“Unequal Citizens: Women, Rights, and the Texas Constitution of 1836” | Mary Scheer
In most traditional accounts of the framing of the Texas Constitution of 1836, scholars have crafted their interpretative framework based on the political, economic, and legal contests among the delegates, as well as the military realities of an approaching Mexican army. They wrote from a consensus that characterized Texas history as an epic story centered on the frontier experience of white men who tamed the wilderness, conquered the Indians, defeated a foreign foe, and created an independent nation, often referred to as the Texas Myth. By focusing on the public sphere where women and other minorities were excluded, this “ethnocentric and gender-skewed” version of history left little room for “others” to claim equal citizenship and participation. As Fane Downs famously wrote in “Texas Women: History at the Edges,” Texas women’s history must be conducted within the context of the suffocating Texas macho myth.” As a consequence, little gender analysis has typically been applied to the events of March 1-17, 1836, or the construction of the Texas Constitution of 1836. However, a careful reading of the constitution reveals that either through haste, oversight, or imprecise language, the delegates “accidentally” bestowed direct political rights on white women. In their rush to complete their deliberations and flee before the Mexican troops arrived, the 59 men who drafted the constitution inadvertently permitted women to vote, even serve on juries. Although these lawmakers never intended it, society never expected it, and women never asked for it, Texas white women after 1836 could, but didn’t exercise “all the privileges” of citizenship. Prof. Scheer, then, will analyze the Texas Constitution of 1836, seeking to understand how the constitution for the Republic of Texas was not only a political statement, but also the product of a social, cultural, and gendered construction.
Mary L. Scheer is professor of History and chair of the History department at Lamar University. She received a B.A. and M.A. (1975) from Texas State University, later earning a Ph.D. from Texas Christian University. She has authored The Foundations of Texan Philanthropy (Texas A&M University Press, 2004), co-edited Twentieth-Century Texas: A Social and Cultural History (University of North Texas Press, 2008), and edited the award winning Women and the Texas Revolution (University of North Texas Press, 2012). Scheer was a Fulbright scholar at the University of Potsdam, Germany, in 2004.
“The Texas Rangers in Myth & Memory” | Jody Edward Ginn
The history of the Texas Rangers has been a key component in the traditional Anglophone historiography of the American West, which relied upon the Turner Frontier Thesis to bolster Anglo-American notions of Manifest Destiny. In 1935, Walter Prescott Webb immortalized the Rangers as righteous and invincible in his ethnocentric and sycophantic tome, The Texas Rangers. Publications that were critical of Webb and the traditionalist narrative burgeoned in the late twentieth century. Now, Ranger historiography is replete with accusations of racial bias and wanton use of summary justice from their time as volunteer mounted frontier fighters during Republic of Texas era and early statehood, to their later role as border enforcement officers – particularly during the Mexican Revolution era – and beyond. During the earlier eras, Texas’s boundary with Mexico was still in dispute and some Southern Plains Indian groups continued to contest Anglo-American hegemony. In the later period, Mexican insurgents frequently (and unlawfully) crossed the border to use Texas as a staging ground for their campaigns while common criminals from both countries wrought havoc in the sparsely populated Rio Grande Valley. Furthermore, many Valley Tejanos with cross-border ties aided various groups in defiance of federal neutrality laws, while a few even fomented domestic rebellion. However, revisionist works have often been just as rife with myth, misinformation, and ethnic stereotypes as their traditionalist counterparts. To achieve a more balanced and nuanced interpretation of Ranger history, modern historians must rise above partisan, ethnocentric perspectives and eschew the associated myths. “Texas Rangers in Myth & Memory” reveals many of those myths and addresses how they have influenced the historiography and public perception in various quarters.
Jody Edward Ginn was for many years an investigator with the Hays County Criminal District Attorney’s Office in San Marcos, Texas. He is currently an independent scholar based in Austin. He received a B.A. and M.A. (2008) from Texas State University and completed a Ph.D. in History at the University of North Texas in 2014 under the direction of Professor Richard McCaslin. Ginn has contributed book reviews on volumes dealing with the Texas Rangers to the Southwestern Historical Quarterly. He has also presented academic papers at the Texas State Historical Association and the East Texas Historical Association. He has twice won the Fred White Jr. Research Award in Texas History.