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Women’s History of Downtown Austin

March 20, 2023
Women's History Month

Happy Women’s History Month! Areas in downtown Austin have served as key places in our women’s fight for rights. Parks have historically been downtown’s meeting space for marches and civil rights protests alongside the Capitol. Here is a quick sheet of some of the critical points in women’s history in Austin.

Women’s History Timeline US

The ability for women to legally become independent business owners in the US has a more storied past than you may have realized. Until 1900, women in the US didn’t have the right to own their own property or keep their own wages (Anneberg Classroom). Women weren’t legally allowed to vote until the 19th Amendment was passed in 1919, and the ability for BIPOC women to vote continued to be legally prevented until the abolition of literacy tests and other racially motivated barriers to voting in the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (History). Women couldn’t open their own bank or credit accounts to independently manage their personal finances until the Equal Credit Opportunity Act was passed in 1974 (FDIC Manual). Women couldn’t obtain business loans in the US without a male co-signer until the Women’s Business Ownership Act was signed into law in 1988. (Association of Enterprise Opportunity)

Considering owning a business was nearly impossible without a man or coming from wealth for women just 40 years ago, it makes female entrepreneurs all the more impressive and resilient. Support your local women-owned businesses.

Taqueria Mucho

Women-Owned Businesses in Downtown ATX

We know we don’t have everyone on this list; if you have a women-owned business and would like to be included, please get in touch with us at

The Texas State Capitol Building

A Brief Women’s History of Downtown Austin

Downtown Austin is a local and national stage for women’s rights and history and has been for a long time. Naturally, the Capitol on Congress has been the backdrop for many notable historical women’s events downtown. Here are just a few snippets of powerful women in Austin’s History:

In 1842, Angelina Eberly protected Austin’s claim as the Capitol of Texas by firing cannonballs at the General Land Office when Sam Houston sent Texas Rangers to steal crucial public papers in an attempt to make Houston the capitol. A statue of her can be found on Congress Avenue.

Minnie Fisher Cunningham organized the National League of Women Voters and announced her campaign to run for Senate in 1928 in Wooldridge Square. (Our Austin Story)

1972 marked a notable accomplishment for women when Barbara Jordan became the first African American Woman elected to the US House of Representatives. Prior to that, she spent a lot of time at the Capitol as the first African American elected to the Texas Senate after Reconstruction.

In 1976, Janey Briscoe established the Old Bakery and Emporium as the First Lady’s Volunteer Program of the Texas Center for Volunteer Action. As First Lady of Texas, she also protected the Governor’s Mansion as a National Historic Landmark.

Back at the Capitol, Ann Richards was the second woman elected Governor of Texas in 1991. She left a lasting impression on the State, and her quotes were featured on banners down Congress Avenue in 2021 as part of our Writing on the Walls program. No woman has been elected to govern Texas since.

In 2007, the Mexican-American Cultural Center was opened to the public after a long advocacy effort championed by Emma Barrientos. She was a passionate advocate for culture and the arts and served on the Mexic-Arte Museum’s founding board.

Also in 2007, Town Lake was renamed Lady Bird Lake in honor of first lady, Lady Bird Johnson who played a critical role in the beautification of the lake and the formation of the hike and bike trail.

Austin’s Women’s March led 50,000 people down Congress Avenue to the Capitol in a national demonstration for women’s rights. This 2017 demonstration was one of the largest marches in Austin’s history. Republic Square was the center of another large Women’s Rights demonstration in 2022.


Women continue to play a critical role in Austin’s history and downtown will serve as a stage for women’s rights and showcase women-owned businesses for many years to come. Happy Women’s History Month!

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