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Margaret Swett Henson
Texas Woman's Fair
A Houston Post feature on the Texas Woman's Fair, October 3, 1915. Courtesy of the Houston Post. Image available on the Internet and included in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107.
Texas Woman's Fair
A Houston Post feature on the Texas Woman's Fair, October 13, 1915. Courtesy of the Portal to Texas History. Image available on the Internet and included in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107.

TEXAS WOMAN'S FAIR. The Texas Woman's Fair, called the "first of its kind in the world," was conceived in Houston in March 1915 as a way to reach a large audience with demonstrations and exhibits focusing on better housekeeping and child care. Organizers believed that Houston and Harris County needed an annual fair to replace the No-Tsu-Oh festival, which focused on cotton and business. The women intended to show their skills and demonstrate their organizational ability. An executive board of twenty-five received a charter from the state in August. The first fair was held near the Houston city hall on October 11–16, 1915. Visitors viewed exhibits of needlework, canning, and artwork and heard tips about milk pasteurizing, sanitary baking, gardening, caring for livestock, and eliminating household pests. A better-baby show and contest at the Rice Hotel, described as comparable to a livestock show and intended to "improve the race," encouraged mothers to bring infants for weighing and measuring. Cultural events in the evenings featured singers, musicians, or plays, while daily parades helped draw attention and crowds. Prominent women from a variety of professions and associations led the first parade riding in automobiles, an event that was recorded on film. Subsequent fairs were more elaborate and designed to appeal to "all men and women who admired pluck and progressiveness." The November 1917 fair focused on voluntary war work, conservation, patriotism, and woman suffrage. That year the governor of Illinois attended the fair parade to review 20,000 Illinois troops who had recently arrived at Camp Logan, on the western edge of Houston. Teacher Carrie Smith, clubwoman Anna Pennybacker, and suffragist Minnie Fisher Cunningham addressed women's issues, while others explained war work by the YWCA and Herbert Hoover's Food Program. The war, the armistice, and the successful suffrage campaign apparently absorbed the energy of Houston organizers of the Woman's Fair, which was not held after 1917.


Houston Post, August 29, October 3, 12, 1915, November 4, 7, 1917. Texas Woman's Fair Association, Catalogue: Texas Woman's Fair (Houston: Gray, Dillaye, and Young, 1915).

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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, Margaret Swett Henson, "TEXAS WOMAN'S FAIR," accessed July 12, 2020, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/lkt09.

Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Modified on July 20, 2017. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
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