The "Texas Women : A Celebration of History" exhibit : second-wave feminism, historical memory, and the birth of a "Texas women's history industry"

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Abbott, Gretchen Voter

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Touring the state in the early 1980s, the “Texas Women: A Celebration of History” exhibit was the first attempt to create a comprehensive, public Texas women’s history narrative. Surprisingly, the exhibit was organized not by academics or museum professionals, but rather by the Texas Foundation for Women’s Resources—a nascent second-wave feminist non-profit organization composed of up-and-coming political activists such as Ann Richards, Sarah Weddington, Jane Hickie, and Martha Smiley. Through an analysis of the exhibit, as well as archival research and oral histories with many of the participants, this thesis explores the reasons that a feminist organization with finite resources would choose to focus on the production of women’s history as a tool of feminist activism. The “Texas Women” exhibit was a uniquely effective way for the members of the Texas Foundation for Women’s Resources to express their feminist values in a culturally palatable way and to create embodied moments of feminist consciousness for their audience. Furthermore, it paved the way for the organization’s future successful feminist projects, fed the production of Texas women’s history initiatives around the state, and served as a springboard that helped launch Ann Richards’ successful political career.



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