Can strong survive?
Does our society allow strong, assertive, uncompromising women—women motivated by conscience and
commitment—to survive in politics? If you have ever
wondered about it, ask yourself whatever happened to
Sissy Farenthold, Hattie Mae White, or Gertrude Barnstone.
"My father once told me you could never depend on
politics," Sissy Farenthold recalled sadly. "So I felt it was
better to move and work than to languish in Texas."
Frances "Sissy" Farenthold, the woman who was
twice moved by conscience to challenge Dolph Briscoe
for governor of this state, was advised not to run for the
22nd Congressional District seat because she could not
depend on liberal support.
Thus, she was forced to leave Texas and accept the
presidency of a women's college in New York.
Hattie Mae White, the only Black woman ever to
serve on the HISD Board, endured racial slurs and threats
of violence during the 60's, while she vocally supported
the rights of poor children to get free milk in school
After one term on the board and an unsuccessful bid
for the state legislature, she "retired" to a quiet life as a
school counselor in a district for which she once formulated policy.
And, Gertrude Barnstone, who together with White
fought on the school board for the desegregation of public
schools and who was the subject of a Look Magazine article entitled "A Lady Stirs Her City's Conscience" -where
has she been the past six years?
Barnstone has taken one survival job after another to
support her family. At one point in the 70's when broadcast stations were forced to integrate women and minorities in all levels of the station, a token "management"
position was created, that of community relations director.
KPRC-TV hired Barnstone for that position until she ran
(and lost) a state senate race. She was fired soon after
Gertrude Barnstone is a special case to feminists
because she was there from the beginning, working for
us while we were working up enough courage and energy
to join her.
The Harris County Women's Political Caucus, the
group that created the office of the Women's Advocate,
endorsed her for that position (this year), as did other
feminist groups. Broad-based community support came
from Olga Soliz and LULAC, June Holly of the Houston
Metropolitan Ministries and Judge Andrew Jefferson, the
Mayor's own co-campaign manager.
Yet, Fred Hofheinz chose not to appoint Barnstone.
He felt she would be a liability to his administration because of her "past political involvement."
Hofheinz told a Houston journalist that it would have
been "counter-productive" to appoint Barnstone because
she was "too political" and thus would have been "in-
Are these the views of a liberal mayor or of a "political" njiayor, succumbing to conservative pressure and
Can we believe the "promises" that the Mayor will
be responsive to the feminist community of Houston and
yet accept the fact that Gertrude Barnstone is persona non
grata in ajliberal administration?
What lessons are there for women of conscience who
decide to fight "marshmallows" like Briscoe, racist and
sexist schjool districts—or city administrations?
To be silent? Passive? Supportive to the white male
And, if we break the rules—do we risk being labeled
as liabilities and abandoned?
Women will never go back, give up, or lose the urgency of commitment. We expect the same responsibility and
conscience, and the strength to act on that conscience,
from thfe self-avowed enlightened—elected .and unelected—
in our c ty and state.
(c) Houston Breakthrough 1976
letters to the editor
Thank you for giving space to
my interview with Ms. Wendy
Haskell Meyer, who was nice
enough to visit with me and discuss her article (Breast Lump?
See An Oncologist, in Breakthrough, April 1976) on Ms.
Kushner's book on breast cancer
(Breast Cancer: A Personal History and An Investigative Report).
Unfortunately, someone 'edited out' what I thought to be
very significant things I said to
Ms. Meyer, and I would appreciate calling this to the attention
of your readers.
... I would like to state. . .
that Ms. Kushner's suggestion on
'doctor shopping' when a lady
has a breast lump is counter-productive.
I feel very strongly that in all
interpersonal relations there is
still a place for mutual trust and
honesty. I reject the idea that a
woman cannot trust the obstetrician who delivered her baby;
and the gynecologist who sees
her each year or the family doctor who has seen her and her
family through serious crisis.
I reject the fact that these people suddenly are not sufficiently
trustworthy to find the right
doctor to care for her breast
MALCOLM FOOTE SHER, MD
Greater Houston Unit
American Cancer Society
Editor's Note: The edited portion of the article reads as
follows. "Sher agrees that a G.P.
shouldn't be treating breast cancer and doubts that any would
want to. He advises a woman
with a lump to 'go to a doctor
you know and trust—not necessarily the one recommended
by your hairdresser,' who Sher
claims is a prominent source of
doctor referrals. 'Ask that doctor to tell you who is most
knowledgeable', Sher said."
I feel certain Breakthrough
will fill an important void, not
only as a focal point for Texas
feminists, but as an educational
tool for public officials.
On a recent business trip to
Dallas, I encountered an extremely rude Southwest Airlines
employee ... I wrote the airline
expressing my unwillingness to
fly with them in the future in
light of this incident, coupled
with the offensiveness of their
advertising and their hot-pants
Here was my reply from S.
A.'s President, M. Lamar Muse:
"I am very sorry that you find
Southwest Airlines' advertising,
service and employees offensive.
It is comforting to know that
you have sufficient wherewithal
to pay almost three times as
much for less convenient service on competitive airlines."
To which I replied, "You
may be assured that I shared
your sarcastic non-reply with as
many persons as possible. It is
comforting to know that you
can afford to lose customers."
(The letter was co-signed by
27 men and women.)
I would urge all customers
to boycott Southwest Airlines
and to express to Mr. Muse
their unwillingness to sacrifice
personal values and concern for
quality of service in exchange
for lowered costs.
Editor's note: You may write
M. Lamar Muse at 1820 Regal
Row, Dallas 75235 or call,
Art- Pandy Crow, Rhonda Griffin-Boone, Charley
Kubricht-Fore, Mark Stinson
Advertising — Nancy Landau, Mary-k Wilson
Business — Jack Keller
Circulation — Nancy Kern, Mary-k Wilson
Copy - Gay Cosgriff, Rogers Med lock
Editors-Writers — Gertrude Barnstone, Janice Blue,
Gay Cosgriff, Senora Hudson, Barbara Hugetz
Feature Writers — Jan Cunningham, Wendy Haskell
Meyer, Adelaide Moorman, Patti O'Kane
Photography — Amos Barrow, Marilyn Jones, Nancy
Gertrude Barnstone, Janice Blue, Gay Cosgriff
Vol. 1, No. 6, June-July 1976. Houston Breakthough is published monthly (with the exception of the June-July and the
August-September issues) by the Breakthrough Publishing
Company 1915-B Wentworth, Houston, Texas 77004, P.O.
Box 88072, Houston, Texas 77004. Telephone (713) 526-
6686. Subscriptions $5.00 a year. Newsstand 50 cents per
copy. This publication is on file at the International Women's History Archive, in the Special Collections Library,
Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois 60201.