In honor of Women's History Month, we recently asked Humanities Texas board members, former board members, and a selection of friends of the organization to tell us about women they admire. From cowgirls to Cabinet members, from poets to pioneers, and from astronauts to artists, these women have made inestimable contributions to their fields and to society as a whole. They are an inspiration to us all.

Jessie Daniel Ames

"I admire the life and work of Jessie Daniel Ames, a 1902 graduate of Southwestern University who is credited with leading national efforts to prevent lynching in the United States."

–Jake B. Schrum, president of Southwestern University, Georgetown

Jessie Daniel Ames (1883–1972) was a suffragist and anti-lynching reformer born in Palestine, Texas. As treasurer of the Texas Equal Suffrage Association, she helped lead the push for Texas to ratify the Nineteenth Amendment. In 1919, she founded the Texas branch of the League of Women Voters and served as its first president. She also founded the Association of Southern Women for the Prevention of Lynching, serving as its president for thirteen years.

Read more from an online exhibition from the Texas State Library and Archives Commission.

Gloria Anzaldúa

"Gloria Anzaldúa is one woman who influenced my thinking [and] my scholarly and creative work and must not be ignored as we celebrate Women’s History Month in Texas. As a philosopher and theorist of the border, Anzaldúa’s book Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza and subsequent publications enriched our understanding of the border and allowed us to break out of staid and restrictive formats and epistemologies. The Society for the Study of Gloria Anzaldúa exists to promote and celebrate the contributions of this remarkable woman. Gloria Anzaldúa, born in Hargill, Texas, died of diabetes complications in 2004 at the age of 61."

–Norma Cantú, professor of English at The University of Texas at San Antonio and former Humanities Texas board member

"If I had to pick just one woman: Gloria Anzaldúa, author of Borderlands/La Frontera. Her writing, which is a combination of Spanish and English, autobiographical prose and poetry, myth and reality, Texas and Mexico, and everything else in between, captures what living along the South Texas/Northern Mexico border is about. No other Chicana writer has been able to match what she accomplished in this one book."

–Priscilla A. Rodriguez, executive director of the Brownsville Historical Association

The Benson Latin American Collection at The University of Texas at Austin acquired Anzaldúa's archive. Read more here.

Anne Armstrong

"Anne Armstrong was an extraordinary woman. She moved with grace and charm between the ranch in deep South Texas, where she raised five children, to the Court of St. James, where she served as U.S. Ambassador. A skilled communicator, she served on numerous Fortune 500 corporate boards and as a Regent at Texas A&M University. She captivated all who knew her with her wit and wisdom."

–Virginia Dudley, Comanche-area civic leader and Humanities Texas board member

Emily Austin

"In the great admiration for Moses and Stephen F. Austin, many overlook Emily Austin, daughter of Moses and sister to Stephen F. This stalwart woman overcame whatever obstacles stood before her to help family, friends and country. It was women like Emily who helped make this state. When her husband James Bryan died, she took in boarders and taught school to keep her family going. After she married James Franklin Perry, they moved to Texas and began Peach Point Plantation in her brother's colony. She fled with her children during the Runaway Scrape and remained strong for them and the other colonists who were also running. Light Cummins, author of the biography of Emily Austin, says: 'Emily was very much her own woman, with strong, well-articulated personal feelings centered on a steely personality. Her rock-solid resolve for action enabled her to survive almost six decades of frontier hardship . . . Above all else, Emily Austin was the touchstone at the center of an extended family that provided a common point of reference for four generations . . . ' "

– Fran Vick, 2009 Humanities Texas Award winner and former Humanities Texas board member

"I admire Emily Austin Bryan Perry, the sister of Stephen F. Austin and the daughter of Moses Austin. She was born in 1795 at Austinville, Virginia, and died in 1851 at Peach Point Plantation near present-day Freeport. Emily’s life was filled with movement across American frontiers that carried her from her birthplace in Virginia, then to Missouri, and finally to Texas, where many of her descendants still remain today. She was a resolute plantation mistress who became one of the most significant women in antebellum Texas. As such, Emily was fundamentally a daughter, a sister, a cousin, a wife, a mother, a sister-in-law, an aunt, a mother-in-law, and a grandmother who served as the center focal point for several generations of the Austin family in Texas. She helped to define what a woman should be in early Anglo-American Texas."

–Light Townsend Cummins, state historian of Texas, Bryan Professor of History at Austin College, and former Humanities Texas board member

Read a short biography of Emily Austin by Light Cummins.

