Tonight’s musical selection is “The Times They Are A-Changing,” Bob Dylan’s famous hit, covered by Bruce Springsteen in 1997.

Statue of Angelina Eberly firing a cannon

Angelina Eberly: An inspiration for the modern Texas #FeministArmy?

As thousands of women take the streets in Austin, I’ve been thinking a lot recently about Angelina Eberly, whose statue stands on Congress, the main thoroughfare leading from the Texas Capitol directly south through Austin’s downtown. Her statue, designed by Pat Oliphant, is an unmistakable part of the city landscape — she stands firing a cannon, wind blowing through her clothes dramatically as she lights the fuse.

My friend Jessica linked me to this short biography from Humanities Texas:

Eberly was born in Tennessee in 1798 and came to Texas as a young woman. By 1839 she was widowed and running a boarding house in Austin. That year, the Texas Congress moved the Republic’s capital from Houston to Austin.

President Sam Houston, however, wanted to keep the capital in the city that bore his name. So when an invading army from Mexico reached San Antonio in 1842, ole Sam took advantage of the alarm to secretly order that government archives be transferred from Austin back to Houston, effectively moving the seat of government.

But as the boxes of land titles and other documents were being stealthily loaded onto wagons, Eberly spotted the activity. She made her way to an armed cannon to defend the city. She fired it, alerting the citizens of Austin. The archive conspirators bolted, but were caught less than twenty miles outside of town, and the vital documents were reclaimed.

The archives remained in Austin, and Austin remained the capital of the Republic—and subsequently of the state, when Texas joined the United States three years later. Eberly died in Indianola in 1860. Her gravesite is lost, but her likeness still stands guard over the streets of Austin.

How much of Austin’s weird and independent culture is inspiring the women’s uprising we’re seeing and nurturing at the Texas Capitol right now? How different would it have been if the Capitol had been moved to Houston, a city of industry with a far less rebellious spirit? Regardless, she stands as an inspiration to other women who would have their voices heard not just now, but also echoing forward into history.

 

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Photo by Kit O’Connell, released under a Creative Commons Share Alike license.