16 Badass San Antonio Women 

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by Albert Salazar
OF 16
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Adina Emilia De Zavala

She's known as the "Angel of the Alamo," a teacher, historian and avid preservationist of Texas history, who once barricaded herself in the Alamo Long Barrack Fortress for three days in 1908 to protest its destruction. As an early member of the Daughters of the Republic of Texas (DRT), she, along with Clara Driscoll, lead efforts to purchase the privately held Alamo mission convent and transfer ownership to the state government. The state then gave custody of the Alamo to the DRT. De Zavala also led efforts to restore the Spanish Governor's Palace and organized the placement of 38 historical markers around Texas. [Source]

Clara Driscoll

Driscoll, an avid preservationist and philanthropist, joined forces with Adina Emilia De Zavala and provided most of the funds used by the Daughters of the Republic of Texas to purchase and preserve the Alamo, portions of which private owners were planning to turn into a hotel. [Source]

Emma Tenayuca

Tenayuca is a labor activist, union organizer and educator who was instrumental in organizing the 1938 Pecan Shellers Strike, one of the largest labor conflicts in Texas history. Twelve thousand pecan shellers, mostly Latina women, walked off their jobs at the Southern Pecan Shelling Company to protest reduced wages. The city government strongly opposed the labor action and arrested hundreds of workers. The response brought national and international attention. The prolonged strike ended after the two sides met in arbitration and agreed to increase wages. [Source]

Josefina Niggli

Niggli, a novelist, poet and playwright, was the first Mexican American to write in English on the Mexican experience. Her progressive views race, gender and ethnicity made her a Chicana feminist long before there was Chicana feminism and inspired several prominent figures of the movement, including Sandra Cisneros. She attended Incarnate Word College, worked as a writer and producer at the KTSA radio station and studied playwriting at San Antonio Little Theater. Her novel Mexican Village was adapted into the Hollywood film Sombrero, starring Ricardo Montalban. [Source]

Fannie Porter

Fannie Porter was a madam who ran a thriving brothel in a home formally located on the corner of Cesar Chavez and South San Saba. Her "boarding house," as it was called, was popular with both outlaws and lawmen alike and was a frequent hideout for the The Wild Bunch, led by the infamous Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Much of what is told about her is legend, but she is the quintessential madam of the Old West. [Source]

Myra Davis Hemmings

Hemmings is a founding member and first president of Delta Sigma Theta, a black sorority founded at Howard University the emphasizes public service. Today, Delta Sigma Theta is the largest African-American Greek-lettered organization, with over 1,000 chapters and 300,000 registered members. In San Antonio, she was a prominent educator, actor and stage director. Together with her husband, Broadway actor John W. Hemmings, she established Phyllis Wheatley Dramatic Guild Players, and she directed plays at the Carver Community Culture Center for decades. [Source]

Marion Koogler McNay

She willed her home, fortune and collection of modern art to establish the museum that bears her name. McNay was a prominent philanthropist, art collector and educator. She served as director for the San Antonio Art Institute, a school housed in a renovated aviary on her Sunset Hills estate that she jointly established with the former San Antonio Art League. The institute influenced a tradition of fine arts education in San Antonio that thrives today in organizations such as the Southwest School of Art, the Linda Pace Foundation and Artpace. [Source]

Mary Eleanor Brackenridge

Brackenridge, the sister of George W. Brackenridge of Brackenridge Park fame, was a women's rights activist and community leader who participated in a number of women's societies in San Antonio and around Texas. She's a co-founder of the Women's Club of San Antonio and prominent leader of the Women's Suffrage Movement in Texas, who, after championing for the passage of the 19th Amendment, became the first woman in Bexar County to register to vote. [Source]

Josephine Lucchese

She's the daughter of renowned San Antonio bootmaker Sam Luchese, but she gained fame in her own right as a world-class opera singer who toured the United States and Europe in the 1920's and 30's. Europeans called her the "American Nightengale." [Source]

Lydia Mendoza

Mendoza is an influential guitarist and singer, known to Tejano, conjunto and traditional Mexican music fans as “La Alondra de la Frontera” (“The Lark of the Border”). The Houston native first recorded her music with Okeh Records in San Antonio in the 1930's and continued to actively record and tour until the late 1988 when she suffered a stroke. Mendoza is the first Texan to win a Arts Heritage Fellowship from the National Endowment of the Arts, among she was awarded a National Medal of Arts by President Bill Clinton in 1999. [Source]

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Katherine Stinson

Katherine Stinson, along with her sister Marjorie, are prominent female aviators. Stinson was the fourth female the United States to obtain a pilots license, the first female to fly a loop formation and the first person ever to fly a plane at night. She toured the country as "The Flying Schoolgirl," and both she and Marjorie taught flight instruction at the Stinson School of Flying on the airfield that still brears her family's name. [Source]

Ruth McLean Bowers

Bowers was a philanthropist and woman's rights activist who many credit for helping plaintiffs win Roe v. Wade, the monumental Supreme Court decision that granted women abortion rights. Bowers underwrote all the expenses for Sarah Weddington, the lawyer who argued the case before the Supreme Court. She was an early board member for Planned Parenthood and was responsible for the opening of Bexar County's first abortion clinic. Bowers' community philanthropy extended beyond women's rights. She was a frequent contributor to scientific and educational causes and a major benefactor of Trinity University. [Source]

Lila Cockrell

She's the first female mayor of San Antonio, serving four two-year terms and one term as Mayor Pro Tem. During WWII, she served in the WAVES for the U.S. Navy, the first all-female division of the American Armed services. During the 50's she was served as the president of the San Antonio chapters of the League of Women Voters. Between 1998 and 2013, Cockrell was the president of the San Antonio Parks Foundation. [Source]

Hattie Elam Briscoe

Briscoe is the first black woman to graduate from the St. Mary's University School of Law and the first black woman to practice law in Bexar County. After she graduated, no firm would hire her, so she started her own practice. Before her career as a lawyer, she practiced and taught cosmetology. She was fired her position as a cosmetology teacher of Wheatley High School for "sassing" white people, and after no court would hear her case, she decided to pursue her law education. [Source]

Emily Edwards

Edwards is an artist, art historian and educator and co-founder of the San Antonio Conservation Society. She performed a puppet show titled The Goose that Lays the Golden Eggs for the City Council to prevent a portion of the San Antonio River from being paved. She is also a life-long friend of Mexican muralist Diego Rivera. [Source]

Andrea Villarreal

Villarreal is a Mexican revolutionary, feminist and journalist known as the "Mexican Joan of Arc." After fleeing Mexico for her radical views, she and her sister Teresa published two newspapers in San Antonio, La Mujer Moderna and El Obrero, which spoke of feminist and revolutionary issues. [Source]

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Adina Emilia De Zavala

She's known as the "Angel of the Alamo," a teacher, historian and avid preservationist of Texas history, who once barricaded herself in the Alamo Long Barrack Fortress for three days in 1908 to protest its destruction. As an early member of the Daughters of the Republic of Texas (DRT), she, along with Clara Driscoll, lead efforts to purchase the privately held Alamo mission convent and transfer ownership to the state government. The state then gave custody of the Alamo to the DRT. De Zavala also led efforts to restore the Spanish Governor's Palace and organized the placement of 38 historical markers around Texas. [Source]