Lucille Clifton

"The magnificently original and vibrant American poet Lucille Clifton, who died on the eve of Valentine's Day, 2010, shines forever in heart and mind. If you haven't read her poems yet, give yourself the gift of Lucille! A voice of immense clarity and succinct wisdom, a funny, resilient voice, able to filter, with immediacy and brevity, through chaos, chit-chat, and struggle. You always feel better after reading Clifton poems. I admire her forever, she is a beacon for life."

–Naomi Shihab Nye, poet and novelist

Learn more about Lucille Clifton and read samples of her poetry on

Juanita Craft

"I wish to showcase Juanita Craft, whose life reveals the power of one individual to change an evil system of segregation and racial inequality. Recognized today as one of the pivotal civil rights leaders in the state of Texas, Craft worked as a field organizer for the NAACP and established 182 branches throughout Texas. One of the unsung heroines in civil rights history, Craft visited the White House at the invitation of three U.S. presidents, and President Jimmy Carter called her a living treasure. Although I never had the great fortune to meet Ms. Craft, I admired her work, her humility, and her courage when I lived in Dallas during the early 1980s."

–Albert S. Broussard, Cornerstone Faculty Fellow Professor of history at Texas A&M University and Humanities Texas board member

Read an oral history of Juanita Craft here.

Ima Hogg

"Miss Ima Hogg (1882-1975) profoundly impacted the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (MFAH), the city of Houston, and the state of Texas. Her curiosity and passion for music, art, gardening, and many other endeavors led her to establish great institutions that continue to inspire thousands of Texans every day. In addition to donating her renowned collection of American art along with her estate—Bayou Bend—to the MFAH, Miss Hogg founded the Houston Symphony Orchestra, the Houston Child Guidance Center, and served as the first woman president of the Philosophical Society of Texas.

"At the 1966 dedication ceremony for Bayou Bend Collection and Gardens, Miss Hogg remarked, 'Texas, an empire in itself, geographically and historically, sometimes seems to be regarded as remote or alien to the rest of our nation. I hope in a modest way Bayou Bend may serve as a bridge to bring us closer to the heart of an American heritage which unites us . . . While I shall continue to love Bayou Bend and everything here, in one sense I have always considered I was holding Bayou Bend only in trust for this day. Now Bayou Bend is truly yours.'

"The MFAH is fortunate to have benefitted from the vision and generosity of many women, including Audrey Jones Beck, Alice Pratt Brown, Nina Cullinan, Caroline Wiess Law, and countless others. Miss Hogg led the way, showing all of those around her that a single person can indelibly change the world, and we remain deeply moved by her legacy."

–Kathleen V. Jameson, assistant director of programming, The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

Read more from the Bayou Bend Collection and Gardens.

Lady Bird Johnson

"Lady Bird Johnson was my mentor and my inspiration and is my most admired woman. In her lovely way she led us all to the truth that our native plants that grow in each corner of this world are the foundation of all life on earth as we know it, and then she taught us how to preserve and celebrate them. Mrs. Johnson's vision for a healthy, beautiful earth is my inspiration. I am forever grateful for her guidance, her support, and her abiding presence in my life. Thank you for giving me this chance to say thank you!"

–Ellen C. Temple, owner and president of Ellen C. Temple Publishing, Inc. and former Humanities Texas board member

"Mrs. Johnson is without thought the woman I admire most. I think it is because I got to understand her life through making a documentary about her for her 80th. She had a passionate core and embodied love and inspiration with her tenacious focus for nature and family. She had the type of wisdom and dignity that is rarely seen and had the unusual ability to make a lasting impression. And luckily for us she loved this country we live in. I feel blessed that I got a glimpse of knowing this incredible woman, and I feel she is a role model for all generations to come."

–Grace Guggenheim, executive producer, Guggenheim Productions, Inc.

Read a tribute from the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Barbara Jordan

"Of course for me, the two Texas women I have come to admire greatly with the passing of the years are Barbara Jordan and Ruthe Winegarten. Both held a fierce commitment to democracy and fanned the flame so that American women might take their rightful places as leaders, scholars, and advocates of the highest humanitarian goals and precepts."

–Maceo C. Dailey Jr., associate professor of history and director of African American Studies at The University of Texas at El Paso and Humanities Texas board member

Barbara Jordan (1936–1996) became the first black woman from a Southern State to serve in Congress in 1973. Her political career began with registering black voters for the 1960 presidential campaign, and in 1967 she became the first black state senator since 1883. Jordan was also an inspiring public speaker and an educator who taught at the LBJ School of Public Affairs.

Also see Max Sherman's biography Barbara Jordan: Speaking the Truth with Eloquent Thunder. Sherman is professor emeritus and former dean of the Lyndon Baines Johnson School at The University of Texas at Austin.

