ABOUT THE FILM
Citizens at Last is a documentary film that tells the story of the grit, persistence, and tactical smarts of the Texas women who organized, demonstrated, and won the vote for women. Citizens at Last follows the early days of organizing, explores the strategic role Texas suffragists played in the national movement, and exposes the pro-Jim Crow policies of the anti-suffragists who stood in their way. Like all the former Confederate states, Texas saw women’s suffrage as a threat to white male supremacy. Because of Texans such as Minnie Fisher Cunningham, Annette Finnigan, Marianna Folsom, Jovita Idar, and Maude Sampson, Texas became the first state in the South and the ninth in the nation to ratify the Nineteenth Amendment. But it was a segregated victory. While white suffragists celebrated in major American capitols, African American women were left without the vote in Jim Crow Texas, and Tejanas were ruled by the South Texas bosses. Exasperated but undaunted, African American women and Tejanas continued their fight for equal voting rights until long after 1920.
Citizens at Last elucidates the crucial role Texas women played in the long struggle for equal voting rights. The words of Suffragist, Jane Y McCallum, captured the thrill of voting for the first time after a long, hard fight, whether for the passage of the 19th amendment in 1920, or the Voting Rights Act in 1965, when she wrote, “With what high hopes and enthusiasms women stepped forth into a world in which they were citizens at last! ”
Learn about the heroes behind the history.
Minnie Fisher Cunningham
Born in Walker County, Minnie Fisher Cunningham was a Texas leader for woman suffrage and lifelong Democrat. She was president of the Texas Equal Suffrage Association from 1915-1918. Under her shrewd leadership, Texas women won the right to vote in primary elections two years before the ratification of the 19th Amendment.
Cunningham moved to Washington DC in 1919-1920 to work for the National American Woman Suffrage Association. She was part of the team of lobbyists who persuaded President Woodrow Wilson and members of Congress to pass the 19th Amendment. NAWSA then sent her to seven states in the South and Southwest to urge governors to call special sessions for ratification. After women won the right to vote, she helped transform NAWSA into the national League of Women Voters.
In 1928, she was the first Texas woman to run for U.S. Senate, and in 1944, she was a candidate for governor. In both races, she trailed in the polls, but she was blazing trails that other women could follow.
Read more about Minnie Fisher Cunningham in the Handbook of Texas.