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Priscilla Myers Benham

MOORE, HELEN EDMUNDS (1881–1968). Helen Edmunds Moore, state legislator, was born on January 3, 1881, in Black River Falls, Wisconsin, the daughter of J. H. Edmunds, who became a prominent mechanical engineer of Kansas City, Missouri. She became a nurse at Kansas City Hospital, where she met Hugh Benton Moore, a railroad man, who was a patient. They were married on September 5, 1905, in Kansas City, one month before their move to Texas City. Her husband, the pioneer developer of Texas City, served as the general manager of Texas City Terminal Railroad and Mainland Company. As a nurse she provided the only medical service available until the first doctor arrived in 1907. Together they sought civic improvements for the new port: the Moore Memorial Public Library, city incorporation, health laws, and a park. Helen Moore began her successful public career fighting for woman suffrage, touring the state to organize women to work for the constitutional amendment. When the amendment was rejected in 1915 by the Texas legislature, Minnie Fisher Cunningham of Galveston, state president of Texas Equal Suffrage Association, wrote to Moore asking her to continue the campaign for woman suffrage. She wrote, "I am not going to pretend it is an easy work that I am calling you to, but I believe you are the woman for it. I know your spirit and your fire, and they are irresistible." Mrs. Moore accepted the challenge and became chairwoman of the southeast district for TESA. Her interest in politics led her to accept the presidency of the League of Women Voters of Texas in 1923 and become a delegate to the Democratic national conventions in 1924 and 1928. In addition to these political activities, Mrs. Moore organized the Texas City Red Cross Branch in 1916 and served as its first president. As an active member of St. Mary's Catholic Church, she served in the Altar Society. Though childless, the Moores raised three of her nieces at their home near the waterfront and Texas City Dike. The home is a Texas state historic landmark. Fishing and water sports were her favorite hobbies.

As a member of the Forty-first, Forty-second, and Forty-fourth legislatures, she revealed the determined spirit behind her gentle image. When she was first elected there was only one other woman in the House. In the Forty-fourth Legislature she was the only woman. She succeeded in getting state authorization for construction of the Texas City Dike as a permanent part of the Galveston Bay channel system. However, her chief interest was social legislation. She was a member of the Public Health Committee and the Education Committee and chairman of the Eleemosynary Committee. Bills she secured included measures for removal of the insane from jails to insane asylums; establishment of state hospitals for cancer, pellagra, and tuberculous patients; and, following her investigation (the first) of state facilities, increased appropriations and improved maintenance for all state hospitals, orphanages, and penal institutions. In 1932 she also served on the appropriations committee, where she was instrumental in the establishment of the first psychopathic hospital at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston. Under her sponsorship the state established the state board of education, required a six-year scholastic age for children, required teachers in public schools to be citizens of the United States, included the teaching of American and Texas government in public schools, and established schools in the penitentiary with compulsory attendance. (She had found that 23 percent of the inmates had never attended school.) She also urged the passage of the federal child labor amendment. She was very proud of the protective legislation for women that cut their working hours from fifty-four to forty-eight hours a week. She won reelection in 1934 on a pledge to vote for the repeal of the prohibition amendment and the establishment of a liquor tax rather than income and sales taxes. Upon her leaving the Texas House in 1936, the House Journal called her "a pioneer in the humanitarian history of our state." After the death of her husband in 1944, she gave a grant to the Salvation Army of Texas City for the construction of a building to care for the poor. She later sold her controlling share in the Mainland Company and moved to Houston, where she lived with a niece until her death, on September 20, 1968. She is buried beside her husband in Galveston Memorial Park, Hitchcock.

Minnie Fisher Cunningham Papers, Houston Metropolitan Research Center, Houston Public Library. Galveston Daily News, September 23, 1968.

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

Handbook of Texas Online, Priscilla Myers Benham, "MOORE, HELEN EDMUNDS," accessed August 07, 2020, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fmo83.

Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
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