Annette Greenfield Strauss becomes first elected female mayor of Dallas
Although Adlene Harrison had won appointment as mayor of Dallas in 1976, Annette Greenfield Strauss became the city's first elected woman mayor on April 18, 1987, two weeks after winning a plurality of the vote in a mayoral primary.
The election capped Strauss's long history of involvement in civic affairs in Dallas. Although she did not become a member of the Dallas City Council until 1983, her engagement with city affairs started in 1947, when she began volunteering as a fundraiser for the United Jewish Appeal (UJA). Her success with the UJA led to a well-recognized career as Dallas's most effective volunteer fundraiser. Over four decades, she worked on behalf of causes ranging from the Dallas Symphony to the Baylor University Medical Center, and from the Dallas Black Dance Theatre to the United Way. By one estimate, she raised over $20 million for citywide campaigns and projects.
When she turned to the political arena, Strauss's long experience of networking for fundraising helped her to win votes. Promising to be the "mayor of all the people," she pulled together a coalition that included both affluent white voters and poor black and Latino voters. Together, their votes enabled Strauss to defeat her main challenger, who was supported by the Dallas business establishment that had traditionally anointed the city's leaders.
Strauss served as mayor of Dallas until 1991 and then became a public relations consultant. As mayor, she was noted for her ability to build consensus across political lines and across economic strata. After her term, she was appointed ambassador-at-large for Dallas, a position she held until her death in December 1998. In the intervening years, she continued to be active in social and philanthropic causes, and was frequently honored for her work. In 1996, she was awarded the first Annette G. Strauss Humanitarian Award by a homeless shelter she had previously helped to found. She was inducted into the Texas Women's Hall of Fame and received the University of Texas's Distinguished Alumnus Award. Today, an arts commons in Dallas, a lecture series at Southern Methodist University, and an Institute for Civic Participation at UT-Austin are named in her honor.
Sources: http://communication.utexas.edu/strauss/annette-strauss-legacy; Jewish Women in America: An Historical Encyclopedia, p. 1348; New York Times, April 6, 1987, April 20, 1987.
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Jewish Women's Archive. "Annette Greenfield Strauss becomes first elected female mayor of Dallas." (Viewed on September 2, 2015) <http://jwa.org/thisweek/apr/18/1987/annette-greenfield-strauss>.