ERNESTINE GLOSSBRENNER (1932- 2013)
From Dallas 2010 web site bios of honorees
VFA has just heard of the passing of Ernestine Glossbrenner, a pioneer feminist of Dallas and longtime State Representative who was honored at our Dallas event in 2010, reminding us just how important it is for every feminist to leave instructions that VFA be advised upon one’s death. Ernestine’s life story is so inspiring that we’re adding it to VFA’s fabulous collection of bios. Here are excerpts from her story from the Dallas program planned by VFA board member Bonnie Wheeler, with added information from the Dallas News .
Originally from the East Texas oil field community of Carlisle, Ernestine graduated from Kilgore Junior College in 1952 and earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from the University of Texas in 1954 and a master’s degree in mathematics from Texas A&I. A lifelong advocate for public education, she taught math in Alice for more than 20 years.
She came late to the Women’s Movement, she said, because her parents had neglected to tell her that she was limited in her aspirations because she was a girl. Minding her own business at the National Education Association Annual Convention in Atlantic City back in 1972, she happened upon a notice of a meeting of the Women’s Political Caucus.
“I showed up and signed in. What a surprise! I found out that I wasn’t included in ‘all men are created equal.’”
She wasn’t keen on that, so she volunteered to help draft resolutions that needed passing at the Convention, back home, started learning about her own history and what was happening with women’s rights in the United States, particularly Texas. Gloria Steinem was coming to San Antonio to speak to the Women’s Political Caucus, so Ernestine convinced a fellow teacher to drive the 120 miles to San Antonio after school. The pair listened to Ms. Steinem and immediately volunteered to work for passage of the ERA.
Feminism was taking hold in the Texas State Teachers Association around the same time. In 1973 Ernestine attended the Women’s Political Caucus in Houston and agreed to help carry a resolution to the TSTA to help sponsor a workshop called “Boys Over Here, Girls Over There.” The workshop focused on making the Texas school curriculum and textbooks more reflective of the roles of women and minorities, as well as de?ning what those roles should be. After the convention, Ernestine received a letter inviting her to a meeting of the executive committee of the Texas Women’s Political Caucus. She had never done anything politically—except vote and help carry Jim Wells County for Sissy Farenthold in her race for governor. When she arrived at the TWPC meeting, she was taken aback by the women’s youth and high level of knowledge. “I would have been embarrassed had they not been so warm and friendly,” she recalled.
Ernestine was hooked! She helped organize her county’s Women’s Political Caucus and ran for State Representative in 1974, enlisting the support of her former math students, fellow teachers and friends. She didn’t win that round, but two years later she won the race by 136 votes out of about 28,000 cast. Local citizens kept telling Caucus members about projects “you ‘wimin’” could do. All 14 members did accomplish some of those requests. Noticing that the Commissioners’ Court districts had been drawn so that, in a county that had a 65 percent Hispanic population, there was only one Hispanic commissioner and she represented 48 percent of the population, the Women’s Caucus sued under the one-person, one-vote provision and forced redistricting.
In 1976 she was elected to the Texas Legislature. As one of few women, she saw to it that indigent women and children received better healthcare, all children received more adequate and fair educational opportunities, and women (and men) were freed to vote for their own choice, no matter where they worked. Discrimination against women in a popular downtown Austin luncheon club was even stopped with some male House members supported Ernestine’s group of women legislators—known as The Women’s Marching Chowder, Terrorist and Quasi-judicial Society—by letting it be known that they wouldn’t go where any other House member couldn’t go. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Ernestine chaired both the Elections Committee and the Public Education Committee. At her prodding, the Elections Committee managed to provide for fairer elections and to protect ill and elderly citizens from being abused by campaign workers.
Leading the Public Education Committee, Ernestine made sure that equal opportunities were afforded to girls and all minorities. “One of the most dif?cult things to include in schools’ curriculum was anything that had to do with sexuality,” she added. “You’d be surprised at the number of people who believe that making babies should be undertaken only by the ignorant.”
EXCERPTS FROM THE CORPUS CHRISTI CALLER TIMES OBIT :
Longtime state Rep. Ernestine Glossbrenner, from Alice, died on Sunday morning at Christus Spohn Hospital Shoreline. She was 79. Glossbrenner, originally from the East Texas oil field community of Carlisle, served eight terms in the Texas State House, from 1977 until her retirement in 1993.
Glossbrenner was remembered by a high official as a down-to-earth leader who used intelligence and a dry wit to get her point across. “Her approach to legislation was one-on-one discussions , he said. She knew her facts and had her knowledge. She passed legislation with a personal touch and was very effective. She was a pillar of public education policy in Texas during her time in Austin.”
In 1991, Glossbrenner received the Friend of Education Award from the Texas Classroom Teachers Association. Her other honors include the Public Service Award from Common Cause of Texas, and the 1990 Distinguished Alumnus Award from the University of Texas at Austin. She also was named the 1974 Woman of the Year by the Texas Women’s Political Caucus.
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