Frances “Sissy” Farenthold

Lived:October 2, 1926—September 26, 2021 (aged 94)
Career:Texas State Representative, 1969-1973
Education:Vassar College
University of Texas School of Law

Frances Tarlton "Sissy" Farenthold is a politician, attorney, activist and educator who placed second in nomination for the office of vice president of the United States at the 1972 Democratic National Convention, the first woman to be seriously considered as a vice-presidential candidate in the United States.

Farenthold was born on October 2, 1926 in Corpus Christi, Texas. Her grandfather, Judge Benjamin D. Tarlton, Sr., served as chief justice of the Texas Court of Civil Appeals, a state legislator and a professor at the University of Texas School of Law. Her father, Benjamin D. Tarlton Jr., served as district attorney for the 36th Judicial District in Hill County. Farenthold graduated from Vassar College in 1946 and from the University of Texas School of Law in 1949, where she was one of only three women in a student body of 800. After law school, Farenthold returned to Corpus Christi to practice law in her father’s firm.

Farenthold served in the Texas House of Representatives from 1969 to 1973, the only woman serving in the Texas House at the time. Along with Senator Barbara Jordan, at that time the only woman serving in the Texas Senate, Farenthold co-sponsored the Equal Legal Rights Amendment to the Texas Constitution, which was approved in 1972.

At the 1972 Democratic National Convention, Farenthold placed second in a field of seven candidates for the vice-presidential nomination. In 1972 and 1974, she unsuccessfully sought the Democratic nomination for governor of Texas. In 1973, she was elected as the first chair of the National Women's Political Caucus.

From 1976 to 1980, Farenthold was president of Wells College in Aurora, New York, the first female president of the college. In 1978, she founded the Public Leadership Education Network, which provides public policy internships and leadership opportunities for college women. In 1980, she left Wells College, opened a private law practice in Houston and taught law at the University of Houston.

Along with her cousin, feminist writer Genevieve Vaughan, Farenthold organized the Peace Tent at the 1985 U.N. NGO Forum in Nairobi, Kenya. The two women also were founding members of Women For a Meaningful Summit, an ad hoc coalition of female leaders voicing concerns for nuclear disarmament at the Reagan-Gorbachev summits. Farenthold also worked with the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS), a progressive multi-issue think tank devoted to peace, justice, and the environment.

Farenthold passed away on Sept. 26, 2021, in Houston, Texas.


The University of Texas at Austin School of Law (n.d.). Frances Tarlton "Sissy" Farenthold: A noble citizen. Retrieved from on Feb. 24, 2020, from


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