Women's History

It may be said that all history is women’s history, and the history of Waco is no exception. Indigenous women populated this area along the Brazos before European settlers arrived. At its founding, women like Mrs. Sophia St. John contributed land that would become part of Waco. Additionally, Rebecca de Cordova, wife of early settler Jacob de Cordova, suggested the name Lamartine for the village. Since then, women with connections to Waco have served as politicians, educators, and philanthropists. They have shaped and been shaped by their time as residents of the city. Their stories reflect the diversity of experiences found in Waco’s long history.

Some of these women, institutions, and places are well known; others are less familiar. This tour invites you to explore them all, learning more about the history of Waco through examining the history of women.

Helen Marie Taylor Museum of Waco History

Helen Marie Taylor is a native Wacoan who has dedicated her life to preserving history through her efforts in museums, organizations, and foundations. She worked on a council for the National Endowment for the Humanities, and served as president for…

Vivienne Lucille Malone-Mayes

Waco native Vivienne Lucille Malone-Mayes possessed a sharp mind with a resilient spirit to match. In an age where few women, let alone women of color, went on to become prominent figures in higher education, Malone-Mayes made her mark as an…

Mary Holliday

Decades before American Idol made stars out of wannabes, Waco had its own hit-maker, Mary Holliday.Holliday (1901-1969), believed to be the first female radio announcer in Texas, broadcast a thirty-minute youth talent show each Saturday for more than…

Mary Maxwell Armstrong

Mary Maxwell Armstrong’s intelligence, insight, and perseverance made her an influential figure in twentieth-century Waco. Her determination combined with her love for great literature aided in the establishment of a world-renowned library on Baylor…

Gladys Allen

Efforts of civic leaders in the late nineteenth century to provide greater educational opportunities established Waco as the “Athens of Texas.” This reputation was later preserved in the early to mid-twentieth century through the dedication of…

The Reservation

Though not uncommon to late nineteenth-and early twentieth-century cities, red-light districts were regarded as areas of ill repute where madams and prostitutes worked outside the law. Yet in 1889, Waco—a city lauded for its multitude of educational…

The Junior League of Waco

According to founding Junior League member Margaret Barclay Megarity, mid-twentieth-century service opportunities for young women in Waco were limited to society luncheons and church-sponsored activities primarily run by older women. Frustrated and…

Pauline Pipkin Garrett

Pauline Pipkin Garrett studied music at Baylor in the 1920s, but then the family business came a-calling. Under her leadership, W. P. Pipkin Drugs became one of the Southwest’s largest independently owned drugstore chains. After graduating from…

Waco Female College

Waco Female College served as an influential institution of higher learning for women in the nineteenth century. The consolidation of two other female educational institutions, Waco Female Seminary and Waco Female Academy, led to the formation of…

Rebecca Sparks Co-operative Home

Rebecca Pines Shelton Sparks, often referred to as Mother Sparks, was a laywoman from Missouri who moved to Texas with her family before the Civil War. Sparks married a Confederate veteran of the Texas Calvary and a Texas Ranger, Thaddeus Pinckney…

Jeffie Conner

Jeffie Obrea Allen Conner was born in 1895 on her family’s farm in Harrison Switch, Texas. She was the oldest of three children born to Meddie Lilian and Jeff D. Allen. Harrison Switch, later known as Harrison, was a small African American community…

Eddie Bernice Johnson

Eddie Bernice Johnson is a champion of minority and women’s rights representing Texas in the United States House of Representatives. Not only that, she fights to support the sciences and women in STEM (science, technology, engineering, medicine)…

Ann Richards

On a hot Atlanta evening in July 1988, Ann Richards emerged from deep in the heart of Texas to address the Democratic National Convention as the keynote speaker. The Texas treasurer’s rousing and pointed speech—sprinkled with her characteristic…