WATERS PLANTATION

Great News! WATERS PLANTATION, the long-awaited sequel to THE DOCTOR’S WIFE and to STEIN HOUSE  is available. It follows many of the characters from both books who move from the Indianola seaport to Washington County, Texas, and continue their story during the political turmoil that builds after Reconstruction.

WATERS PLANTATION, my tenth book, is historical fiction. It will be available on November 6, but you may preorder on Amazon.

Here is an overview:

It is 1875 in Texas, and Albert Waters takes pride in his image––prosperous merchant and plantation owner who freed his wife’s slaves before the Civil War and gave them land after her death. Then his son Toby, ready to depart for Harvard Medical College, demands answers. Was his mother a slave?

How does a man account for the truth that on a drunken night, when all he could think about was Amelia his long-ago lover, he gave into the touch of a slave girl?

Al and the Waters plantation co-operative of former slaves create a community that prospers as they educate their children and work their land. They organize against political forces regaining control through rape, lynchings, and the rise of the KKK.

Al believes he has been given a new life when Amelia arrives with dreams of moving her family from the hurricane dangers of the Texas coast. In the rapidly changing world swirling around him, Al will have to confront the image he has held of himself if he wants to keep Toby and Amelia, the two people he loves most.

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Housewife Governor

Society in 1924 expected women to stay at home, run the household, raise the children, and follow the lead of their husbands. In that

Gov. Miriam "Ma" Ferguson

Gov. Miriam “Ma” Ferguson

atmosphere Miriam A. Ferguson became the first female governor of Texas. She ran her campaign while maintaining that she was just a little homemaker, and that when she was elected, her husband would be running the show. She used a two-pronged approach that appealed to newly franchised women and to men who continued to expect wives to remain in the background. She told women’s groups that she was running for governor to do what any wife and mother would do to restore her family’s good name. “Enemies” she said had conspired against her husband, James Edward Ferguson, the first governor in Texas to be impeached, convicted, and removed from office. Before male audiences she played the retiring wife, deferring to her husband who winked and nodded at the farmers and small business people who were reveling in the idea of turning the tables on the politicians that had declared Jim Ferguson ineligible to ever serve as governor. When a man asked Jim what he thought of women’s suffrage, Miriam kept a straight face when her husband delighted the male audience by saying, “If those women want to suffer, I say let them suffer!”

Miriam played down her background as the daughter of a wealthy Bell County family; a well-educated woman who had attended Baylor Female College before she married Jim Ferguson. A cultured and reserved woman, she felt the campaign slogan: “Me for Ma and I Ain’t Got a Durned Thing Against Pa,” didn’t suit her dignity, but she did not complain because it fit the role she was playing. Calling her “Ma” got started after a reporter for the Houston Press wrote campaign stories in which he referred to Miriam as M.A. Ferguson. Before long, “M.A.” became “Ma.” The campaign song, “Put on Your Old Gray Bonnet,” was another part of the image that Miriam endured because she and her husband understood how to make her more appealing to an electorate who believed women belonged in the kitchen. She told voters that, if elected, she would follow the advice of her husband and Texas would get “two governors for the price of one.”

Gov. James "Pa" Ferguson

Gov. James “Pa” Ferguson

She often delighted audiences by announcing that Jim would make the speech, and then she sat down. Those who knew her, especially her two daughters, claimed that she was anything but retiring. They said she was the strong one in the family, enforcing the rules, and Jim was the quite, pushover. The couple met after Miriam’s father died and her mother employed a young lawyer, James Edward Ferguson, to settle the estate. Jim Ferguson, the son of a Methodist preacher, was from the other side of the tracks, and he felt fortunate after a long pursuit to have finally won the reluctant Miriam.

When James Ferguson ran for governor as an anti-prohibitionist Democrat in 1914, Miriam remained silent despite her strong disapproval of drinking (No alcohol was ever served in the governor’s mansion, and she did not allow swearing or card playing.) During his second term, when he was impeached and convicted of ten charges, including misapplication of public funds and receiving $156,000 from an unnamed source, she continued to keep her silence.

Although Miriam was a teetotaler, she followed her husband’s policies and supported the “wets” in the fight against prohibition. She campaigned against the Ku Klux Klan that was gaining influence across the South. After her election she got an anti-mask bill passed, which was aimed at the KKK, only to have it thrown out as unconstitutional. Despite trouncing her Republican rival, or perhaps because of it, the rumors of wrongdoing plagued her two-year term as governor. The Fergusons were obsessed with the plight of prisoners, even going as a family to visit jails. Miriam Ferguson pardoned an average of 100 convicts a month (over 4,000 during her two non-consecutive terms), claiming many of them had only violated prohibition laws. Her fiscal conservatism led many to believe that her liberal acts of freeing prisoners were meant to relieve the cost of housing them in the penitentiary. Critics claimed that prisoners paid Jim Ferguson for their pardons and paroles and that Miriam should be impeached. No proof was ever presented. The accusations that she and “Pa” were accepting bribes from prisoners and that the Fergusons received lucrative kickbacks in exchange for state highway contracts allowed Attorney General Daniel Moody to beat Miriam Ferguson in the election of 1926.

When the Texas Supreme Court refused to allow Jim Ferguson to run for governor in 1930, Miriam Ferguson stepped forward, only to be defeated.  Again in 1932, after voters had experienced the full impact of the Great Depression, Miriam Ferguson won her second term by blaming then Governor Ross Sterling for the state’s woes. She promised to lower taxes and cut state expenditures, condemning Sterling for waste, graft, and political favoritism—many of the vices for which she was blamed in her first term.

