Minnie Fisher Cunningham Papers
Minnie Fisher Cunningham, known popularly as Minnie Fish, was born on March 19, 1882 in New Waverly, Texas on the family farm. Minnie Fish was greatly influenced by her mother, Sallie Abercrombie Fisher, who saw that she was well-educated and self-reliant; Minnie later wrote a multi-chapter manuscript about her mother's early life and development, "Crossing Over." Minnie graduated from the University of Texas in 1901, the second woman in Texas to receive pharmacy degree. She married B.J. Cunningham, a lawyer of Galveston, and they adopted two children.
Minnie Fish became active politically in working for women's suffrage, becoming president of the Galveston Equal Suffrage Association, then of the Texas Equal Suffrage Association. In 1919, she went to Washington DC, working with Carrie Chapman Catt and Dr. Anna Howard Shaw in obtaining the passage of national women's suffrage and establishing the National League of Women Voters. Minnie went back and forth between Washington and Texas over the next twenty years, working in agriculture, war time matters, and women's issues. She organized the Women's National Democratic Club, and ran for the U.S. Senate in 1928.
From 1932 to 1942, Minnie Fish was an Associate Editor for the Texas Agricultural Extension Service, based at Texas A&M. Along the way, in 1938, she organized the Women's Committee for Economic Policy for Texas. From 1942 to 1943, she worked in Washington for the Agricultural Adjustment Agency, but resigned in protest over deliberate limits in the communication system with farmers -- a "gag rule."
Returning to Texas, Minnie Fish ran for governor in 1944, coming in second in the Democratic primary with over 48,000 votes. In 1945, she helped organize the Women's Committee for Educational Freedom, in response to the ouster of Dr. Homer P. Rainey from the University of Texas. Having retired to her farm, Minnie Fish continued to be very active in Democratic politics, co-founding the Texas Democratic Women's State Committee. In 1958, a tribute was made to her in over 1000 Democratic celebrations throughout Texas and elsewhere in the world. She died on December 9, 1964.
Biographical information on Minnie Fisher Cunningham can be found in NOTABLE AMERICAN WOMEN: THE MODERN PERIOD, TEXAS WRITERS OF TODAY, and WHO'S WHO OF AMERICAN WOMEN, SECOND EDITION, 1961-1962. An obituary can be found in the NEW YORK TIMES, December 12, 1964, page 31.
This collection includes materials written, kept or received by Minnie Fisher Cunningham. There are 267 items in the collection, dating between 1920 and 1964. The majority of the materials relate to Cunningham's political activities, especially in certain areas noted below. There is very little material included that relates to her earlier adult years, including her suffrage work. The majority of the material is from the 1930s through the 1950s.
Some of the most notable material includes several versions of a manuscript Cunningham wrote about her mother called "Crossing Over"; extensive material about her gubernatorial campaign; and many documents from her work with the Texas Democratic Women's State Committee and the Women's Committee for Educational Freedom. Other activities which are touched on in this collection are her employment with the Agricultural Adjustment Agency, her long years of work in Democratic Party politics, and her connections with the National League of Women Voters and the People's Legislative Committee, of which there is very little material.
There are some types of materials included in the collection that did not fall under any of the above-mentioned areas. These include correspondence, most of which is political in nature; newspaper articles about Cunningham; newspaper articles sent to, and kept by, her; speeches and notes for speeches; photographs of Cunningham and others; and tributes and other biographical materials.
The arrangement of the collection is as follows: materials relating to clear, discrete topics are filed together, including correspondence (much of MFC's personal correspondence was about political topics, but if it could not clearly be linked to an organization or topic, it was filed under "Correspondence"). For example, there are folders for Cunningham's gubernatorial campaign, her involvement with the Texas Democratic Women's State Committee, and her manuscript, "Crossing Over," including all related material.
Material that did not fit into this kind of classification is filed under type of document, e.g., correspondence, speeches and notes, and tributes and biography. Where there were multiple-copies of the same item and it related to two topics, it was filed in two folders. This did not occur frequently, but an example is a biographical tribute that was written that relate to Cunningham's work in the Democrat Party. Copies are filed in both folders. One oddity that was difficult to classify, a wall calendar with notes about farming made by MFC, is in the speeches and notes folder.
Within folders, the arrangement is chronological. In some folders, such as those for correspondence and speeches and notes, there is much undated material at the end. In the Folders, for the materials related to "Crossing Over," some logical conclusions have been made about the order of materials, that is, that apparent drafts came before the final full product.
A large collection of Minnie Fisher Cunningham materials has been transferred to UH Special Collections from the Houston Metropolitan Research Center. For more information, contact Special Collections.
Open for research.
Special Collections owns the physical items in our collections, but copyright normally belongs to the creator of the materials or their heirs. The researcher has full responsibility for determining copyright status, locating copyright holders, and abiding by current copyright laws when publishing or displaying copies of Special Collections material in print or electronic form. For more information, consult the appropriate librarian.
Minnie Fisher Cunningham Papers, courtesy of Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries
Over 40 boxes of Cunningham's papers came to the University of Houston as part of the Texas Gulf Coast Historical Association's Collections. Most of it was transferred to the Houston Metropolitan Research Center in 1977. This fragment was found by the History Department and returned to UH Special Collections in 1994.
Pat Ensor, 1995