By: Courtney Dabney
Imagine a time in Texas when women swapped bread for meat with peaceful Indians and shot cannons through cabin doorways to ward off the hostile ones.
Throughout centuries, resilient women of the Lone Star State built ranches, defended their homes and children, doctored cowhands and nurtured livestock through unforgiving winters and long droughts and drove them up the cattle trails.
“Texas would not be Texas without those remarkable women,” says Fort Worth teacher and author, Carmen Goldthwaite.
Goldthwaite tells the stories of three centuries of these women around the state—in its preceding roles as both Spanish and Mexican province before becoming the Republic of Texas—in her new book, Texas Ranch Women: Three Centuries of Mettle and Moxie.
The seventh-generation Texan’s love of Texas history began when Goldthwaite was a little girl growing up in Alice, Texas. She was helping her mother, Kathryn Fitch Goldthwaite, dig in flowerbeds and unearth Texas Revolutionary War relics.
“I wanted to write about the women whose stories weren’t known,” Goldthwaite says. “I knew that in my female family history, the story of an ancestor, Rachel Linn DeSpain, really got lost, though it was her money, her faith, and her commitment to women and education, and her land that formed the basis for founding Texas Christian University in Fort Worth. It was her story and the lack of acknowledgement of her contributions that really fired my interest in telling women’s stories.”
A statue of DeSpain’s grandsons who carried out her teachings resides near the library of what the small AddRan College in Thorp Spring became—Texas Christian University in Fort Worth.
“The school they founded with their father rose on DeSpain’s pillars of influence—a school grounded in faith, one where girls could be educated, too, and with proceeds from her land,” Goldthwaite says.
After much research, Goldthwaite knew she had to narrow the confines of the profiles for Texas Ranch Women. “I went for the women who really ran the ranches themselves, either by default of death of husband or father, or by their own initiative,” she says.
The writing of her book was a 15-year process.
“There are some teachers who teach writing, and there are some writers who teach. Carmen was the latter,” says Tommy Thomason, Director, Texas Center for Community Journalism and Professor, Schieffer School of Journalism.
Thomason was one of Goldthwaite’s Texas Christian University students.
“What I found was these were the undaunted women—whether it was the 17th or 20th century. My books are to tell the story of these women, because so much of our history has been male-oriented and the women’s stories either untold or under told. That’s what I went looking for.”
Texas Ranch Women: Three Centuries of Mettle and Moxie and Texas Dames: Sassy and Savvy Women Throughout Lone Star History are available wherever books are sold.
To learn more about the author, visit carmengoldthwaite.com. — Gail Bennison
By: Courtney Dabney