Minnie Fish LbNA # 55661
|Placed Date||Sep 13 2010|
|Location||New Waverly, TX|
!This box is missing - I'll replace it when I can!
Long before harried modern women began carrying Day-Timers in their purses, Minnie Fisher Cunningham juggled the responsibilities of career, family, and community. At one time or another, she kept house, belonged to musical clubs, gardened, boated, fished, hunted (she once killed a six-foot alligator with a rifle), campaigned for her husband, ran for governor and U.S. senator herself, nursed a sick sister, worked for President Franklin Roosevelt, helped the League of Women Voters and the Texas Observer get started, and in her sixties, cut lumber to build a house on her farm. And that doesn’t even count what she is best known for—leading the fight for women’s suffrage in Texas. Just the third woman to graduate from the University of Texas pharmacy school, Minnie Fish, as she was known to her friends, first encountered politics in 1904, when she helped her husband, B.J., get elected county attorney in Walker County. But it was getting paid half as much as male employees at a Huntsville drugstore that inspired her to join—and eventually lead—the suffrage movement, which resulted in the Texas Legislature’s ratifying the Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in 1919. Under Cunningham’s tutelage, Texas suffragettes divided the state by senatorial districts and organized grassroots groups that bombarded lawmakers with a steady stream of pro-suffrage letters, sent delegations to lobby each senator, and mailed press releases to newspapers back home. On the night of the ratification vote, Minnie Fish, a nickname given to her by FDR, and a colleague even staked out the trains departing Austin—opponents were trying to break a quorum by sneaking senators out of town—and escorted two recalcitrants back to the Capitol. After the success in Texas, she traveled to other states, with $1,500 pinned to her petticoat, to seek ratification. In 1920 she was one of the first women delegates to the Democratic National Convention. Subsequently she moved to Washington, D.C., to help the suffrage effort evolve into the League of Women Voters. Like many overachievers, Mrs. Cunningham poured herself into her work to avoid unhappiness at home. Her marriage to B.J., which never produced children, disintegrated as he struggled with alcoholism. Though they were separated for many years, Minnie Fish always spoke well of him: “He was the best-hearted man; he was always helping people. He encouraged me in all my naughtinesses and financed me in much of it.” She was at her husband’s bedside when he died in 1927 from the effects of a life of excessive drink. She spent the rest of her life fighting the good fight against long odds that never seemed to discourage her. If she took a strong dislike to a politician, she ran against him—taking on a U.S. senator who was openly supported by the Ku Klux Klan in 1928 and Governor Coke Stevenson, whom she accused of supporting a movement to deny President Roosevelt a fourth term, in 1944. Notwithstanding these quixotic battles, Minnie Fish remained a keen optimist who loved a good laugh with friends and delighted in skewering her opponents in political addresses. Her style—a tart tongue and country wisdom—would be employed with great success many years later by Ann Richards. No matter how many disappointments Cunningham suffered, she never shied away from the next fight. In 1956, at the age of 75, she battled Governor Allan Shivers and Senator Lyndon B. Johnson for chairmanship of the delegation to the Democratic National Convention. When a reporter asked her if she really thought she could win, Minnie Fish was ready with her answer: “What do you call winning?” She didn’t often win, but she never really lost.
New Waverly is about 60 miles north of Houston. Take I-45 to Exit 102 (FM 1375) and go east a short distance to US 75. Turn left for a couple of blocks to the traffic light at SH 150, turn right and go 2.1 miles to Hardy Cemetery on your right, just past “Christ of East Texas” (you’ll know it when you see it).
To the box:
Park in front of the gate, which is apparently never locked. Enter the cemetery and look to the right for the double hearts. Behind them, you’ll find the marker for Minnie Fish. Beyond it is a barbed wire fence, grown over with vegetation. Facing the marker, turn left 90 degrees and take 32 steps. Turn right and walk 10 steps to two medium sized trees about a foot apart, on the fence line. Between those two trees, under leaves and stuff, is the box. There is also a strand of the barbed wire which is holding the box down, so be careful of it.