Ann Richards served as the 45th Governor of Texas from 1991 to 1995 and was defeated for re-election in 1994 by George W. Bush. She was the second female governor of Texas, and was frequently noted in the media for her outspoken feminism.
Richards entered politics in the 1950 as a volunteer for several Democratic gubernatorial campaigns. She later ran the successful campaign to elect Sarah Weddington—the lawyer who argued the winning side of Roe v. Wade in front of the U.S. Supreme Court—to the Texas legislature in 1972.
Four years later, Richards made her first bid for public office. She won a commissioner position for Travis County. She then moved from local to state government in 1982 when she won the election to become the state treasurer. She was re-elected to that post in 1986.
Richards’ political profile kept rising. She was in the national spotlight for the keynote address at the 1988 National Democratic Convention. In 1990, Richards ran for governor, pledging to increase the role of minorities and women in state government. Once elected, she made good on her promise by adding African-Americans and women to the Texas Rangers, a law enforcement agency.
While serving as governor, Richards was appointed chairwoman of the Democratic National Convention in 1992. The convention selected Bill Clinton to run for president of the United States.
After leaving public office in 1995, Richards lent her voice and her expertise to numerous liberal causes. She offered advice and counsel to other Democratic politicians and helped create the Ann Richards School for Young Women Leaders in Austin. Employing techniques especially tailored for female students with an emphasis on leadership skills, the school opened in 2007—an achievement Richards herself did not have the chance to witness. After battling esophageal cancer for six months, Richards died from complications of the disease on September 13, 2006, in Austin, Texas.