Helen Keller

"Helen Keller, for innumerable reasons—but mostly for being brave, and daring, and optimistic, even when she had good reasons not to be. And, for two of my favorite quotes: 'Life is either a daring adventure or nothing' and 'Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see the shadows.' "

–Catherine Robb, Austin attorney and Humanities Texas board member

Read more from Helen Keller's birthplace in Tuscumbia, Alabama.

Sarah Lea

"In 1938, a beautiful young woman named Sarah Dighton left her home in the farming community of Monticello, Illinois to visit a childhood friend who had married and moved to El Paso. There, she met Tom Lea, an artist who was painting a mural in the federal courthouse. Sarah had never known a painter before, but it was love at first sight for both of them. When Sarah's mother asked her daughter how she would live on an artist's meager income, she responded, 'WATCH ME.'

"Many watched Sarah Lea as she became an admired figure in her desert home. She grew as a civic leader and a presence throughout Texas, serving as the first woman on a bank board and lauded for the 'gold dust' she raised for worthy causes. Sarah Lea assisted her husband in painting the mural Southwest for the El Paso Public Library, and she inspired the most beautiful portrait in the world. Based on a photograph Tom Lea looked at longingly as he traveled during World War II, Sarah in the Summertime was painted in the gratefulness of being home. With the sun at her back and her head against the sky, Sarah Lea stands changeless, immortal to our mortal eyes."

–Adair Margo, owner of Adair Margo Fine Art in El Paso, former Humanities Texas board member

Read more from the Harry Ransom Center at The University of Texas at Austin.

Christa McAuliffe

"I chose Christa McAuliffe. I was a freshman in high school and I remember the excitement about this teacher going off into space. I was a child then; I had no idea I wanted to be a teacher at that time. I remember after that tragic event, my science teacher and several other teachers were sobbing, explaining to us the significance of what had just occurred. I didn't understand it then . . . Boy if I was a teacher then . . . just think of the lessons I could have developed around this exciting event. I became a science teacher and now as an educator for the past thirteen years, this job is about sacrifice and dedication to help motivate and inspire students to be the best they can be. Christa McAuliffe was representing all teachers at that time—just think of the wealth of knowledge, recognition and appreciation we (educators) gained from this event. Most of all her dedication to education is what inspires me the most. She and I have one of the most important jobs ever: to influence, motivate, and inspire."

–Paula Woods, principal of Glencrest Sixth Grade in Fort Worth

Read more from NASA.

Mother Teresa

"Thanks so much for honoring me with the request to talk about a woman whom I admire. That person—one of many—would be Mother Teresa. Her selfless acts of service always bring me to my knees in appreciation of the goodness of humankind. Mother Teresa saw humans in our simplest form: beings with inherent dignity. She knew her purpose in life, and she lived her purpose. Without apology to anyone or any man-made institution, she served where she was; she served the person in front of her, sharing love, the gentleness of the human touch, and other basics such as blankets and food. Mother Teresa was an example of Love in action, honoring, what I believe to be, the core of who we are."

–Shirlene Bridgewater, Oustanding Teaching of the Humanities Award recipient, Marble Falls High School

Tuffy Osborne

"Tuffy Osborne was my Girl Scout leader when I was growing up in Pampa, Texas. Her real name was Marian Rosalie, but Tuffy fit her better. When her rancher husband died suddenly, she had two small girls to raise, a wheat crop to get in, and cattle that were ready for market. With the help of neighbors, they harvested the wheat and trucked the cattle to the auction barn. Then Tuffy packed up her daughters and moved to town with her widowed mother—to Pampa. She commuted the seventy miles to West Texas State University in Canyon and earned a college degree so that she could support her family. As our Scout leader, she taught us to ride fence, de-horn cattle, drive any vehicle that had a clutch, and dig ditches—and we loved every minute of it. In the process, she also taught us that a woman can do anything she sets her mind to–and this was back in the 1950s, when such radical ideas were practically unheard of. In part because of her influence, all of us in G. S. Troop 22 graduated from college and went on to successful professional careers. Although she died many years ago, I miss her still, and I'll always admire her."

–Sylvia Grider, professor of anthropology at Texas A&M University and former Humanities Texas board member

Frances Perkins

"There are those who suggest that the American story is the story of expanding liberty to all. I think an equal contender for the American story is the story of ensuring social justice for all. Those who support that idea deserve our admiration for their courage and compassion. They have mine. So, Frances Perkins is a woman I admire. She fought for social justice for all Americans. She especially fought for those on the margins of our society who have no access to power. Even more remarkably, she did when she had power and access to those who had even more power."

