Margie Neal Historical Marker
Margie Neal began her career as a teacher in 1893. In 1904 she became editor and owner of the East Texas Register newspaper and was also a leader of the women’s suffrage movement in Texas. She was the first woman appointed to the State Normal School Board of Regents in 1921. Five years later she made history as the first woman elected to the Texas State Senate. She served in several federal positions in Washington, D.C. before returning to Texas in 1945. There she was active in civic affairs until her death in 1971. A historical marker was placed in her honor in Carthage, Texas in 1988.
Backstory and Context
Margie Elizabeth Neal was born on April 20, 1875, near Clayton, Texas and was the second of four children born to William Lafayette and Martha Neal. She attended Sam Houston State Teachers College but never graduated. She spent a short time teaching in Panola County and in Fort Worth before returning to Carthage in 1903. Her return to Carthage was less about disappointment in her teaching career and more about the failing health of her mother.1
Before she returned to Carthage, her father had purchased the Texas Mule, a weekly newspaper. She became the editor and publisher of the newspaper and almost immediately changed its name to the East Texas Register. She continued publishing the paper until she sold it in 1911. She was one of the first women in Texas to publish a newspaper and used it as a platform to support women’s suffrage and the Democratic Party.2
Neal was active in civic affairs early on in her career. In 1921 she became the first woman on the Board of Regents for State Teachers Colleges and remained in this position until 1927. She was her district’s chairman in the fight for women’s suffrage and was the first woman to register to vote in Panola County. She was the first woman on the State Democratic Executive Committee and was a delegate to the 1920 Democratic National Convention held in San Francisco, California.3
Neal was elected from Panola County as a Texas State Senator in 1926 and went on to serve four consecutive terms. Her passion for education and the legislature’s inability to raise academic standards were what led her to run for the seat. She introduced a bill that established the State Board of Education and sponsored a bill that introduced physical education classes into the public school system. She also actively supported a bill that made the study of state and national constitutions a mandatory part of the curriculum, but this bill never passed. She was an essential part of legislation that appropriated the largest amount of funding (at that time) for rural education in Texas, and helped support legislation for the rehabilitation of the handicapped.4
In 1935 she continued her career in public affairs, traveling to Washington D.C. to work with the National Recovery Administration and the Social Security Administration. She was eventually able to transfer back to her home state, working in Dallas and San Antonio for the Manpower Commission as a community facilities analyst. She resigned from this position and returned to her hometown of Carthage, where she continued to participate in local affairs for many years.5
On June 15, 1952, a celebration was held in her honor in Carthage. Among the speakers at the event were Lyndon Baines Johnson (future President of the United States) and Texas Governor Allan Shivers. Neal died in Carthage in 1971 and is buried at the Oddfellows Cemetery there. A historical marker was placed on the town square in 1988 honoring her life and works.6
2Beeman, Cynthia J. Margie Elizabeth Neal. Women in Texas History. Accessed December 02, 2016. http://www.womenintexashistory.org/audio/neal/
3Neal, Margie Elizabeth. Texas State Historical Association. June 15, 2010. Accessed December 02, 2016. https://tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fne02.
4Neal, Margie Elizabeth. Texas State Historical Association. June 15, 2010. Accessed December 02, 2016. https://tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fne02.
5Harris, Walter. "Margie E. Neal: First Woman Senator in Texas." East Texas Historical Journal. Published Spring 1973.
6Neal, Margie Elizabeth. Texas State Historical Association. June 15, 2010. Accessed December 02, 2016. https://tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fne02.