Jane McCallum

"If we don't stand for something, we will fall for anything."
--Jane McCallum, July 1, 1945
Photographic Portrait of Jane McCallum,  City of Austin, Austin History Center
Jane McCallum's presence in Austin led women to achieve one of the greatest rights afforded to any human being: the right to vote. Her dedication to the movement, which she documented in her diary, was extrodinary and left an enormous impact on Texas women.
 
Jane Legette Yelvington was born on December 30, 1877 in La Vernia, Texas.  She married Arthur Newell McCallum in 1896 and eventually made Austin their home where they raised their five children.
 
With incredible support from both her husband and mother, Jane entered the political scene to campaign for woman's suffrage. Her hard work included public speeches and a weekly column in the Austin American Statesman: Woman and Her Ways.  In 1915, just one year after she joined the organization, Jane was elected President of the Austin Woman's Suffrage Association.  Under her leadership, the associations membership grewIn addition to the local scene, Jane worked on the state level, alongside Minnie Fisher Cunningham, to overcome women's suffrage.  
 
A documented moment in Jane's life, which sums up her dedication to the movement, involved an irrate male senator she confronted:
 
Senator: Young woman, what are you doing meddling with men's affairs? You ought to be getting married.
McCallum:  I am already married.
Senator: You should be having children.
McCallum: What is the limit? I already have five.
Senator: You ought to be home taking care of them.
McCallum: They are all in school, besides they have a lovely grandmother at home, and if anything should happen to them, I would be notiifed immediately.
 
By January 1918, the efforts of the Texas Equal Suffrage Association began to reach Washington. Jane noted in her diary, dated January 9, 1918, that President Woodrow Wilson had spoken in favor of the suffrage amendment they had succesfully passed.  A giddy Jane wrote, "Feel like I could walk to Washington just to give him a pat.  Can it really be true?"  On March 26, 1918 a primary suffrage bill was signed into law and became effective in July.  With a short amount of time to register women and prepare them to vote in the July 26 primary, the women of the Texas Equal Suffrage Association got to work.  By the time election day came around 306,00 Texas women were registered; and in Travis County, 5,856 women were registered to vote, a number that is said to be almost equal to the amount of men who registered.
 
The 19th Ammendment was passed the following year on June 4, 1919 in which women across the nation won the right to vote.  The women continued and between 1923-1925, the Women's Joint Legisltative Council, which Jane served as executive secretary for, sought to bring changes to public schools, Texas prison conditions, and maternal health funds.
 
Spearheaded by Jane, the women campaigned for Dan Moody's gubernatorial bid in 1926 against Miriam Ferguson.  When they succeeded, Moody appointed Jane as Secretary of State, a position she held until 1933 under two governors, a feat which had never been done.  When the Ferguson's recaptured the Governor's seat, Jane was out of the political scene, but she continued her work in civic affairs.  Jane went on to serve on the first Austin City Planning Commission, she led the Women's Committee on Educational Freedom and she also became the first woman to be appointed to a grand jury.
 
Jane was also responsible for discovering an original copy of the Texas Constitution in the State Capitol vault.  She had often stated that she felt her role in restoring the document was one of her greatest accomplishments.
 
Jane McCallum passed away on August 14, 1957.  Through her perseverence, women of Austin were given a voice and able to bring about improvements to their lives and the lives of others.