Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of JANE LEGETTE YELVINGTON MCCALLUM, 1877–1957
By Roberta S. Duncan
This entry has been republished with special permission from the Handbook of Texas Women, a project of the Handbook of Texas Online, Texas State Historical Association. < https://tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fmc07>. Accessed February 12, 2020.
MCCALLUM, JANE LEGETTE YELVINGTON (1877–1957). Jane McCallum, suffragist leader and Texas secretary of state, was born to Alvaro Leonard and Mary Fullerton (LeGette) Yelvington in La Vernia, Texas, on December 30, 1877. Yelvington was a pioneer sheriff of Wilson County in the late 1870s and early 1880s. Jane attended schools in Wilson County and Dr. Zealey's Female College in Mississippi in 1892–93. She studied at the University of Texas from 1912 to 1915 and in 1923–24 but never received a degree. On October 29, 1896, she married Arthur Newell McCallum, Sr., a North Carolina native who had ventured to Texas in 1895. She moved with him from La Vernia to Kenedy, then Seguin, and finally Austin, where he served as school superintendent from 1903 to 1942. The couple had a daughter and four sons. Jane McCallum first entered politics by campaigning for prohibition and woman suffrage. On October 22, 1915, the Austin Woman Suffrage Association elected her president. She also teamed with Minnie Fisher Cunningham, president of the Texas Equal Suffrage Association, in leading statewide campaigns for suffrage; she served as state manager of press and publicity for the state constitutional amendment on full suffrage and state chairman of the ratification committee for the federal, or nineteenth, amendment. To further promote suffrage, Jane McCallum delivered public speeches and wrote a suffrage column that appeared in the Austin American and later the Austin Statesman. During World War I, as women's chairman of the fourth Liberty Loan Drive, she led Austin women in raising nearly $700,000 for the war effort.
After suffrage was won she concentrated on political reforms. She was state publicity chairman for the Education ("Better Schools") Amendment to the Texas Constitution, approved in November 1920. She also headed publicity efforts for the League of Women Voters of Texas and served a term as first vice president. From 1923 to 1925 she served as executive secretary of the Women's Joint Legislative Council, a coalition of six statewide women's organizations that lobbied for education bills, prison reform, stronger prohibition controls, maternal and child health funds, and eradication of illiteracy and child labor. Known as the "Petticoat Lobby," the coalition became an important lobbying group of the era. Jane McCallum was also a member of the Texas Committee on Prisons and Prison Labor. In 1926 she led the Petticoat Lobbyists in campaigning for Daniel J. Moody's gubernatorial bid against Miriam A. Ferguson. Moody appointed her secretary of state in January 1927, and she retained the position under Governor Ross Sterling from 1931 to 1933; she was thus the only person in Texas to hold the position under two governors and for more than two terms. Shortly after assuming office in 1927, she discovered in a vault in the state Capitol an original copy of the Texas Declaration of Independence. She considered her role in restoring and displaying the document to be one of her important contributions to the state.
McCallum served as a presidential elector in 1940 and as a state Democratic committeewoman for the Twentieth Senatorial District in 1942 and again for the Tenth United States Congressional District in 1944. She also remained active in civic affairs throughout her life. In 1944 she was appointed to the first Austin city planning commission; in January 1945 she led the Women's Committee on Educational Freedom into the Capitol to protest the firing of University of Texas president Homer P. Rainey; and in 1954 she became the first woman grand jury commissioner in Travis County. Her writings concentrated on women's issues and women leaders. Her suffrage column, "Woman and Her Ways," evolved into a Sunday feature on women's issues that appeared at intervals in the Austin American-Statesman until the late 1940s. She chronicled the history of the Texas suffrage movement for History of Woman Suffrage (1881–1922). She profiled the sculptor Elisabet Ney for the University of Texas literary publication, Texas Magazine, and for Holland's Magazine. Her collection of biographical sketches of early American leaders, Women Pioneers, was published in 1929, while she was serving as secretary of state. During the 1950s Texas Parade published some of her works, including a few excerpts from her unpublished manuscript, "All Texians Were Not Males." In private life she participated in numerous organizations, including the Texas Fine Arts Association, the American Association of University Women, the Colonial Dames of America, the League of Women Voters, the Austin Shakespeare Club, and the Austin Woman's Club. She was the first married woman at the University of Texas to join a sorority, Alpha Delta Pi. Although reared as an Episcopalian, in Austin she attended the First Southern Presbyterian Church, where her husband served as an elder. On August 14, 1957, Jane McCallum died. She was buried in Oakwood Cemetery, Austin.
Florence Elberta Barns, Texas Writers of Today (Dallas: Tardy, 1935). Ann Fears Crawford and Crystal Sasse Ragsdale, Women in Texas (Burnet, Texas: Eakin Press, 1982). Janet G. Humphrey, A Texas Suffragist: Diaries and Writings of Jane Y. McCallum (Austin: Temple, 1988). Sinclair Moreland, The Texas Women's Hall of Fame (Austin: Biographical Press, 1917). Patricia B. Nieuwenhuizen, Minnie Fisher Cunningham and Jane Y. McCallum: Leaders of Texas Women (Senior thesis, University of Texas at Austin, 1982). Vertical Files, Austin History Center.