Edith Wilmans (1882-1966)
Edith Eunice Therrel Wwas born in 1882 in Lake Providence, Louisiana, but moved with her parents, Benjamin and Mary Elizabeth Therrel, to Dallas at age three. She attended public schools and married Jacob Hall Wilmans in 1900. They had three daughters, and while rearing them, she became politically active.
A leader in the Dallas Equal Suffrage Association, the Dallas Housewives League, and the Democratic Women of Dallas County, she rose to be president of the Democratic Women's Association of Texas. The issues of those organizations motivated Wilmans to study law, and she was admitted to the bar in 1918.
Just four years later, she became the only winner among eight female candidates for the Texas legislature – something that was even more impressive because Wilmans defeated a longtime incumbent. She focused on child-support law and on improvements in the Dallas County Court of Domestic Relations – but this would turn out to be her sole term in office, as she lost to the man she had defeated in 1922.
Despite the 1923 death of her husband, she audaciously ran for governor, trying to defeat Miriam "Ma" Ferguson, who was widely seen as a surrogate for her populist (and corrupt) husband. Wilmans was more liberal than Texans would support, however, and Ma Ferguson was elected governor in 1924 and again in 1932.
Wilman's future races were similarly unsuccessful. She left Dallas in 1929 after a second marriage. When she returned in 1935, she failed in an attempt to win her old legislative seat, but more than a decade later, still had not given up: she lost races for Congress in 1948 and 1951.
Edith Therrell Wilmans practiced law for forty years, retiring in 1958. She passed away in Dallas on March 21, 1966.
Image credit: Dallas Times Herald, Feb. 1, 1925.