DOOM, NELL GERTRUDE HORNE

Raymond R. Mitchell

DOOM, NELL GERTRUDE HORNE (1875–1948). Nell Gertrude Horne Doom, an active figure in the early woman suffrage movement in Texas, was born on March 20, 1875, in Austin, Texas, to William Thornbrugh Horne (1818–1876) and Amanda Ann (Vinson) Horne (1842–1903). She married David Houston Doom (1875–1954), an attorney, Travis County judge, and president of the Austin Bar Association (1932), on December 16, 1896, in her parent’s home in Austin. They had a son (William) and a daughter (Esther). During her lifetime, Doom was a member of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, the Austin Woman’s Club, the Texas Federation of Women’s Clubs, and the Texas League of Women Voters (in which she served as their legislative chairman in the 1920s). 

Doom worked closely with more well-known suffragists of the time, including lifelong friend Jane Y. McCallum and Minnie Fisher Cunningham, in the Austin Woman Suffrage Association and the Texas Equal Suffrage Association. She insisted on not holding an office within the organizations and was instead regarded as the “ramrod” who got behind issues and activities and pushed them through to completion. In 1915 Doom was instrumental in drafting McCallum to be the president of the Austin Woman Suffrage Association. During the 1915 Texas legislative session, Doom worked with Annette Finnigan, president of the Texas Woman Suffrage Association, to gain support for a state constitutional woman suffrage amendment. The amendment passed the Texas House of Representatives by a vote of ninety to thirty-two but was never brought to the floor of the Texas Senate for a vote. 

Described by McCallum as “an earnest suffrage worker,” Doom was on the platform with Governor William P. Hobby when he signed House Bill 105 into law on March 26, 1918. Seen as the first legal step in the suffrage movement, the bill allowed Texas women to vote in all primary elections and nominating conventions but not general elections or voter referendums.  With this partial victory in hand, suffrage organizations across Texas faced the task of convincing women to register to vote. With only a short window of time in 1918 before an upcoming primary election, Doom took on the role of dividing up the Austin phone book to remind every woman with a telephone to register. Her effort aided in getting 5,856 women in Travis County to register to vote during the couple of weeks registration period that was provided for Texas women immediately after the passage of the primary suffrage bill. Supporting the re-election of Governor Hobby, Doom was a charter member of the “Hobby Club” of Travis County. As the movement continued into 1919, she organized lists of citizens willing to donate their automobiles to transfer speakers to and from suffrage events in Travis County. On June 28, 1919, Texas became the first Southern state and the ninth state overall to ratify the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, guaranteeing “the right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.” 

After the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment and throughout the rest of her life, Doom continued her political activism on behalf of women and various political candidates. In 1924 she supported William G. McAdoo for the Democratic presidential nomination and sold “voters calendars” in the Texas Capitol on behalf of the League of Women Voters. In 1928 Doom supported the candidacy of Minnie Fisher Cunningham for the United States Senate and sent out invitations and follow-up letters to assemble a committee of sponsors composed of prominent citizens who allowed their names to be used publicly in support of the campaign. When the efforts failed to recruit anyone other than women, Doom and McCallum abandoned the idea and instead focused on securing female voters. 

One of the most significant contributions of Doom to the woman suffrage movement was the volunteering of her home, described as the “strategic point” where planning took place by “advocates who fought the good fight and gained the victory of woman’s suffrage in Texas.” The residence was the site for numerous meetings and social events. On February 18, 1928, Doom hosted a farewell event for the home as well as a campaign event for Cunningham. Due to the necessary expansion of the campus, the home was relinquished to the University of Texas on March 1, 1928. Not given voluntarily, the home was acquired via a condemnation proceeding, in which McCallum believed the house had been undervalued. Located at 202 East 24th Street, at the corner of 24th Street and Speedway in Austin, the home that was witness to so many historical events was torn down by the university in subsequent years. According to campus maps provided by the University of Texas, in 2018 a structure known as “modular building 1” sits on the former site of the historic home. 

Doom remained a presence in the Austin community and served as chairman of the Woman’s Club Garden Committee for ten consecutive years (1931–41) before stepping down to retire. In 1946 Nell and David Doom celebrated their fiftieth wedding anniversary amongst their children and close friends. While visiting her daughter, Nell Horne Doom fell ill and died of a ruptured aortic aneurism on March 14, 1948, in Galveston. Her husband, David Houston Doom, passed away on September 2, 1954, in Houston. Both are buried in Oakwood Cemetery in Austin.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

Austin American-Statesman, February 12, 19, 1928; December 17, 1946; March 15, 1948. Jessica S. Brannon-Wranosky, Southern Promise and Necessity: Texas, Regional Identity, and the National Woman Suffrage Movement, 1868–1920 (Ph.D. dissertation, University of North Texas, 2010). William T. Horne Papers, 1844–1899, 1922, 1943, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin. Janet G. Humphrey, A Texas Suffragist: Diaries and Writings of Jane Y. McCallum (Austin: Temple, 1988). Judith N. McArthur and Harold L. Smith, Minnie Fisher Cunningham: A Suffragist's Life in Politics (New York: Oxford University Press, 2003). Jane Y. McCallum Papers, 1889-1957, Austin History Center. 

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Handbook of Texas Online, Raymond R. Mitchell, "DOOM, NELL GERTRUDE HORNE ," accessed March 18, 2019, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fdoom.

Uploaded on February 19, 2019. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

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