Mary Eleanor Brackenridge
Born: 1837 in Indiana
Died: 1924 (interred near Edna, TX)
Noted For: Businesswoman and philanthropist Eleanor Brackenridge is noted as the founding president of the Woman’s Club of San Antonio, the first woman’s club in Texas to promote suffrage. She also helped establish Texas Woman’s University and authored a pamphlet on the legal status of women in Texas.
On the left: From the UTSA Libraries Special Collections.
One of the most significant and interesting leaders of the Texas suffrage movement was Eleanor Brackenridge, a San Antonio businesswoman and philanthropist who helped organize the Woman’s Club of San Antonio in 1898 at the age of 61. (Still going strong today, the club celebrates Eleanor’s birthday each March with a Friendship Tea.)
Under Eleanor’s leadership, the club operated beyond the usual women’s club spheres of social and cultural activities, becoming the first in Texas to endorse votes for women. Club members also worked to increase women’s representation in local government and advance conditions in San Antonio related to employment, education and health.
On the left: Eleanor Brackenridge on the Votes for Women campaign trail. From the San Antonio Express News archives.
In 1911, Eleanor authored “The Legal Status of Texas Women”, a pamphlet that analyzed the aspects of the state’s legal code that related to women. The next year, she organized the Equal Suffrage Association of San Antonio. In 1913, she was named president of the Texas Woman Suffrage Association, which later re-organized as the Texas Equal Suffrage Association, the state’s largest suffrage group. She also had leadership positions in the Texas Mothers’ Congress (a forerunner to the Texas PTA) and the San Antonio Health Protection Association, which sought to stamp out tuberculosis.
Following the passage of a primary suffrage bill for Texas women, Eleanor became the first woman in Bexar County to register to vote. More on primary voting here»
A family legacy…
Brackenridge lived and worked with her brother, philanthropist and University of Texas regent George Brackenridge. He was noted for expanding education opportunities for women and minorities, as well as his generous contributions of land and wealth to the university and the city of San Antonio.
George Brackenridge named Eleanor as director of two of his banks, making her one of the first women in the U.S. to lead a financial institution.
George’s interest in education mirrored that of Eleanor’s, who was instrumental in the establishment of the state’s first vocational school for women, today known as Texas Woman’s University. As a member of TWU’S board of regents, she lobbied the state legislature for funding to support the school’s growth, and she also privately financed the education of countless TWU students. Two buildings on the university’s campus are named in her honor.
Eleanor Brackenridge died on Valentine’s Day in 1924 at the age of 86, just four years after U.S. women officially won the right to vote. She was described in the San Antonio Express as “…in many respects, the foremost woman citizen of Texas” who was “remarkable for her mentality, sound judgement and unfailing gentleness, reaching into far corners of not only Texas but also the United States.”
“300 San Antonians: Eleanor Brackenridge” – video from KSAT 12