Thank You to Texans Past: Jane Yelvington McCallum

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Texas has a colorful history of women serving in elected positions. This fascinating past includes Jane Legette Yelvington McCallum, who was Secretary of State for Texas and a key figure in the political landscape of her time. Born in La Vernia on December 30, 1877, Jane married Arthur McCallum in 1896 and had one daughter and four sons. After raising the children, Jane was permitted to study at the University of Texas from 1912 to 1915 and again in 1923 and 1924 due to her marital status and her husband’s occupation as school superintendent. While there, she became the first married woman at the University of Texas to join a sorority.

Thank You to Texans Past: Jane Yelvington McCallum

Facebook/Charley Watt Jr.

Jane first entered politics by campaigning for prohibition and women’s suffrage. On October 22, 1915, the Austin Woman Suffrage Association elected her president, where she went on to serve as state manager of press and publicity for the state constitutional amendment on full suffrage, as well as serving as state chairman of the ratification committee for the nineteenth amendment. To further promote suffrage, Jane delivered public speeches and wrote a column which appeared in the Austin American (later the Austin Statesman) until the late 1940s. As World War I also raged during this time, she led efforts to raise nearly $700,000 for the war effort, almost $12.6M in 2018 worth.

Thank You to Texans Past: Jane Yelvington McCallum

Facebook/Today in Texas History

After suffrage was won, she concentrated on political reforms. Jane served as executive secretary of the Women’s Joint Legislative Council. This coalition consisted of six statewide women’s organizations that lobbied for education bills, prison reform, stronger prohibition controls, maternal and child health funds, and eradication of illiteracy and child labor. In 1926, she campaigned for Daniel J. Moody’s gubernatorial bid; he appointed her Secretary of State in January 1927, a position she went on to retain under Governor Ross Sterling from 1931 to 1933. Due to this retention, Jane was the only person in Texas to hold the position under two governors and for more than one term. In addition to her duties during this time, Jane also restored and displayed a copy of the Texas Declaration of Independence which she discovered in a Capitol vault, as well as publishing her collection of biographical sketches of early American leaders, titled Women Pioneers.

Jane served as a presidential elector in 1940 and as a state Democratic committeewoman for the Twentieth Senatorial District in 1942, then again for the Tenth United States Congressional District in 1944. Also in 1944, she was appointed to the first Austin city planning commission. She became the first female commissioner of a Travis County Grand Jury in 1954. After a period of infirmity, Jane Yelvington McCallum, the lifelong activist, prolific writer, and influencer, died on August 14, 1957. She is buried in Austin’s Oakwood Cemetery. This iconic woman, the great-grand-aunt of Honky Tonk Foodie, now has the La Vernia public library named after her!