granted the right to vote in primaries in Texas, and two years before the 19th Amendment granted women the right to vote in the United States. 

Freeman says her mother knew Harwood.

“Her first memory of a good spanking was in Birdie Harwood’s front yard,” Freeman says.

Harwood’s pitch to Marble Falls voters was that a woman was uniquely qualified to be mayor because of her experience running a household. 

“Rich men didn’t want the job, poor men couldn’t afford the job, but women were especially fit for the job,” Freeman says. 

Harwood believed in operating a transparent governmental office. She published the city’s budget twice a year, and promised to be conservative with the public’s money. She approved the addition of new roads to Marble Falls, a small city about 50 miles northwest of Austin. She also helped created traffic laws for those roads in an era without stop signs or other signals.

When her time in office was over, Harwood remained active in the Marble Falls community, leading the local Red Cross and serving as a municipal judge. 

Harwood’s life is chronicled at the Falls on the Colorado Museum in Marble Falls. 

Listen to the full interview in the audio player above. 

Written by Shelly Brisbin.

Texas Standard reporter Joy Diaz has amassed a lengthy and highly recognized body of work in public media reporting. Prior to joining Texas Standard, Joy was a reporter with Austin NPR station KUT on and off since 2005. There, she covered city news and politics, education, healthcare and immigration.
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