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  Texas : Features : Columns : All Things Historical :

MARGIE NEAL

by Archie P. McDonald
Archie McDonald Ph.D.

From the 1970s through now, many introductions included the words "The first woman to....Ē Margie Elizabeth Neal of Carthage, Texas, really was the first woman to do lots of things and do them well, besides.

Margie Neal was born in Clayton, a community located near Carthage, Texas, seat of government for Panola County, to William Lafayette and Martha Gholson Neal, in 1875. After attending Sam Houston State Teachers College in Huntsville, Neal taught in schools in Carthage and Fort Worth.

Neal retained an interest in education all her life, but moved on to careers in journalism, elected office, and other public service. For example, in 1903 she moved back to Carthage to become editor of the town newspaper, the Texas Mule, when her father purchased it for her. She rechristened the newspaper the East Texas Register and edited it until 1911.

Then began the many avenues of Neal's public service. Neal became active in the crusade for woman's suffrage, and, when that fight was won, became the first female registered voter in Panola County. She was also the first female member of the State Democratic Executive Committee, and a delegate to the Democratic Nominating Convention in 1920. Governor Pat Neff appointed Neal to the board of regents for the state system of teacher's colleges in 1921, and she served until 1927.

Neal won election to the Texas State Senate in 1926, the first woman elected to that branch of state government. She sponsored legislation that created the State Board of Education, that required the introduction of physical education to the curriculum of public schools, and that required accommodation of students with disabilities.

During the Depression of the 1930s, Neal worked with the National Recovery Administration and the Social Security Administration, in Washington, San Antonio, and Dallas, before returning to Carthage, where she lived until her death in 1952. By then, following Margie Neal's lead, other East Texas women that become the first to...do whatever they wanted.

© Archie P. McDonald
All Things Historical
November 26, 2007 column
A syndicated column in over 70 East Texas newspapers
(This column is provided as a public service by the East Texas Historical Association. Archie P. McDonald is director of the Association and author of more than 20 books on Texas.)
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William Barrett Travis
 
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A timely gift for any East Texan. Sample a little of East Texas here, a little there--and come away with a good helping of stories you might not know if you didnít read this book.
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