Frances “Sissy” Farenthold served in the Texas House of Representatives from 1969 to 1973, co-sponsoring the Texas Equal Rights Amendment with then State Senator Barbara Jordan. (Farenthold and Jordan were the only women in the Texas Legislature at the time.) In 1971, Farenthold took part in the foundation of the National Women’s Political Caucus. The caucus elected Farenthold chair during its first convention in Houston in February 1973.
As a prominent women’s rights advocate, Farenthold not only attended the National Women’s Conference as a delegate-at-large but also participated in several pre-conference events. She delivered the keynote address at the Vermont state meeting, advising, “If you don’t like the laws, change the lawmakers.” Farenthold then presided over the candlelight ceremony that began the torch relay from Seneca Falls, New York, to the Sam Houston Coliseum.
A year before the conference, Farenthold became the first woman president of Wells College. She left in 1980, returning to Texas to open a private law practice and teach at the University of Houston. Farenthold and her cousin, Genevieve Vaughn, then began a collaboration focused on international women’s peace and development. Among other achievements, the pair were founding members of Women for a Meaningful Summit in 1986.
Frances “Sissy” Farenthold first ran for Texas governor in 1972, shocking political observers by forcing the eventual winner, Dolph Briscoe, into a runoff election. Two years later, the duo competed for the nomination again. This unedited news footage from Houston’s KHOU-TV captures Farenthold on the campaign trail during the 1974 gubernatorial race. By the time of the election, the former state legislator had risen to national prominence. She had been nominated for the vice presidency at the 1972 Democratic National Convention (Farenthold came in second to the presidential nominee’s choice) and was serving as chairwoman of the National Women’s Political Caucus. Briscoe won the nomination and the general election.