Annette Greenfield Strauss made history in the spring of 1987 when she was elected as the first female and first Jewish mayor of Dallas. By then, she had already served on the city council since 1983 and as mayor pro tem since 1984.
A tireless worker for civic and religious causes, Annette Louise Greenfield Strauss was born in Houston, Texas, on January 26, 1924. Her parents were Edith and J. B. Greenfield, the son of a rabbi. After graduating from Houston public schools, Annette attended Rice University in her hometown for one year before transferring to the University of Texas at Austin. While at college, she was named Outstanding Woman Speaker in the Southwest. She graduated, Phi Beta Kappa, with a bachelor’s degree in sociology in 1944. The following year, she earned a master’s degree in sociology and psychology at Columbia University, while working as a fashion model for the John Robert Powers agency. In 1946, she married Theodore H. Strauss. Three months later, the newlyweds moved to Dallas.
Unable to get a paying job, Strauss began to volunteer for the United Jewish Appeal Drive. This first effort led to her remarkable career as Dallas’s most effective fund-raiser. She raised over $20 million as the leader of many citywide campaigns and projects. At the University of Texas Health Science Center, she established a chair in geriatrics. She also raised funds for the women’s division of the United Jewish Appeal, the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, the women’s division of the United Way and the Dallas County Heart Fund Campaign.
Her honors included an honorary doctorate of humane letters from Southern Methodist University, an honorary doctorate of public service from the University of North Texas, the National Council of Jewish Women’s Hannah Solomon Award for Outstanding Volunteer Service, the National Mother’s Day Committee “Mother of the Year” Award, the Dallas Council of World Affairs Neil Mallon Award for Distinguished Civic Service, the Jewish National Fund’s “Person of Valor” Award, Town and Country magazine’s Honor Role of Volunteer Women in the United States and the John F. Kennedy Commitment to Excellence Award. In addition, an annual humanitarian award is named in her honor.
After completing her term as mayor in 1991, Strauss served as an ambassador at large for the city of Dallas. She was chair of the board of the John G. Tower Center for Political Studies at Southern Methodist University and of the Dallas Council of World Affairs. She also served on the development boards of the University of Texas and the Dallas Institute of Humanities and Culture. She was a director or trustee for numerous other organizations.
Her Judaism was the springboard to her career. While she began as a volunteer for Jewish causes, she then reached out to help all people.
Annette Greenfield Strauss, whom many in Dallas called an “anchor of love” and “a guardian angel,” died of cancer on December 14, 1998. An entire city mourned her passing. In 2000, The University of Texas at Austin established the Annette Strauss Institute for Civic Participation in her memory.
Biography Index. Vol. 12 (1984), and Vol. 15 (1988); Castleberry, Vivian Anderson. Daughters of Dallas: A History of Greater Dallas through the Voices and Deeds of Its Women. Dallas: 1994; Who’s Who in American Politics. New Providence, NJ: 1993; Who’s Who of Women in World Politics. New York: 1991; Who’s Who in Advertising. New Providence, NJ: 1990; Who’s Who of American Women. New Providence, NJ: 1993; Who’s Who in the South and Southwest. New Providence, NJ: 1988; Winegarten, Ruthe, and Cathy Schecter. Deep in the Heart: The Lives and Legends of Texas Jews. Austin: 1990; “Annette Strauss, 1924–1998.” Editorial in Dallas Business Journal, December 18, 1999.
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Guzman, Jane Bock. "Annette Greenfield Strauss." Jewish Women: A Comprehensive Historical Encyclopedia. 20 March 2009. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on August 19, 2019) <https://jwa.org/encyclopedia/article/strauss-annette-greenfield>.