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29 1918 The Primary Election Bill Passes When, with help from the suffragists, Governor James Ferguson was impeached and removed from office in 1917, the main obstacle to passage of a primary election bill permitting women to vote in party primaries was removed . The suffrage leaders knew that they had a better chance for passage with William P. Hobby, the former lieutenant governor, as governor. But at first Hobby was reluctant to endorse their cause. The Senate had voted not to consider the bill in the 1917 regular session, and the new governor hesitated to bring the bill up again in a special session. The suffragists increased their pressure, forming a coalition of women's and labor groups and collecting signatures on a primary suffrage petition from a majority of the members of the legislature. Governor Hobby was impressed, and in March 1918 he opened a special session of the legislature to the subject of amending the election laws. Within a week the primary election bill had passed both houses. When the bill cleared the Senate, the legislators rose to applaud the suffragists who were watching from the gallery. Governor Hobby signed the bill into law on March 26, 1918. DOCUMENT* LETTERS Minnie Fisher Cunningham to Mrs. Carrie Chapman Catt 25 January 1918 My Dear Mrs. Catt:. . . The present Governor, W. P. Hobby, will probably call a special session of the Legislature for about March first, on other business. We are urging him to submit our Primary Suffrage Bill. If he will, we have the strength now to pass it unless all of the special elections called to fill vacancies go against us, which is not likely. The Governor is interested in what we say, but has not committed himself. Can you, and will you, get a letter to him from President Wilson urging him to submit it because of the value of the vote in the hands of the women in the cantonment towns particularly? It need not be a public letter, only if we may know it has been sent. We need this help sorely. It is going to be the worst political fight Texas has even known, and only the vote in the hands of the women can surely save us from a most crushing and humiliating defeat. So, please help us! *From: Minnie Fisher Cunningham Collection, Houston Metropolitan Research Center , Houston Public Library. 165 166 CITIZENS AT LAST Waco suffragists marched with their children in a "Votes for Women" parade. (Courtesy Texas Collection, Baylor University, Waco.) DOCUMENTS 167 Very truly yours, President. P.S.: Everything possible being done on Culberson. Do not think we are neglecting it! Minnie Fisher Cunningham to Mrs. Carrie Chapman Catt 25 March 1918 My dear Mrs. Catt: There has been no time to properly report the work in Texas and there probably will be none until after the Liberty Loan drive is over, by which time it will be ancient history and the Federal Amendment will be passed, and be the latest thing in Suffrage history. But I do want you to know that we cannot help it, a summary is the best we can do. The bill passed the House by 84 to 34, in going to the Senate it was amended in certain particulars and passed by a final vote of 18 to 4 with four pairs and one absent. The absent one was ours too, so our real vote was 23 to 8. It then went back to the House and after a vain attempt by our enemies to throw us into free conference committee (we weren't quite satisfied with the amendments , but there were only four more days and we knew we would die on the calendar, so we were in favor of concurring) the House concurred in the Senate amendments by an almost unanimous vote. When this was taken we rose to leave the gallery of the House and when the men saw us they all stood up and gave us a perfect ovation, cheering for some minutes and calling for a speech. It was a surprising and greatly appreciated tribute to the work that the women have been doing. The bill carries a registration restriction that I am not wholly pleased with (copy in the newspaper clipping attached) but it is aimed at the ignorant foreign vote on the border and the situation is so acute that I could not ask our friends to fight for its defeat, the time was so short too...


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