Time and an open mind
Hazel Bracken was elected to
the Houston School Board in 1973
and immediately startled many
people by stating that if an equally
qualified man and woman applied
for the same job, she would vote
for the man, since ['women should
be subservient to men/' Feeling
ran strong; there was a call for her
Time — and an open mind —
change many things. Recently,
Hazel Bracken was strong and articulate in her support jof Betty
Minzenmayer, the superintendent's candidate for principal of
Scarborough Jr. - Sr. High School.
There was only one woman serving as principal of a senior high
school in HISD and there was
great resistance to Minzenmayer
— solely because she is a woman.
What has caused this change in
attitude on Bracken's part? Gertrude Barnstone, herself a member of the HISD Board from 1964 -
69, explores this question and
others with Hazel Bracken.
HB: What changed my attitude?
Serving on the Board with those
strong, strong men! It was an atti-
tudinal thing, a putdown. They are
very courteous people but there
were many times when I had to
fight to be heard — and then I had
to say, "But I'm not through!"
By Gertrude Barnstone
Then there was the matter of being passed over for the presidency
when she was in line for it.
HB: First I was assistant secretary, then secretary, then vice president. I let it be known in writing
that I wanted to be president, but I
sensed something was amiss when
there were no consultations or
indications that I would become
president. I felt every bit as qualified as the president and when I
was not chosen, I was miffed.
It's very definitely an "old boys"
I've learned from that last experience that if you sit around and
wait for the men to ask you, you'll
wait until the earth looks level. So
I jumped out ahead of the men
and have already announced that
I am running for reelection. They
are on their own!
GB: You and Barbara Jordan are
the only women in elected office
from this city. What would you tell
a woman who was thinking of
running for political office?
HB: Just go like mad! It's the
most fun thing I ever did. And I've
learned so much! I never would
have taken sex discrimination seriously — it took this experience.
GB: How can young women get
the spirit of "I can do anything"
which you seem to have?
HB: I don't know. I was so
downtrodden when I was growing
up. I didn't think I could do anything. I was 25 years old and had
never made a decision of any
significance. I'd bring a dress
home and Mother would say, "I
don't like it." Daddy would say,
"You can't do this or that." I had
I'd graduated from college,
been voted most popular, beauty,
best dressed and none of it meant
anything to me. I just didn't know
who I was.
At the age of 25,1 decided to get
away from my parents. If I didn't
make it, so I didn't make it. That's
when I came to Houston.
Years ago I identified with the
feelings of a famous journalist
who committed suicide and left a
note saying he was tired of trying
to fill up the 24 hours. I had been
so satisfied with meaningless female activities — garden club on
Tuesday —* what's your new recipe? Beauty parlor on Thursday.
Life has to be more than this!
I was very depressed. Now I
realize the depression was looking for something significant in
the scheme of things and not
I do have what I feel is a very real
relationship with the Lord a/id I
believe what he says to be. He
says, "I've come that ye might
"The Houston School Board is definitely
an 'old boys' club."
There were things I wanted to
De very vocal about and if there
vere matters I wanted to emo-
ionally ventilate about, I felt I had
3very right to!
I sensed a feeling of tolerance:
'We love you as a friend, we
idmire you as a woman, but you
eally don't count too much.
Ne're us and you're you and we
lad to have you for our token
voman. You're a good sport and if
A/e had to have a woman, we're
zlad it's you!"
Betty Minzenmayer had come
hrough two screenings and was
io far ahead of the nearest runner-
jp, who was a black man. I wanted
ro say "Would you like to have the
second runner-up?" because they
<vould have screamed as loudly
about having a black male principal. That's just the kind of peo-
>le they are. They had a white
nale principal picked out, by the
My horizons have been pushed
back 29 miles on either side relative to many things.
GB: Are you interested in getting into any other political office?
HB: I've investigated getting into state politics. Basically, I'm a
Republican. I am fascinated with
government and fascinated to
find that I actually am as capable
— if not more so — as most of the
people I've met.
When you're growing up, you
think that everything is going to
be all right because they're going
to take care of it. Then when you
go up to Austin and Washington
to the legislature, Congress and
Senate and see who all those people are, they're not any brighter
than you are!
So, I'm real interested in just
exploring state office, but until
1980, when Nancy Palm feels the
Democrats will probably redis-
trict, there's nothing for me.
have life." So I began to explore
what he meant by life and I found
it meant really living, not just
A dear friend told me that one
should try two new things every
year — that way your horizons will
broaden. This year I'd like to
become bilingual and I'm interested in television. I want a show like
Nancy Ames'. I would love that! jt
may not come to pass, but usually
if I get an idea and can't get rid of
it, I walk up to it like a seeing-eye
door and if it opens, fine. If not, no
My real emergence came about
with my divorce in 1970. I had to
get out of the cocoon; I had to
find that I could do it.
Now I'm very anticipatory. I'm
on tiptoes about life. I just wish
every woman would find the courage to begin to explore possibilities, regardless of what she relies
on for sufficiency — herself, or as
in my case, on God.
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PACE 14 • MAY 1977 • HOUSTON IRIAKTHR6UCH