Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920

Biography of Julia Runge, 1877-1952

By Marcy L Tanter, professor of English, Tarleton State University, Stephenville, TX

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. Accessed September 15, 2019.

Julia Runge (Sept. 27, 1877-Nov. 7, 1952) was the eldest of seven children born to Johanna and Julius Runge of Galveston, Texas. The Runge family was prominent in early Texas history, beginning with the emigration of her grandfather, Henry Runge, from Germany in 1841. Henry established himself in New Orleans initially but soon relocated to Indianola, TX and then finally settled his family in Galveston. Johanna Runge (1856-1933) was Henry's daughter; Julius Runge (1851-1906) was his nephew. They married in 1876 and remained a prominent Galveston family for many years. Johanna founded the first free kindergarten in Galveston for the children of workers from the family's cotton mill. Julia Runge's death certificate lists her as divorced, but information about her marriage is not available.

Julia Runge's desire for public service was the result of growing up with a mother who had a strong sense of community service. While she lived a life somewhat typical for women of her class, by the end of the 1890s, Julia Runge established "kindergarten training schools" for potential kindergarten teachers in Galveston and Austin. By 1903, she opened a "cooperative kindergarten" under the auspices of the Houston Women's Club. She also had three trainee teachers under her who graduated to work at the free kindergarten in Houston; she was often praised for her dedication to the children. She retired from her kindergarten work in 1906, possibly due to the death of her father. Her devotion to the kindergartens is summed up well in an article she wrote for the "Woman's Century" section of the Dallas Morning News, May 21, 1900:

"Train the rising generation that they may be able to turn the mighty industrial impulses of the present day to a higher and worthier end than mere material gain and material happiness" (6).

As she committed herself to early childhood education, Julia Runge was also involved in the women's suffrage movement. In December 1903, the Texas Equal Suffrage Association (TESA), the Texas chapter of the National American Woman Suffrage Association, adopted its constitution at a convention in Houston, with Annette Finnegan as the president. Runge was active in the work of the TESA as early as 1904. In February 1912, she attended a meeting of over 150 women at the Hotel Galvez to discuss women's issues. Runge raised the question of equal pay (Wygant, 119). Two days after this meeting, the Galveston Equal Suffrage Association was created. On May 29 1917, she was elected publicity chair of the Houston Equal Suffrage Association. At this meeting, it was also decided "to appoint six men as an advisory board. These men, who will be the ones who have shown an interest in the suffrage movement, will be appointed this week."

Julia Runge was active in TESA and other women's suffrage groups throughout the years until women got the vote in 1919. That year, TESA was dissolved and the Texas League of Women Voters was formed with most of the same women involved. Runge continued her involvement, attending functions such as League lunches and lectures. She paid special attention to the equal pay issue, speaking out against unfair pay practices at conferences and meetings as early as 1912 and even during World War I, at a Waco convention in 1917. There is documentation that shows Runge took part in a League of Women Voters luncheon in 1921; after that, Runge's affiliation with the suffrage movement ends. Her name appears in a few newspaper social calendars in Dallas, Houston and San Antonio newspapers in the 1920s, her last mentions in the public record.


Baines, Mrs. W.N., ed. Houston's Part in the World War. Houston: 1919. p. 61.

Christian, Stella L., ed. History of the Federation of Texas Women's Clubs. Houston: privately printed, 1919. p.39

Fall, Mrs. Henry. "Kindergartens of Houston." The Key to the City of Houston. December, 1908. p.67.

Harper, Ida H., et al, eds., The History of Woman Suffrage. Vol. 6. Salem, MA: Ayer Company. p. 631.[LINK to TX state report]

Houston Post. "Girls Musical Club." 23 October, 1921. p.26.

_____. "Patriotic Festival by Y.W.C.A. Friday" 30 May, 1917. p.7.

Inventory of the Las Moras Ranch Papers: 1869-1913(bulk: 1900-1913). Cushing Library. University of Texas at Austin.

"Kindergarten Training School." Advertisement in The Kindergarten Magazine. April, 1900. p. 525

Runge, Julia. "Manual Training in the Kindergarten." Dallas Morning News. 21 May, 1900. p.6.

Thompson, Minette. "Houston Home of the Texas Equal Suffrage Movement." The Houston Post. 25 August, 1918. p. 36.

Turner, Elizabeth Hayes. Women, Culture, and Community: Religion and Reform in Galveston, 1880-1920. Oxford University Press, 1997. EBSCOhost.

United States Passport Application for Julia Runge. June 13, 1910.

Wygant, Larry J. "'A Municipal Broom': The Woman Suffrage Campaign in Galveston." TheHouston Review. 6.3. 1984. Pp. 117-134.

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