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Frances Farenthold

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Frances Farenthold

Frances Farenthold
Member of the Texas House of Representatives
from the Nueces and Kleberg district
In office
Personal details
Born Frances Tarlton "Sissy" Farenthold
(1926-10-02) October 2, 1926
Corpus Christi, Texas, U.S.
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) George Farenthold (born 1915, married 1950, divorced 1985, died 2000)
Children Dudley (born 1951)
George Jr. (born 1952)
Emilie (born 1954)
Vincent Bluntzer Tarlton (twin, born 1956) (died 1960) hemophilia
James "Jimmy" Robert Dougherty (twin, born 1956) (missing since 1989)[1]
Alma mater Vassar College
University of Texas Law School
Occupation Educator, Lawyer, Politician, College Administrator, Activist

Frances Tarlton "Sissy" Farenthold (born October 2, 1926), commonly known as Sissy Farenthold, is an American politician, attorney, activist, and educator. She is a member of the Democratic Party. She is best known for her two campaigns for the office of Governor of Texas and for being placed in nomination for the office of Vice President of the United States during the 1972 Democratic National Convention.


  • Early life and education 1
  • Politics 2
  • Human rights work 3
  • Family 4
  • References 5
  • External links 6

Early life and education

Farenthold was born in Corpus Christi, Texas on October 2, 1926. She graduated from Vassar College in 1946. In 1949, she graduated from the University of Texas School of Law. She was one of only three women in a class of 800. Farenthold comes from a line of lawyers and judges. Her grandfather, Judge Benjamin D. Tarlton, Sr., served as Chief Justice of the Texas Court of Civil Appeals, a state legislator, professor at the University of Texas School of Law and is the namesake of the University of Texas School of Law Tarlton Law Library.[2] Her father, B. Dudley Tarlton, Jr., was also an attorney.


Farenthold started her political career in the 1968 when she was elected to represent Nueces and Kleberg counties in the Texas House of Representatives. She was the only woman serving in the Texas House at the time. Senator Barbara Jordan was then the only woman serving in the Texas Senate. They co-sponsored the Equal Legal Rights Amendment to the Texas Constitution.[3]

Farenthold was the third woman whose name was put into nomination for Georgia, among others.

In 1972 and 1974, she unsuccessfully sought the Democratic nomination for Governor of Texas. She was defeated both times by Democratic Dolph Briscoe of Uvalde. In 1973, she was elected as the first chair of the National Women's Political Caucus.[4] She later served as president of Wells College in Aurora, New York, from 1976-1980.

Farenthold founded the Human Rights Watch and Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom.[5]

Farenthold left Wells College in 1980 to return to Houston, where she opened a private law practice and taught law at the University of Houston. She also continued to devote significant time to the international women’s movement and began a collaboration with her cousin, Genevieve Vaughan, that would last the next decade.[6]

Farenthold and Vaughan organized the Peace Tent at the 1985 U.N. NGO Forum in Nairobi, Kenya, in conjunction with the third United Nations World Conference on Women.[7] They also were founding members of Women For a Meaningful Summit, an ad hoc coalition of female leaders voicing concerns for nuclear disarmament at the Reagan-Gorbachev summits. [8] Farenthold worked with the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS), a progressive multi-issue think tank devoted to peace, justice, and the environment. With IPS, Farenthold made trips to investigate human rights violations in Central America and Iraq.

She is an emeritus trustee for the Institute for Policy Studies and serves on the Advisory Board of the Bernard and Audre Rapoport Center for Human Rights and Justice at the University of Texas. She also serves as Honorary Director of the Rothko Chapel in Houston.


Her cousin, Genevieve Vaughan is a feminist writer and philanthropist and has written on the philosophy of the gift economy. Her step-grandson, Blake Farenthold, elected in 2010 to the United States House of Representatives as a Texas Republican, is a member of the Tea Party Caucus.


  1. ^ James Robert Dougherty Farenthold. Charley 2007. Retrieved September 22, 2013
  2. ^ "A Guide to the Frances Tarlton Farenthold Papers, University of Texas Libraries,
  3. ^ "A Guide to the Frances Tarlton Farenthold Papers, University of Texas Libraries,
  4. ^
  5. ^ The Frances T. "Sissy" Farenthold Papers: Her Work for Human Rights.
  6. ^ The Frances T. Farenthold Papers, The Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin
  7. ^ "The Nairobi Peace Tent", Genevieve Vaughan, 1984,
  8. ^ The Frances T. "Sissy" Farenthold Papers: Her Work for Human Rights.

External links

  • The Frances T. "Sissy" Farenthold Papers: Her Work for Human Rights. An online exhibit about Farenthold and her human rights work, from the Rapoport Center for Human Rights and Justice at UT Austin
  • A Guide to the Frances Tarlton Farenthold Papers The archival finding aid to Farenthold's physical papers at the Briscoe Center for American History at UT Austin.
  • NNDB
  • Institute for Policy Studies
  • Oral History Interview with Frances Farenthold from Oral Histories of the American South
  • The Bernard and Audre Rapoport Center for Human Rights and Justice
  • Farenthold, Frances "Sissy" and Frank Michel. Frances "Sissy" Farenthold Oral History, Houston Oral History Project, October 1, 2007.

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