–Jim Furgeson, Outstanding Teaching of the Humanities Award recipient, McCallum High School, Austin

Frances Perkins (1880–1965) served as Secretary of Labor under Franklin Delano Roosevelt from 1933 to 1945. She was the first woman to serve in the Cabinet. She played a crucial role in crafting New Deal legislation such as minimum wage laws, child labor laws, and the Social Security Act of 1935.

Read more from the Frances Perkins Center.

Katherine Anne Porter

"Katherine Anne Porter (1890-1980) was a Texas writer whose stories are linguistically flawless and accomplish the goal of literary art: to wrestle with what it means to be human. With a mother who died when Porter was two and a father who was neglectful, her fiction exemplifies the toughness of a Western pioneer, tackling themes of justice, betrayal, and people's unforgiving nature. Both political and personal, her thin but impeccable body of work is expertly crafted and imbued with true Texas spirit."

–Nan Cuba, professor of English at Our Lady of the Lake University and Humanities Texas Award recipient.

Read more about Katherine Anne Porter from the New Yorker.

Beatrix Potter

"Beatrix Potter (1866 – 1943): Author, illustrator, respected mycologist, conservationist, sheep breeder, farmer, business woman . . . these are some of the many facets that define Beatrix Potter, a woman who defied period conventions and became financially independent in spite of her Victorian upbringing. She is the author and illustrator of some of the world's best selling children's books of all time (The Tale of Peter Rabbit, The Tailor of Gloucester, and The Tale of the Flopsy Bunnies). I admire her accomplishments, her gumption, her desire for knowledge, and her perseverance. I respect her love for animals and the environment. I appreciate the charming quality of her children's stories and the delicate artistry found in her illustrations."

–Kathleen Hodges, Outstanding Teaching of the Humanities Award recipient, Walnut Glen Academy, Garland

Read more from The World of Beatrix Potter.

Hazel Harrod Ransom

"I nominate the late Hazel Harrod Ransom, widow of Harry Ransom, former chancellor of The University of Texas System and founder of the world-renowned Ransom Humanities Research Center. My conviction is that Harry's many accomplishments would have been harder for him to achieve without the loyal and constant support that Hazel gave him. That was during his life, but after his death she continued to be a supporter of his projects, financially as well as intellectually, editing and publishing most of Harry's writings, which he either left unfinished or dispersed in periodicals. Apart from that, she was an author in her own right. There are three titles in her own name registered in the UT library. Also there is a sample of her narrative in Don Graham's book Literary Austin, published by Texas Christian University Press."

–Miguel Gonzalez-Gerth, professor emeritus of Spanish at The University of Texas at Austin and Humanities Texas board member

Connie Douglas Reeves

"In 1997, when she was inducted into the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame at age 96, Connie Douglas Reeves stood at the podium and without a note and in clear voice gave an acceptance speech that didn't leave one dry eye in the house. She also gave a piece of advice that resonated with everyone in the room and has become often quoted: 'Always saddle your own horse . . . I still do.' Indeed, even well into her 90s, Connie was saddling her horse and riding almost daily. But her message spoke to much more. All of her life, Connie did what had to get done with no thought of being able to walk away when things got tough. She took care of business. As the riding instructor at Camp Waldemar, Connie taught over 30,000 young women how to ride, and more importantly, touched their lives with her remarkable spirit and unparalleled love of horses and nature."

–Patricia W. Riley, executive director of the Cowgirl Hall of Fame, Fort Worth

Ann Richards

"I admire Ann Richards for her Texan-style candor, her keen humor, quick wit, and her 'moral compass.' I especially appreciated her for her genuine love for the people of South Texas."

Ann Richards (1933–2006) served as Texas's second female governor from 1991–1995, having previously served as state treasurer and Travis County commissioner. She was known for her devastating wit and compelling speaking style, notably at the 1988 Democratic Convention.

–Juliet V. García, president of The University of Texas at Brownsville and Humanities Texas board member

Read more from "Texas Governors" from the Texas State Library and Archives Commission.

Jean Rhys

"I discovered Jean Rhys the summer of 1974 while teaching at the Graduate Institute of Letters at the University of Buffalo. I taught a James Joyce seminar in the morning and spent the rest of the day trying to complete a book I was writing on Joyce. I went to the campus bookstore one evening, desperate to get away from Joyce, and on a whim bought a novel titled After Leaving Mr. Mackenzie by Jean Rhys. It turned out to be one of the most beautifully written books I had read in years. I immediately began to write a book about her work. Rhys had a difficult life and career, struggling with her art and facing devastating disappointments. It wasn't until the publication of Wide Sargasso Sea in 1966, when she was 72 years old, that she achieved any real literary recognition. The novel's great popularity broadened her reputation and brought attention to her earlier novels, which were all reissued. In 1974, Al Alvarez in the New York Times Book Review called her "the best living English novelist," vaulting her status in England to that of a minor cult figure for the remaining years of her life."

