Artist, full-time activist and
Ten years ago was for me the end of
much, which thank goodness, always
means the beginning of much.
It marked the end of a marriage, the
end of a five-year term on the Houston
School Board, and the end of not having
to work for a living.
There were personal high spots during
the seventies, such as having a free hand
to create and produce an "educational"
children's program on Channel 2. There
was work with Houston Breakthrough
when it began; there's been a lot of time
spent in Washington on a radio series A
Texan in Washington. Then there was the
unsuccessful race for a seat in the State
Thankfully, there were jobs, though it
became increasingly apparent that em-.
ployers—and potential employees—are
really scared of people who have wandered through the liberal area of the political
forest. (I was active in the women's movement and the ACLU.) And to be considered controversial! Wow!
There was the revelation about the
Criminal Investigation Division of the
Houston Police Department; surveilling
and keeping records on thousands of noncriminal Houstonians. As one of the "surveyed" whose name was revealed (my
file was under the category Subversive,
Women's Liberation) I became a named
Nice that time divides up into neat
parcels — years, decades — so we can
bundle them up, put them aside and
start afresh. — Gertrude Barnstone
plaintiff-with Larry Sauer and the
Houston Chapter of the ACLU-in a $55
million suit against several police and city
officials. That suit is still hanging fire.
A really important element was added
to my experiences when I got into transcendental meditation. At a very low point,
a friend urged t.m. and suddenly my
problems changed from huge mountains
to gentle hills. Most important, and this
fits right into my growing feminist awareness, I got a sense of myself that I'd not
felt since childhood; not me the mother,
the daughter, the wife, the lover, politician, media person—but the before-any-
At some point one asks—what is it that
I really want—not what I think I should
want, not what others think I should
want, but what does the one inside of the
me really want? That kind of thinking
headed me back toward sculpture which
had been my total involvement for years
before the fight for civil rights and
integration had swept everything else
In order to do the work I had wanted
to do years before-work with fabric and
with metal on a large scale, I went to
Houston Community College and learned
welding. It was a thrill to drape the large
nylon piece over the lake in Hermann
Park for Main Street '76—an idea set aside
years before finally materialized!
A most interesting thing happenened
later that year when I nearly died of viral
pneumonia. I can almost recommend it
for what that did to clarify my thinking
and sense of self. Suddenly, I knew exactly what I wanted and how I was going to
do it: devote myself totally to sculpture
and support myself with a part-time job
welding. And that's exactly what I've
Welding is a fascinating activity—people
who have done it know what a great coordination of concentration and relaxation it can be. It has been described as a
day-long mantra. Believe me, it beats an
office job—nobody cares what your politics are; all that matters is that this job in
hand is well done. And what a relief to
have a job which doesn't depend on someone else; which has nothing to do with
p.r., with image or pretense; it is either a
good weld or a poor weld. It enables me
to sculpt and I'll admit that I enjoy it as a
Nice that time passes and helps one
change. Looking back, I find that things
which terrified me 10 years ago—like being alone—I now relish. Nice, too, that
time divides up into neat parcels—years,
decades—so we can bundle them up, put
them aside and start afresh.
In 1970, I was in the closed circuit
television business and produced the
second Muhamed Ali comeback fight
at Madison Square Garden.
— Fred Hofheinz
Mayor of Houston, 1973-77
1970 was a watershed year for a lot of
people in politics.
The previous year was one in which
the Houston school board majority was
changed in a dramatic way. I had worked
with Jonathan Day and Vic Samuels
and others in the political upheaval that
resulted in a new majority for the school
board and the election, coincidentally, of
two new members of the Houston City
It was obvious that there was a reform .
attitude on the part of large numbers of
Houstonians who riidn't share the establishment's view of the government,
whether it was the school board or the
1970 was, for me, a year of vigorous j
business activity. I was involved in my
personal and private affairs, greatly.
In December 1970, I was in the closed
circuit television business and produced
the second of the Muhamed Ali comeback
fights out of Madison Square Garden.
[Earlier that year] I participated in
the Ralph Yarborough election—I helped
raise Ralph Yarborough money and had
organized a major banquet for his U.S.
And when he was defeated by Lloyd
Bentsen in the fall, I helped Lloyd in his
race against George Bush.
What was going on in the nation was
going on locally. There was a great deal of
reaction to abuse of power in government
during the late 60's and early 70's. A tremendous amount. That is what politicized me and that is what, ultimately,
elected me Mayor of Houston in 1973.
We organized a dissent that was already
.there. The dissent in Houston translated
into an anti-Herman Short, anti-police department, anti-10-year-incumbent (Louie
Welch) sentiment. We organized it beginning in January 1971. The election wasn't
until the fall. We came within 15,000
votes of winning in November 1971 —
which was considered very close.
The rest is public record. As far as my
personal involvement is concerned after
1971—everything I did was well-reported.
Today, I'm deeply involved in personal
business. I rarely give interviews.
After serving as mayor of Houston for
two terms, Fred Hofheinz chose not to
run for a third.
Chair of Texas Common Cause
When the seventies began, I was a full-
time homemaker with two small children,
married to a college professor, active in
the Parent Teacher Organization and the
Faculty Wives Club. My hobbies were
cooking, knitting, and bridge club once a
At the end of that decade I am a geo-
physicist and computer programmer. I am
the principal breadwinner in my family;
my husband is retired from teaching and
is a free-lance writer and technical translator. I am active in grass roots politics, and
currently chair the largest citizen's lobby
group in Texas. I direct a volunteer chorus, and (some things stay the same) play
bridge once a week.
The women's movement is directly responsible for many of the changes which
occurred in my life. The founding of the
Harris County Women's Political Caucus
set me on a course of active involvement
with the political process. The many fine
women I met and worked with in the
caucus, the National Organization for
Women and Women's Equity Action
League provided me with support, confidence, and a resolve to become all that I
can be. It is in the spirit of that resolve
that I face the eighties with optimism and
a belief that the changes have only begun.