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MENEZES, SARAH ELEANOR CORY

MENEZES, SARAH ELEANOR CORY (1885–1977). Sarah Eleanor Cory Menezes, assistant United States attorney, longtime Republican Party member, and reform activist, was born in December 1885, in Fort Scott, Kansas, to lawyer and popular historian Charles Estabrook Cory (1853-1933) and Ruth Emeline (Kellogg) Cory (1852-1930). As a young person, Menezes learned the law from her father in his law office and, at sixteen years of age, worked as the official stenographer of the Fort Scott bankruptcy court. Sometime later, she entered the University of Kansas where she studied law and worked as a secretary to the dean of the law school, James Green. After completing her studies, she moved back to Fort Scott where she married Harry Menezes on April 28, 1912. The couple moved to Dallas the next year, and in 1915 Harry was employed as a stone and marble cutter while Sarah worked as a secretary for a Dallas law firm. Menezes passed the State Bar examination and earned the highest score of all State Bar exams taken in the year of 1916. The Dallas Morning News later credited her as only the third woman to be admitted to the Texas Bar at that time. In 1918 Menezes was appointed deputy district superintendent for the fourteenth district of the War Risk Insurance Bureau and served under Royall R. Watkins. Her husband, at the time a first lieutenant in the 144th Infantry, United States Army, served in France during World War I

Menezes was a longtime and influential member of the Republican Party. In 1924 she directed the Women’s State Organization for the election of George C. Butte who ran against Miriam “Ma” Ferguson in the gubernatorial election of 1924. The same year, she joined the Dallas branch of the Zonta Club, which was geared toward professional women. Sarah eventually served as the president of the Dallas Zonta Club and regional chairwoman for the Dallas district. In 1925 Menezes served as the president of the Dallas League of Women Voters and remained in the position until 1927. Their goal was to mobilize voters in Texas and was non-partisan.

In 1925 during Prohibition, Menezes was appointed clerk and assistant United States attorney and was the first woman to represent the Northern District of Texas in federal courts. She set a record for liquor prosecutions by having only one acquittal in a two-week session in 1926. The following year she continued to serve as assistant United States attorney, and she prosecuted violations of the Volstead Act, without the clerking duties. After the presidential election of Democrat Franklin D. Roosevelt, Menezes, a Republican, resigned her position in 1933, as tradition dictated. Menezes continued her role in Republican politics by serving as the first vice president of the Dallas County Republican Women’s Club in 1936. That same year she embarked on a speaking tour on behalf of Kansas Governor Alf M. Landon, the Republican candidate for president. In 1937 she ran for a seat on the Dallas city council and was the only woman listed as running. In 1938 she was appointed to serve as conciliation commissioner for Dallas County where she worked on bankruptcy cases dealing with farmers. She also was chosen to be the woman representative to the Republican State Executive Committee for the Eleventh District alongside Walter Rogers and remained in this post into the 1940s. Menezes, sponsored by the Dallas Business and Professional Women’s Club, prepared a petition and filed a suit in 1938. This suit challenged the discrimination of women in regard to the right to serve on juries. After the failed attempt, alongside longtime friend, Sarah T. Hughes, Menezes continued to advocate full citizenship rights of women into the 1940s (see WOMEN AND THE LAW). 

When her husband retired from his post as commandant of cadets at North Dallas High School in 1956, they eventually settled in Irving. Her husband died in 1962. Menezes was a longtime member of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Irving and remained active in various organizations including the Republicans Club of Irving, Dallas Republican Women, Daughters of the American Revolution, American Legion Auxiliary, Business and Professional Women’s Club, and the Federal Retired Persons. She died on April 15, 1977, at ninety-one years of age. She was buried in Sparkman Hillcrest Memorial Park in Dallas, Texas, and is memorialized in the Plaza of Heroines in Carrie Chapman Catt Hall at Iowa State University.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

Holly J. McCammon, The U.S. Women's Jury Movements and Strategic Adaptation: A More Just Verdict (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2012). Roger M. Olien, From Token to Triumph: The Texas Republicans since 1920 (Dallas: Southern Methodist University Press, 1982). Darwin Payne, Indomitable Sarah: The Life of Judge Sarah T. Hughes (Dallas: Southern Methodist University Press, 2004). Elizabeth Hayes Turner, Women and Gender in the New South, 1865–1945 (Wheeling, Illinois: Harlan Davidson, Inc., 2009).

Allison Faber

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Handbook of Texas Online, Allison Faber, "Menezes, Sarah Eleanor Cory," accessed December 10, 2017, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fmene.

Uploaded on October 11, 2016. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.