Bexar County Republican Women’s History
American women were given the right to vote on August 18, 1920. Less than one month after this long-awaited victory, four San Antonio women solicited assistance from a local attorney in establishing a Republican women’s club. The four, all members of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union and the National Women’s Suffrage Party, recognized the need for a women’s organization in Bexar County dedicated to supporting Republican candidates.
The first meeting of the Republican Women’s Club of Bexar County convened in the home of Miss Eleanor Brackenridge. Her brother, Colonel George Brackenridge, provided refreshments. More significant than meeting refreshments, Colonel Brackenridge, as owner of The San Antonio News, supported the club with articles that drew public attention to the club and the blossoming Texas GOP.
Enthusiastic community response during the fall of 1920 swelled club membership to six hundred women. By the November election, the fledgling organization proved instrumental in the Harding-Coolidge-Wurzbach victory in Bexar County. Texas Congressman Wurzbach, who enjoyed repeated re-elections during his political career, was a life time supporter of the Republican Women’s Club of Bexar County.
The 1940’s were lean years for the San Antonio club. Texas was, for all practical purposes, a one party state. Republican Party activity across the state remained low-key except during presidential campaigns. The Republican Women’s Club of Bexar County actively supported the Willkie and Dewey runs for the White House, but the group’s fundamental goal was to preserve the Republican Party in Texas.
During the 1940’s meetings, which had been held in members’ homes, were moved to the Cascade Room at the St. Anthony Hotel. But due to the lack of party organization at the county and state levels the local club struggled to remain viable. There were no designated fund raising projects. Speakers were scarce and frequently programs were simple round-table discussions. A handful of dedicated members kept the organization from folding.
The Republican victory in 1952, which put Dwight Eisenhower in the White House, ignited interest in the national party. Eisenhower’s success revived the waning San Antonio club. Burgeoning attendance at monthly meetings compelled the club to seek more spacious accommodations. It was during this time that the organization name was changed to Bexar County Republican Women’s Club (BCRW). Under the new name the organization formalized its objectives and adopted club by-laws.
As the first Women’s Republican Club in Texas, and the third oldest Women’s Republican Club in the United States, BCRW has a long history of dedicated service to the Republican Party, Texas and the USA. Over the years numerous members have been recognized by the Texas Federation of Republican Women for outstanding leadership and volunteer commitment. In order to meet the challenges of the twenty-first century political environment, BCRW must draw from its rich heritage while remaining open to new methods of advancing the timeless values of the Republican Party.