Corsicana Daily Sun, Corsicana, Texas

Opinion

November 5, 2012

Important changes in women’s lives

When I was growing up in Corsicana in the 1940s and early ‘50s, I saw firsthand how important my parents thought it was to exercise the right to attend the church of their choice and to vote in every election of state and national representatives. In those earlier times voters had to pay a poll tax. My parents saved all those poll tax receipts. Mother seemed particularly interested in impressing upon us the importance of making sure that we had followed every requirement  so that our ability to vote would not be challenged when we reached voting age.

In time I began to admire women who crusaded for women’s rights and family justice. Louise Ballerstedt Raggio was just such a woman. She came from a small farm where there was neither electricity nor even a book. Nevertheless, she became a famous attorney, responsible for the revamping of women’s legal rights and family law. How did she accomplish this outcome back when even after five years of law school at night, no one would hire her?

Of course, if she would settle for typing and filing she could have a job. But being a real lawyer seemed out of the question. But she kept on scrambling, and in Dallas in the 1950s she finally landed a job as assistant district attorney in charge of child support and the related categories of delinquent dads and juvenile court. This was under the authority of family law.

There was some bad news about family law, however. It really held women hostage. In Texas a woman once married had no property rights. She couldn’t get a bank loan, couldn’t start a business of her own, and couldn’t even have protection for herself or her children if they became abused or there was a divorce. At that time, there were 44 different laws discriminating against married women in Texas and 27 legal disabilities of coverture. In fact the only way a married woman could control her property was to die. Then she could “give her half of the property to her children or anyone else of her choosing.”

Another great irony was the fact that even though a single woman could have a bank account, she lost control of it if she married. Her husband could tell the bank “not to allow her access to her own money.” The disabilities of coverture caused trouble for married women. They could be removed “only for mercantile and trading purposes.” Professional women did not have the same right. In fact, all married women like Raggio, who were professional before 1967, were “actually practicing illegally” because the way the law read, their husbands were responsible for the actions of their wives.

Of course this did not apply to single women, widows or those who were divorced, only the married women. The husband, however, “could sell his property without even telling his wife.” Pressure built up for something to be done about this situation.

The Equal Legal Rights Amendment kept being introduced, but it didn’t get anywhere. Raggio could see why this was so. The legislature didn’t want married women to have equal rights and didn’t like the women who were sponsoring the amendment. The president of the State Bar in 1964 was Joyce Cox. As a male, of course, he felt pressured to name a committee to draft a bill to do something about the “disabilities of coverture of property rights for married women.” Raggio worked on this, but it did not result in legislature action. She realized that tampering with the law in one area threw things off in another area. The situation was much too intertwined to be righted by a constitutional amendment. It would be like Prohibition and would probably have been rescinded.

Finally, however, a bill was approved and in June of 1967, Louise Raggio saw Gov. John Connally sign the bill in Austin. Married women in Texas could thereafter conduct their own affairs and be responsible for themselves legally.

(Facts from “Texas Tornado: The Autobiography of Louise B. Raggio” with Vivian Anderson Castleberry.)

   —————

Gelene Simpson is a Daily Sun columnist. Her column appears on Tuesdays. Want to “Soundoff” on this column? Email: soundoff@corsicanadailysun.com

1
Text Only
Opinion
  • Belcher, Bob.jpg Salute to 'Mr. Derrick Days'

    I can’t help but think back to the “near-death experience” that Derrick Days had 14 years ago, and how one man’s determination brought it back.

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • Bill Tinsley Resurrection

    I was 29-years-old when my father died of multiple myeloma, cancer of the bone marrow.  He was 53 years of age. Only hours before his death, I spoke with him. Our eyes met during that final visit, the same eye contact we had shared from my birth.

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • Dr Don Newbury 2014.jpg It’s about time

    Some aspect of time steals quietly into our psyche in all conscious moments, and our use or abuse of it is central to much poetry, lyrics, scripts, conversations — you name it.

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • Dick Platt 2014.jpg The Wonderlic Test

    Did you hear the one about Texas A&M’s “Johnny Football” Manziel testing better than all the other quarterbacks in this year’s NFL Scouting Combine? No, this is not the start of an Aggie joke.

    April 14, 2014 1 Photo

  • deannakirk.jpg Work Out? Bite your tongue!

    I've shared this before, but it bears repeating. I'm a lot like my late, dear Daddy … whose idea of “working out” was a good, brisk sit.
    Amen, Daddy. Me too.

    April 11, 2014 1 Photo

  • Letters to the Editor for Saturday, April 12, 2014

    Thanks for service
    To the Editor: The Blooming Grove Elementary School would like to express appreciation to several individuals and businesses that for three years have provided a “free” vision exam and eyeglasses for many of our students.

    April 11, 2014

  • Dr Don Newbury 2014.jpg Uncle Mort: For the Birds

    Personal experiences racked up across three-quarters of a century — including yips and yaps at lecterns spanning five decades — offer positive proof that many times, utter silence is preferable to spoken words.

    April 9, 2014 1 Photo

  • Dick Platt 2014.jpg One-liners

    For many years, in a previous life, I had somewhat of a reputation as a master-of-ceremonies and I stayed relatively busy at that avocation. I never met a microphone I didn’t like

    April 7, 2014 1 Photo

  • Deanna Kirk mug Gotta love a small town

    There's so many things to love about living in a small town. Why just last week I got to hang out with my ex-husband, his folks, his wife and baby at the Youth Expo. Then just a day later, I got to see my other ex-husband and his wife at the hospital, when one of our daughters got sick and landed there.

    April 4, 2014 1 Photo

  • Jacobs, Janet.jpg Weird foods on our shelves

    The Atlantic magazine reported recently that sales of frozen pre-packaged dinners are falling and Nestle is considering selling off its Lean Cuisine food line.

    April 4, 2014 1 Photo

AP Video
Featured Ads
Twitter Updates