Frances Tarleton Farenthold, sometimes referred to as “Sissy,” was born on October 2nd, 1926 in Texas. During her childhood, she attended public schools, then Hockaday Preparatory School in 1946. She continued to receive her Bachelor of Arts from Vassar College in 1946; she later became a member of their board of Trustees. Frances went even further and attended the University of Texas law school and obtained her Doctorate in Jurisprudence in 1949. A year later she married George Farenthold. Together, they had five children, one of whom tragically passed away during early childhood.
While she was raising a family, she was also very active in civil rights organizations as well as built a successful political and law career. She was an outspoken advocate for government reform and civil rights for women and people of color who lacked representation in the political world.
She was one of the early women in U.S. politics that paved the road for others to follow, accomplishing many firsts and becoming a role model for many young women. She served two consecutive terms as the only woman in the Texas House of Representatives in 1968 and 1972. She also was the first woman to be nominated for Vice President of the United States at the national convention in 1972. She also was the 1st chairwoman of the National Women’s Political Caucus from 1973-1975.
In 1975, she was invited as a guest speaker at Wells College for a conference about Women’s Rights. She instantly fell in love with the college’s charm and beautiful landscape. Shortly after, she asked to become the first female president of the college and, overjoyed, she agreed. On September 20th, 1976, she was inaugurated as the thirteenth president of Wells College and served here until 1980. At her inauguration ceremony, there was a time capsule that was sealed and is dated to be opened on September 20th, 2076.
Before her time here, Wells was suffering economically and was on the verge of having to make a hard decision at the time; closing its doors or becoming a co-educational institution. However, thanks to President Farenthold’s financial planning, and the assistance that came flooding in from alumnae after her inauguration, she was able to cut the deficit and allow Wells to stay an all-women’s college for a while longer. Due to this, her successful background and beliefs, she became a role model to the young women who attended Wells.
Information taken from the print and photo collection of the Wells College Archive, Louis Jefferson Long Library, Aurora, New York.
Shelby Talbot ’19
Tiffany Raymond ’10, Reference and Instruction Librarian