An interesting editorial appeared in the Lykens Standard of 5 September 1924 which commented with some skepticism on the election of an anti-Ku Klux Klan, woman governor in the state of Texas, Mrs. Miriam A. “Ma” Ferguson. The editorial also stated that the Ku Klux Klan of Texas was not defeated by Mrs. Ferguson, but rather failed to defeat her in the election.
The background of this election can be found on the site of the The Texas Politics Project:
Mrs. Ferguson served as the first lady of Texas during the gubernatorial terms of her husband (1915-17), who was impeached during his second administration. When James Ferguson failed to get his name on the ballot in 1924, Miriam entered the race for the Texas governorship. Before announcing for office, she had devoted her energies almost exclusively to her husband and two daughters. This fact, and the combination of her first and middle initials, led her supporters to call her “Ma” Ferguson. She quickly assured Texans that if elected she would follow the advice of her husband and that Texas thus would gain “two governors for the price of one.” Her campaign sought vindication for the Ferguson name, promised extensive cuts in state appropriations, condemned the Ku Klux Klan, and opposed passing new liquor legislation. After trailing the Klan-supported prohibitionist candidate, Felix D. Robertson, in the July primary, she easily defeated him in the August run-off to become the Democratic gubernatorial candidate. In November 1924 she handily defeated the Republican nominee, George C. Butte, a former dean of the University of Texas law school. Inaugurated fifteen days after Wyoming’s Nellie Ross, Miriam Ferguson became the second woman governor in United States history.
The Lykens Standard, 5 September 1924 editorial, also reflected on what the newspaper saw as the future of women in politics. What was not stated was the obvious fact that the Lykens Valley area which was served by the Standard was rapidly becoming one the great strongholds of the Ku Klux Klan. The Standard gave much leeway in reporting on Klan events without condemning them and thus normalized their activities at a time when Federal and State authorities were investigating the group for criminal behavior. No doubt the reader of the Standard were interested in what the editor had to say.
A WOMAN TO RULE
Texas is to have a woman governor, Mrs. Ferguson. Her campaign and victory got newspaper space in every state, not only because she was the first woman to have a ghost of a chance at governorship, but because the Ku Klux Klan fought her hotly. Anybody who has lived in Texas knows why the Klan and various other organizations and individuals opposed the Ferguson machine. But no matter what Texas thought about Mrs. Ferguson’s ability or associates, evidently the Klan was even more unpopular. The Klan wasn’t defeated, however, as some of the headlines insist; the Klan just failed to defeat Mrs. Ferguson. It was on the offensive, not the defensive, it claims with much reason.
Anyhow, we can soon see what a woman governor is capable of. Her husband was governor, so she knows the technical details. But most anyone can lead if followers are loyal. The question is, will Texas respect and support their woman ruler? Would any state?
Women take great interest in this case. It is a victory for the sex, politically. All over the nation women will take courage, set their ambitions a peg higher and demand “recognition” with just a bit more emphasis. It is the beginning of an era of office-seeking by the home makers. We have had women Representatives; next we’ll see women Senators, perhaps they’ll even be in the Cabinet. Then a woman will be nominated for president. It won’t be long.
Men and women differ among themselves about women’s ability in office and their “right” to run. Sentiment plays a bigger part than logic in the various beliefs. Some men are probably jealous. Some women are probably just out to show men what they can do. Neither attitude will win a medal, of course.
Mrs. Ferguson will be a pioneer, and none was ever a popular idol. She will meet plenty of difficulties and plenty of lukewarm, patronize indifference. There will be much hostility, in Austin and over the state. She may get excited or peeved and make a fizzle. Then men are liable to say, “I told you so,” and women will apologize for her. On the other hand, she may make a model governor, bringing all the traditional feminine qualities like sweetness, sympathy, goodness, and idealism into an office which needs them sorely. Then women will feel more proud — and more will yearn for office. It is an excellent testing period and place. Watch for results.
According to The Texas Politics Project, Miriam A. Ferguson had a successful first term as governor, including the passage of an unmasking law against the Klan. However, the courts overturned the law. She attempted to run again several times, but was not elected to another term until during the Great Depression. Further information about her can be found at The Texas Politics Project which includes a bibliography.