Growing up in an Italian-American family, I’ve always had a sense of pride in my heritage and admiration for the risk that my grandparents took in chasing the American Dream. My grandparents migrated from Sicily in the 1960s to escape economic and social oppression. Prior to meeting their husbands, my grandmothers, Nonna Sofia and Nonna Rosetta, journeyed to America independently in search of a better life. Their independence, courage, and perseverance allowed them to break free from the gender restrictions of Sicily while finding their own way in the Land of Opportunity. My grandmothers’ strength and drive are a source of inspiration as they have overcome barriers that were placed before women. My grandmothers are living proof of how successful feminists, like Minnie Fisher Cunningham, have been in paving the way for women to gain equality. Born on Fisher Farms, Texas in 1882, Cunningham worked tirelessly to fight for women’s rights. Born to a prominent planter who had a brief sitting in the Texas House of Representatives, Minnie Fisher Cunningham was introduced to the political stage at a young age. She received a solid education while being homeschooled by her mother and later graduated from the University of Texas at Galveston as “one of the first women to receive a degree in pharmacy in Texas. During her short bout as a pharmacist, Cunningham experienced an injustice that would turn her determination away from practicing medicine and towards fighting for social justice. Cunningham found out that although she received a prestigious medical degree from UT, “her untrained male colleagues made twice her salary” which pushed Cunningham into becoming a “‘suffragette,’” as she called herself. Minnie Fisher Cunningham’s upbringing and events in her early life led her to become a promoter of women’s rights who focused on ways to improve society in general even in the face of opposition.
Minnie Fisher Cunningham began her fight for women’s rights in her home state of Texas. Between 1910 and 1918, Minnie Fisher Cunningham served as either president of the Galveston Equal Suffrage Association or president of the Texas Woman Suffrage Association at various times. Through her persuasiveness and determination to gain women’s right to vote, Cunningham “began a campaign that culminated in legislative approval for woman suffrage in state primary elections in 1918.” This was an incredible feat considering the opposition that women faced in Texas. Not only did Texans feel that women’s suffrage would disturb the state’s political scene, but they also saw women’s suffrage as a threat to an orderly society. Along with her feminist partners, Cunningham travelled the state arguing that “as mothers, teachers, businesswomen, and workingwomen, they [women] would use the ballot in behalf of better schools, playgrounds, parks, public health, sanitation, working conditions, and an improved life in general.” This seems like an overly optimistic view, but ultimately, in their respective roles, women would use their vote to improve the lives of Texans.
Minnie Fisher Cunningham’s success in Texas increased her popularity and presence on the national political scene. Eleanor Roosevelt suggested that “Minnie Fish” (as President Franklin Delano Roosevelt referred to her as) should address Congress with regards to the Nineteenth Amendment, which would enfranchise women in national elections. Not only did Minnie Fish address Congress, but she also campaigned throughout the west to persuade states to ratify the Amendment. Notably, Texas was the ninth state to ratify the Nineteenth Amendment, demonstrating the impact Minnie Fish and the Texas Woman Suffrage Association had on Texas’ political agenda. In addition to her campaigns to state legislatures, Minnie Fish had a hand in organizing the National League of Women Voters (LWV) with the main goal of educating men and women voters while also pushing for legislation within the realms of “child welfare, education, the home and high prices, women in gainful occupations, public health and morals, and independent citizenship for married women.” The LWV was quite successful in the early years after its conception, especially with the passing legislation on the state and national levels. This early success may be due in part to Alice Paul’s and the National Women’s Party’s protests; however, the LWV’s early mission included a clause that recognized the need for existing organizations to band together in order to foster positive change.
With the LWV running smoothly, Minnie Fish turned her attention to politics within her home state. In 1928, “she became the first Texas woman to run for the United States Senate” and held “a platform that advocated prohibition, tariff reduction, tax reform, farm relief, flood control, cooperation with the League of Nations, and opposition to the Ku Klux Klan.” Although she only placed fifth out of six candidates, Minnie Fish proved that she could hold her own in politics. In 1944, Cunningham again tried to run for office—this time for the office of Texas Governor. This time she placed second out of nine candidates, but despite her loss, she continued her support for the Democratic Party within local and national politics. She also did what she could to support liberal causes and to promote civil rights. For instance, she advocated educational rights during the ruling of the Brown v. Board of Education case. One of her longest-lasting impressions is how she enabled other progressive individuals to voice their opinion when she helped to organize the Texas Observer “which has been the state's leading journalistic voice for social justice from progressive perspectives.” The mark of a true feminist leader is not only to create opportunities for yourself despite gender but also to enable others to be able to take charge of their own lives. This desire to help others led Minnie Fish to campaign for progressive Democrat John F. Kennedy during his campaign for United States President.
Throughout her lifetime, Minnie Fisher Cunningham broke down barriers that the conservative southern society placed before her. Once she helped women achieve the right to vote, she continued in her fight to gain other rights for women along with minorities. Minnie Fish gained recognition from top officials such as Franklin Delano Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy during her political and social fights. Of course, the feminist movement is by no means finished, and that is demonstrated by how Minnie Fish continued to advocate for equality up to her death in 1964. She promoted and supported others who she felt were capable of furthering the cause, and she even created an avenue for journalists to raise awareness of various social issues. Although her initial involvement in the feminist movement branched from an injustice that solely impacted herself as an underpaid pharmacist, Minnie Fisher Cunningham devoted her life to help improve society and all its members regardless of gender, race, and class.
Justin DiBella is currently a Business Administration major at the University of North Georgia, and plans on picking up a minor in psychology. Whether through study abroad programs or vacationing, he plans on traveling the world, with Italy as the first destination on his itinerary. In the meantime, he spends his free time playing soccer and volleyball, frequenting car shows, spending time with family and friends, and learning about anything and everything. One of his favorite quotes is from his childhood role model, Derek Jeter, who said, “The last thing you want to do is finish playing or doing anything and wish you would have worked harder.”
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 Taylor, A. Elizabeth. “Woman Suffrage.” The Handbook of Texas Online. Texas State Historical Association, 31 Aug 2010. Web. 15 Feb 2016.
 Mount, Steve. "Ratification of Constitutional Amendments."USConstitution.net. U.S. Constitution Online, 11 Nov 2010. Web. 15 Feb 2016.
 Maxwell, Kay J. "The League of Women Voters Through the Decades!" Media Library. League of Women Voters, Apr 2007. Web. 15 Feb 2016.
 Duggar, Ronnie. "Texas Observer." The Handbook of Texas Online. Texas State Historical Association, 15 June 2010. Web. 14 Feb 2016.