Remembering politician, Bulletin supporter Frances ‘Sissy’ Farenthold

By | September 29, 2021

From left, Sissy Farenthold, Patricia Dougherty and Tim Rieser at the Bulletin’s 2019 Annual Event in Chicago. Photo by Ana Miyares.From left, Sissy Farenthold, Patricia Dougherty and Tim Rieser at the Bulletin’s 2019 Annual Event in Chicago. Photo by Ana Miyares.

She was always “Sissy” to her friends, and Frances T. Farenthold was always “Sissy” to the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.

But Farenthold was much more, including an advocate for nuclear disarmament and women’s rights, lawyer, politician, and pioneer.

She died Sept. 26 at her home in Houston due to complications from Parkinson’s disease, according to the Washington Post. She was 94.

“Sissy was a force of nature, and we at the Bulletin were so touched that she shared a little bit of that force with us,” said Rachel Bronson, the Bulletin’s president and CEO. “She was a remarkable woman who in recent years would always fly to Chicago to support our annual event. When she cared, she seemed to put her body and soul into it.”

Farenthold was born Mary Frances Tarlton in Corpus Christin on Oct. 2, 1926 to what the New York Times described as an “eminent Democratic family.” She earned a law degree from the University of Texas in 1949 and launched her political career in 1968 when she was elected to the Texas legislature. She served two terms in the Texas House of Representatives where she “helped improve legislative transparency in the wake of a government stock-fraud scandal and spearheaded the passage of a state equal rights amendment,” according to the Times.

She was a pioneer in leadership and politics, including a vice presential nomination in 1972 long before Geraldine Ferraro made it onto the 1984 ballot. Farenthold also became the first chairwoman of the National Political Caucus in 1973 and the first woman to serve as president of Wells College in Aurora, NY. She was a two-time candidate for the governor of Texas and was once named to a list of the 50 most influential women in America.

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