Texas Suffragette: The Minnie Fisher Cunningham Story premieres March 24th
Film Poster Created by Dr. Jerry Wesson Scholar, Monserrat Rivero-Sanchez
By: Dr. Andrew Yox, Honors Director
Honors Northeast and the NTCC Webb Society to feature the story of a surprise success—the victory of the Texas Suffragettes in 1919, at the Whatley Center for the Performing Arts at NTCC
In this the eleventh cinematic premiere of a story from the Texas past in as many years, Honors Northeast, and the NTCC Webb Society will present a largely forgotten story that deserves its share of legendary acclaim. The film follows the tale of Minnie Fisher Cunningham, the leader who led the state’s suffragettes to an upset victory. It was a triumph unique in the larger regional story of the South. At a time when the Solid South offered the most vociferous resistance to suffrage, Texas endorsed the Nineteenth Amendment.
The feature-length film will begin at 7PM on Friday, 24 March at the Whatley Center for the Performing Arts. The production is free, and the public is invited. Free coffee, homemade cookies, and drinks will be provided afterward, in the Whatley Foyer.
NTCC’s Texas Heritage National Bank Scholar, Skylar Fondren, both wrote the script, and directed the filming, the bulk of which occurred last August. The script is based on an original interpretation of the Cunningham story pursued by the scholars of Honors Northeast, and the NTCC Webb Society, a collegiate auxiliary of the Texas State Historical Association. The scholar tasked with bringing together this evidence and extending it, was Michelle Calderon. Calderon has argued that Cunningham pursued a “periphrastic strategy,” an indirect, and apparently discursive campaign, which still won the final prize. Rather than campaign forthrightly for suffrage, Cunningham did everything she could to encourage and help the liberal wing of the state’s Democratic party. The suffragettes reaped the victory when the progressive legislature, and not the Texas voters, adopted the suffrage amendment.
The scholars of Honors Northeast, working above and beyond the classroom, comprised the bulk of roles that made the film possible. Skylar Hodson stars as Minnie Fisher Cunningham. Sam Pollan served as the producer. Monse Rivero worked as a close assistant to Fondren, and developed the film poster. Michelle Calderon, Jordan Chapin, Victor Diaz, Raul Leija, Sam Pollan, and Keren Valencia pursued the initial research last May at the University of Houston. Raul Leija, Evan Sears, Luis Olvera, and Victoria Matiz served as cinematographers. Fifteen of NTCC’s twenty-five incoming honors-program scholars last fall acted in the film.
The NTCC Webb Society, the collegiate auxiliary of the state Walter Prescott Webb Society dedicated to Texas history, also includes a community component which had a major impact on the film experience. Kenny Goodson, NTCC’s former Director of Computer Services, and also a regional composer, composed the film score, and produced a stunning orchestral overlay electronically. This is, in fact, the fourth time Goodson’s verve in the span of a three-month period, has served to provide a complete accompaniment for films lasting over seventy minutes. His wife, Ann Goodson, an alumna of Honors Northeast, sewed suffrage sashes, drove a wardrobe truck to film sites, including Fredericksburg, Texas, acted, and edited the script. Dr. Maryna Otero, the LOTE Educator Department Leader, and ESL Director at Mount Pleasant High School assumed the key role of galvanizer in two senses. First, she played the significant role of Annette Finnigan who diverted Cunningham’s career into suffrage, and funded the movement. Secondly, she helped galvanize the acting, exuding the spirit and excitement of the era.
The feature-length film could never have occurred without the patrons of Honors Northeast. They enabled the trip to Fredericksburg, and helped feed the crew and caste at several sites. The series is especially beholden to Jerald and Mary Lou Mowery of Mount Vernon for their long-term, continuous support.
Past films in this series have included the stories of Carroll Shelby, Bo Pilgrim, Adina De Zavala, Barbara Conrad, Mary Kay, Sam Houston, and the Texas Cherokee, Ma and Pa Ferguson, Harriet Potter Ames, Wright Patman, and Morris Sheppard. All past films of the series can be viewed on www.ntcc.edu/honorsfilms.
The filming occurred over a five-day period in August and included sites at NTCC, Good Shepherd Lutheran, Caldwell Park, and Tennison Methodist Churches in Mount Pleasant, several bed-and-breakfast establishments in Fredericksburg, Texas, as well as the historic St. Barnabas Episcopal Church, and Pioneer Museum of Fredericksburg.
Questions about the premiere can be addressed to Honors Director, Dr. Andrew P. Yox at firstname.lastname@example.org.