While our physical offices are closed until further notice in accordance with Austin's COVID-19 "stay home-work safe" order, the Handbook of Texas will remain available at no-cost for you, your fellow history enthusiasts, and all Texas students currently mandated to study from home. If you have the capacity to help us maintain our online Texas history resources during these uncertain times, please consider making a 100% tax-deductible contribution today. Thank you for your support of TSHA and Texas history. Donate Today »


A. Elizabeth Taylor
Mary Eleanor Brackenridge
Mary Eleanor Brackenridge (Eleanor). Image available on the Internet and included in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107.

BRACKENRIDGE, MARY ELEANOR (1837–1924). Mary Eleanor Brackenridge, clubwoman and advocate of women's rights, daughter of John Adams and Isabella Helena (McCulloch) Brackenridge, was born in Warwick County, Indiana, on March 7, 1837. George W. Brackenridge was her brother. She spent her childhood in Indiana and, upon graduating from Anderson Female Seminary in New Albany in 1855, joined her family, who had moved to Jackson County, Texas. She remained in Jackson County until 1866, when she and her mother went to San Antonio to live with George. John A. Brackenridge had died in 1862.

In San Antonio, Eleanor became a champion of civic and social betterment. She was active in the Texas Federation of Women's Clubs the Daughters of the American Revolution the Texas Mothers' Congress, the Order of the Eastern Star, and the Presbyterian Church. She was a firm believer in prohibition and a strong supporter of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union. She founded the Woman's Club of San Antonio and served as its president for seven years. Under her guidance the club turned its attention from literary subjects to such issues as the need for police matrons, female probation officers, industrial and vocational education, and the general welfare of women and children. She made a study of the state's legal code and published a pamphlet entitled The Legal Status of Texas Women in 1911.

Telegram to Eleanor Brackenridge
Telegram to Eleanor Brackenridge from Erminia Folsom, 1911. Courtesy of the Texas State Library and Archives Commission. Image available on the Internet and included in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107.

In February 1912 Brackenridge was elected president of the newly-organized San Antonio Equal Franchise Society. The formation of this society stimulated interest throughout the state, and delegates from seven Texas cities met in San Antonio and organized the Texas Woman Suffrage Association in April 1913. Eleanor Brackenridge held the office of president for one year and then became honorary president. Though no longer an active officer, she continued to support the movement, and when the Texas legislature granted primary suffrage to women in 1918 she was the first woman in Bexar County to register to vote (see WOMAN SUFFRAGE).

She was one of a group of citizens instrumental in securing the establishment of a state-supported college for women, the College of Industrial Arts (now Texas Woman's University). In 1902 she became a member of its first board of regents, and she served in that capacity until her death more than twenty years later. As a regent she took an active interest in the affairs of the institution and often assisted students in financial need. She urged the legislature to give the woman's college adequate support and sometimes chided its members for failing to vote for requested appropriations. In 1916 a dormitory was named in her honor.

The home of Mary Brackenridge known as Fernridge
The home of Mary Brackenridge known as Fernridge. Courtesy of the University of Texas Press.

Eleanor Brackenridge traveled widely, often to places not readily accessible to Americans in her time. She was also one of the first women in the nation to serve as a bank director. She was a member of the board of directors of the San Antonio National Bank and the San Antonio Loan and Trust Company, institutions founded by her brother.

The second Fernridge house, now known as Head of Waters at the University of the Incarnate Ward. Image available on the Internet and included in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107.

Neither Eleanor nor George ever married. They shared the same residence, Fernridge, until George died in 1920. After his death Eleanor continued to live at Fernridge, where she died after a cerebral hemorrhage, on February 14, 1924. When reporting her death, the San Antonio Express called her "in many respects the foremost woman citizen of Texas." She was buried in the Brackenridge family cemetery near Edna in Jackson County.


Johnowene B. C. Menger, M. Eleanor Brackenridge (M.A. thesis, Trinity University, 1964). San Antonio Express, February 15, 1924. A. Elizabeth Taylor, "The Woman Suffrage Movement in Texas," Journal of Southern History 17 (May 1951; rpt., in Citizens at Last: The Woman Suffrage Movement in Texas, ed. Ruthe Winegarten and Judith N. McArthur, Austin, 1987). Joyce Thompson, Marking a Trail: A History of the Texas Woman's University (Denton: Texas Woman's University Press, 1982). Woman's Who's Who of America (New York: American Commonwealth, 1914).

Image Use Disclaimer

All copyrighted materials included within the Handbook of Texas Online are in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107 related to Copyright and “Fair Use” for Non-Profit educational institutions, which permits the Texas State Historical Association (TSHA), to utilize copyrighted materials to further scholarship, education, and inform the public. The TSHA makes every effort to conform to the principles of fair use and to comply with copyright law.

For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml

If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.


The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Handbook of Texas Online, A. Elizabeth Taylor, "BRACKENRIDGE, MARY ELEANOR," accessed July 10, 2020, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fbr04.

Uploaded on June 12, 2010. Modified on July 3, 2019. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
visit the mytsha forums to participate

View these posts and more when you register your free MyTSHA account.

Call for Papers: Texas Center for Working-Class Studies Events, Symposia, and Workshops
Hi all! You may be interested in this call for papers I received from the Texas Center for Working-Class Studies at Collin College...

Katy Jennings' Ride Scholarly Research Request
I'm doing research on Catherine Jennings Lockwood, specifically the incident known as "Katy Jennings' Ride." Her father was Gordon C. Jennings, the oldest man to die at the Alamo...

Texas Constitution of 1836 Co-Author- Elisha Pease? Ask a Historian
The TSHA profile of Elisha Marshall Pease states that he wrote part of the Texas Constitution although he was only a 24 year-old assistant secretary (not elected). I cannot find any other mention of this authorship work by Pease in other credible research about the credited Constution authors...