Mayor Birdie Harwood, a Texas first remembered

Texas' first female mayor, Ophelia "Birdie Harwood, was elected the top official of Marble Falls 100 years ago, even before she and sister citizens could vote.

 

 

 

 

By Jane Knapik

Special to the Highlander

 

One hundred years ago, on April 2, 1917, Ophelia “Birdie” Crosby Harwood of Marble Falls became the first woman ever to be elected mayor in Texas, at a time before women had the right to vote.

At the April 4 Marble Falls City Council meeting, Mayor John Packer will read a proclamation detailing her lifetime achievements. The council meeting begins at 6 p.m. in City Council Chambers, 800 Third Street, Marble Falls.

In Burnet at 10:15 a.m. that same day, the Burnet County Historical Commission will honor Harwood as a “Woman of Note in Burnet County.” Grandchildren Mary Ann Arnim and Thomas Harwood of Uvalde have been invited to join Burnet County and Marble Falls in honoring their family member.

Another grandson, Crosby Harwood, now deceased, may be represented by his daughter Sarah Will. BCH Commission member Caryl Calsyn of Marble Falls wrote the BCH tribute to Harwood, who gained fame for her horsemanship and for her politics.

In a March 1917 article in the Marble Falls Messenger, Harwood stated her reasons for running for mayor. “A woman's first duty is to her home and children,” she stated. “When she has raised them up... no good woman is out of place doing those things which are so vital to her children and her home.”

She especially wanted a clean town. With uncanny foresight in speaking of Marble Falls, she said in 1917, “We have everything about us to make (our town) one of the beauty spots of our state. Our citizens are the best. Let's welcome the stranger within our gates, but first let us get our house in order.”

Harwood was born in 1872 on a ranch in Blanco County. Her father Charles A. Crosby was Blanco County Clerk after service in the Confederacy; Crosby later held a similar job in Pecos County. After Birdie married Dr. George Harwood in Fort Stockton in 1892, the young couple returned to the local area, settling in Marble Falls around 1900 with their three sons, Charles Gerald, George C. and Clarence Adolphus. All three sons served their country during World War I.

According to an interview with the late Crosby Harwood in 2000, “My grandparents owned the house now called Liberty Hall, a cottage that used to stand next to it, and the 'river house,' a two-story house closer to the bluff above the river. My grandfather's office was on Main Street.”

Dr. Harwood died in 1934; and Birdie Harwood, in 1954. They are buried in the Marble Falls Cemetery, near their son George C. Harwood and Mrs. Harwood's mother, Ophelia Crosby.

Family members are invited to visit The Falls on the Colorado Museum, which has photographs of Harwood on horseback, riding sidesaddle in parades in Marble Falls and at “The Battle of Flowers” San Antonio. They have donated several of her dresses and other personal items, which also are on display.

The Falls on the Colorado Museum, located in the historic granite school building, 2001 Broadway, Marble Falls, is open Thursday, Friday and Saturday, from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Call 830-798-2157 for more information about the Harwood collection.

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