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 »


Lisa K. Hill

WELLS, PAULINE JOSEFINE KLEIBER (1863–1928). Pauline Josefine Kleiber Wells, leading Texas antisuffragist, daughter of Emma Henrietta (Butler) and Joseph Kleiber, was born at Brownsville, Texas, on September 19, 1863. She was baptized in the Catholic Church on October 6 of that year. Pauline grew up one of five Kleiber children. On November 4, 1880, she married James Babbage Wells, Jr., who became a powerful South Texas Democrat. They had four children. Freed by servants from housekeeping tasks, Pauline devoted herself to motherhood, her children's intellectual growth, reading, playing piano, and theater. As early as 1912, Pauline Wells was working to prevent woman suffrage. Her husband was also an active opponent of voting rights for women. Mrs. Wells's interest in the movement grew in 1913 while she was on a trip to New York City, where she met and exchanged ideas with antisuffrage leaders. When the Texas legislature first voted on an amendment granting woman suffrage in February 1915, she traveled to the Capitol to "save the citadel of the Home." She helped defeat the resolution by arguing before the Senate that suffrage was "identified with feminism, sex antagonism, socialism, anarchy and Mormonism." She later became president of the newly-formed Texas Association Opposed to Woman Suffrage. She lobbied again in 1918 to defeat a bill enabling women to vote in the decisive Texas primaries but lost. In spring 1919 she headed a drive by Texas "antis" to hold off ratification of an amendment giving women the right to vote in the general election. Their victory proved short-lived, as Texans soon ratified the Nineteenth Amendment. Pauline Wells died of heart disease on August 21, 1928, in Marlin, Texas, and was buried in Brownsville.


Evan Anders, Boss Rule in South Texas: The Progressive Era (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1982). A. Elizabeth Taylor, Citizens at Last: The Woman Suffrage Movement in Texas (Austin: Temple, 1987). 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). Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin. James B. Wells Papers, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.

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, Lisa K. Hill, "WELLS, PAULINE JOSEFINE KLEIBER," accessed August 11, 2020, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fwe52.

Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Modified on June 25, 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...