March 8 celebrates the contributions of working women worldwide with International Working Women’s Day. In honor of what and who the day recognizes, we wanted to highlight a few working women from the Lone Star State.
Bette Nesmith Graham. Born in Dallas in 1924, Bette Nesmith Graham dropped out of high school at 17 to become a secretary. After a few years of working her way up the secretarial ranks at a Texas bank, she saw there was a need for a way to make quick corrections on typed documents. The resourceful Graham discovered she could use a white tempera-paint-based fluid to cover the mistakes, a product she’d later patent and trademark as Liquid Paper.
Within a decade, Graham’s Liquid Paper was cranking out 5,000 bottles a week. A millionaire at this point, she soon opened a 35,000 square foot factory in Dallas able to produce 25 million bottles a year. When Graham retired in 1976, she set up a foundation to support women’s welfare and another to support women in business and the arts. She died in Richardson in 1980 at the age of 56.
Katherine Anne Porter. Born in Indian Creek in 1890, Katherine Anne Porter (born Callie Russell Porter) grew up to become an acclaimed novelist, journalist, essayist, activist and writer of short stories. Mostly raised by her grandmother after her mother died, Porter’s early years in Texas helped shape her edgy writing and outlook on life.
“Experience is what really happens to you in the long run, the truth that finally overtakes you,” she once said.
In 1966, her book “Collected Stories” won her a Pulitzer Prize, making her the first Texas novelist to receive the esteemed award. Her novel “Ship of Fools,” which explores the events that led up to World War II, is, perhaps, her best known work. Porter died in 1980 at age 90.
“Babe” Didrikson Zaharias. Born in Port Arthur in 1911, Mildred Didrikson Zaharias went on to become one of the most famous athletes of her time. As a child baseball player, folks started calling her “Babe” (after Babe Ruth) for her knack at hitting homeruns.
In the 1930s, she gained fame for her All-American status as a basketball player and then later as an Olympic track and field athlete. In 1932, she won two gold medals, one in the 80-meter hurdle and another in the javelin throw. And she took home a silver medal for the high jump, as well.
By 1935, Zaharias had turned to golf and within a few years became the leading female player in the amateur circuit. In 1947, she went pro and dominated women’s golf in the U.S. and overseas.
“It’s not just enough to hit the ball,” she was once quoted as saying. “You’ve got to loosen your girdle, and really let the ball have it.”
Along with many other awards and distinctions, Zaharias was inducted into the Hall of Fame of Women’s Golf in 1951. She died in Galveston five years later at the age of 45. A museum in her honor was later built in Beaumont, where she spent most of her Texas childhood.
From all of us here at Veteran Energy, happy International Working Women’s Day, Texas!