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Rapoport Center receives Fath Foundation grant for Farenthold Archives Project

The Bernard and Audre Rapoport Center for Human Rights and Justice at the University of Texas School of Law recently received a three-year, $150,000 grant from the Creekmore and Adele Fath Charitable Foundation. The grant launched the Frances T. “Sissy” Farenthold Archives Project, which will document Farenthold’s contributions to Texas and U.S. politics, the women’s peace movement, and international human rights and justice.

The Rapoport Center will work on the project in conjunction with the Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, where Farenthold’s papers are located. The papers of Creekmore Fath, a 1937 graduate of the Law School and a member of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s administration, are also located there. Fath served in numerous positions in the Roosevelt administration. He was legal counsel for a select House committee investigating the conditions of migrant workers, and he led the investigation of international cartels for the Board of Economic Warfare. Fath also served as special assistant to Secretary of the Interior Julius Krug.

The Creekmore and Adele Fath Charitable Foundation was founded in 2007 by Creekmore Fath. Based in Austin, the foundation supports education, women’s health and mental health programs, and community programs in Central Texas. Fath, who died in 2009 at the age of 93, and his wife, Adele, were well-known philanthropists and prolific art and book collectors, as well as prominent figures in Texas politics.

“It’s particularly meaningful to receive this grant from the Creekmore and Adele Fath Charitable Foundation because Creekmore was the campaign manager for Sissy’s two gubernatorial campaigns in the seventies, and they remained friends throughout his life,” said Professor Karen Engle, Minerva House Drysdale Regents Chair in Law and codirector of the Rapoport Center.

Over three years, a project team will process and preserve Farenthold’s papers, digitize archival documents and images, produce videotaped interviews and expand the content of the Rapoport Center’s existing website about her work. In addition, several public events will delve into issues to which Farenthold has devoted much of her life—including a March 28, 2013, forum at the Law School about the “Dirty Thirty.” In 1971, Farenthold was among thirty state lawmakers who called for an investigation of then-Speaker of the House Gus Mutscher and other Texas officials named in a federal bribery-conspiracy case linked to a Houston bank. The group’s challenge of the speaker made the conspiracy case a political issue and sparked a movement to limit the influence of special interests in the Legislature.

Longtime journalist Susan Smith Richardson will manage the project. Richardson is a graduate of the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard and has more than twenty years of journalism and research experience. She will develop and identify content for the website and conduct research in the archives, working closely with an archivist at the Briscoe Center. Richardson will also interview Farenthold and other people, organize events, and coordinate with departments, staff, students, and volunteers working on the project.

While enhancing the historical record on many aspects of Farenthold’s career and activism, the project will also help document the U.S. women’s movement in the 1970s and 1980s. “The archive and website will be a resource for scholars and historians interested in Sissy’s work as well as the broader movements to which it belongs,” Engle said. “But we also hope to create a website that will engage the general public and be of use in educational settings.”

A 1949 graduate of the Law School, Farenthold served in the Texas Legislature from 1968 to 1972 and ran twice for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination. At the 1972 Democratic National Convention, she came in second for the vice presidential nomination. In 1973, Farenthold became the first chair of the National Women’s Political Caucus.

In 1976, Farenthold left electoral politics to become the first female president of Wells College, a women’s college in Aurora, New York. During her tenure at Wells, she expanded her work with women’s groups, anti-nuclear and peace activists, and human rights organizations. She was an active member of Helsinki Watch, a predecessor to Human Rights Watch. Farenthold returned to Texas in 1980 and, over the past three decades, has been involved with and spearheaded many international and domestic causes for peace, human rights, and social justice.

Program contact: Susan Richardson, Rapoport Center for Human Rights and Justice, susansmithrichardson@gmail.com or 512-232-4857

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