The second time around, Governor Miriam Ferguson tried unsuccessfully to get a state sales tax and corporate income tax. She continued her liberal policy of pardons and paroles and did not suffer the attacks of her first term. She made one last run for governor in 1940, polling more than 100,000 votes, only to lose to W. Lee “Pappy” O’Daniel.

Miriam Ferguson listed the accomplishments of her administration as taxing gasoline for highway improvements and taxing tobacco for school financing. She signed a law establishing the University of Houston as a four-year institution and was most proud of a more strenuous bootlegging law. In her bias against alcohol, she had even demanded that Amon C. Carter, nationally known civic booster and founder/publisher of the Fort Worth Star Telegram, resign as chair of the Board of Directors of Texas Tech because he was seen drinking liquor (“drunk as a biled owl”) at the Texas-Texas A&M football game. He did not resign.

After all the years of being accused of getting rich at the public trough, financial troubles in 1935 caused the Fergusons to lose their Bell County ranch.

Governor James Ferguson suffered a stroke and died in 1944. Governor Miriam Ferguson, who remains a controversial member of the brand of populism known as “Fergusonism,” died of heart failure on June 25, 1961.

Minnie Fisher Cunningham Paved the Way for Today

Minnie Fisher Cunningham

Minnie Fisher Cunningham

After Minnie Fisher graduated at the age of nineteen with a degree in pharmacy from the University of Texas Medical School in Galveston, she discovered on her first job that she did not earn half the wages of the less-educated male employees.  She claimed the memory of that experience in 1901 led to her life’s work of championing the status of women.

Minnie Fisher married lawyer and insurance executive Beverly Jean (Bill) Cunningham in 1902, moved to Galveston and began volunteering in local, state, and national women’s suffrage organizations.  She honed her speaking skills by touring the country urging the passage of equal rights for women and universal suffrage.  Cunningham moved to Austin in 1917 and opened the state suffrage headquarters near the capitol.  A vote in January 1919 by the Texas state legislature granting full suffrage to women failed when the referendum went before the voters.  Then, the United States House of Representatives on May 21, and the United States Senate on June 4, passed a joint resolution on the Nineteenth Amendment.  Immediately Cunningham began campaigning to secure ratification by the Texas state legislature.  On June 28, 1919 Texas became the first southern state to ratify the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution granting women the right to vote.

Cunningham joined a national tour of ratification supporters saying later that she “pursued governors all over the west” urging their states to ratify the amendment.  Finally, on August 26, 1920, Tennessee became the thirty-sixth state out of the existing forty-eight to bring the total to the required three-fourths of the states necessary to amend the constitutional.

Cunningham helped organize the League of Women Voters (LWV) in 1920 and served as its executive secretary. Twenty years later Eleanor Roosevelt recalled that when she heard Minnie Cunningham speak at the LWV’s second annual convention, the speech made her feel “that you had no right to be a slacker as a citizen, you had no right not to take an active part in what was happening to your country as a whole.”

Cunningham worked for an act in 1921 designed to lower infant mortality rate and for an act in 1922 that allowed women to have citizenship based solely on their own status and not the status of their husbands.  In 1924 Cunningham experienced another eye-opener, this time regarding the need for women to get more involved in partisan politics.  Eleanor Roosevelt invited Cunningham to join the Democratic Women’s Advisory Committee to the Democratic National Committee (DNC) where Cunningham found that despite the DNC authorizing the women’s group, it refused to meet with them.  Cunningham managed to gain access to the platform committee only because of her membership in the LWVs.

In 1928 Minnie Fisher Cunningham became the first woman in Texas to run for the United States Senate.  In an effort to raise the status of women among the electorate, she ignored her colleague’s advice to assume a combative style that had colored past elections, and ran on a platform of issues advocating prohibition, tax reform, farm relief, cooperation with the League of Nations, and opposition to the Ku Klux Klan.  She lost in the state’s primary.

Working in College Station as an editor for the Texas A&M Extension Service, Cunningham became interested in the link between poverty and poor nutrition and advocated alongside the Texas Federation of Women’s Clubs to enrich flour with basic vitamin and mineral content.   In 1938 she organized the Women’s Committee for Economic Policy (WCEP), which worked for a fully funded teacher retirement system.  While working in Washington for the Agricultural Adjustment Administration, President Roosevelt began calling her “Minnie Fish,” a title she carried for the rest of her life.

Returning to Texas in 1944, Cunningham ran for governor in an out-spoken campaign against Coke Stevenson. To raise money for her filing fee, she sold lumber from the trees on her old family farm in New Waverly and Liz Carpenter served as her press secretary.  Cunningham lost the primary, coming in second in a field of nine.

When the University of Texas Board of Regents began in the 1940s firing professors as suspected Communists and then dismissed the university president for refusing to go along with the charges by claiming he had not disclosed a “nest of homosexuals” among the faculty, Cunningham created the Women’s Committee for Education Freedom to stand up to the regents.  She helped organize groups to support the New Deal policies and worked tirelessly for Democratic candidates such as Harry Truman, Adlai Stevenson, and Ralph Yarborough.

Cunningham received a guest invitation to the inauguration of President John F. Kennedy in appreciation for her work in helping him carry her predominately Republican Walker County.  She financed the campaign in her county through the sale of used clothing.

Despite declining health Cunningham continued working for policies that benefited women and improved the lives of all the citizens of Texas.  She died of congestive heart failure on December 9, 1964.