–Tom Staley, director of the Harry Ransom Center at The University of Texas at Austin

Read more from the Los Angeles Times.

Elspeth Rostow

"Elegant and eloquent, Professor [Elspeth] Rostow's lectures were works of art as she wove political history, penetrating analysis, personal anecdotes, and wry humor into inspiring hours in the classroom. As Dean of the LBJ School and professor at many respected institutions, she set the highest example as a brilliant, effective woman with her inimitable style, grace, and intelligence."

–Emily Little, architect with ClaytonLevyLittle and architect for the Byrne-Reed House restoration

Elspeth Rostow (1917–2007), a renowned scholar of politics and U.S foreign policy, served as dean of the LBJ School from 1977 to 1983. She also taught at Barnard, Sarah Lawrence, MIT, Georgetown, American University, and the University of Cambridge. In 1991, she founded The Austin Project, a comprehensive investment program in children and young people.

Read more from our January 2008 "From the Director" column.

Anne Sullivan

"One of the women that I admire most is not a social reformer, nurse, first lady, or artist. . . she is a teacher. In some respects I suppose that her role as an educator encompasses all of those other duties as well, but it is her ultimate role as a teacher that compels my respect and admiration. Her name is Anne Sullivan. At times I think that her achievements as a teacher have been overshadowed by the amazing accomplishments of her famous student, Helen Keller, but it is Sullivan's dedication and determination to teach what others considered an 'unteachable' student that I consider most admirable. Instead of giving up on her, Anne Sullivan found a way around the obstacles that isolated Helen Keller from the rest of the world and guided her around them as well. Anne Sullivan accomplished what every good teacher works towards and hopes to accomplish—she changed her student's life through education."

–Signe Peterson, Outstanding Teaching Award recipient, South Houston Intermediate School

Ruthe Winegarten

"Of course for me, the two Texas women I have come to admire greatly with the passing of the years are Barbara Jordan and Ruthe Winegarten. Both held a fierce commitment to democracy and fanned the flame so that American women might take their rightful places as leaders, scholars, and advocates of the highest humanitarian goals and precepts."

–Maceo C. Dailey Jr., associate professor of history and director of African American Studies at The University of Texas at El Paso and Humanities Texas board member

Ruthe Winegarten (1929–2004) authored or co-authored twenty works on women in Texas history. Winegarten tirelessly collected oral histories and other materials around the state to tell women's stories. Among her many accomplishments, she served as research historian for the Texas Women's History Project and advised the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum on its representation of women.

Read more from Women in Texas History, a project of the Ruthe Winegarten Memorial Foundation for Texas Women's History.

Jessie Daniel Ames. Photo courtesy of the A. Frank Smith, Jr. Library Special Collections at Southwestern University.
Gloria Anzaldúa.
Anne Armstrong.
Lucille Clifton.
Cover of Light Townsend Cummins's biography of Emily Austin.
Juanita Craft at the dedication of Juanita Jewel Craft Recreation Center. Photo by LeAnn Gillette©.
Ima Hogg. Photo courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.
Lady Bird Johnson in the back yard of the White House. Photo by Robert Knudsen, White House Press Office (WHPO).
Barbara Jordan delivers the keynote address at the 1976 Democratic National Convention. Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.
Helen Keller in 1912. Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress, prints and photographs division.
Sarah in the Summertime by Tom Lea. Image courtesy of Adair Margo Fine Art. 
Christa McAuliffe. United States National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), S85-41239.
Mother Teresa.
Frances Perkins. Photo from the Library of Congress, LC-USZ62-1132.
Katherine Anne Porter. Photo: Papers of Katherine Anne Porter, Special Collections, University of Maryland Libraries.
A photograph of Beatrix Potter, aged 15, taken by her father.
Hazel Harrod Ransom. Photo courtesy of the Alcalde.
Connie Douglas Reeves in 2002. Photograph courtesy of the National Cowgirl Hall of Fame.
Ann Richards.
Jean Rhys.
Elspeth Rostow.
Helen Keller with her tutor, Anne Sullivan, in 1881. Photograph from the New England Historic Genealogical Society.
Ruthe Winegarten.