Darden, Ida Mercedes Muse (1886–1980)

By: George N. Green

Type: Biography

Published: September 1, 1995

Updated: October 20, 2020

Ida Darden, conservative dissident, was born on March 9, 1886, into the Muse family, evidently in Bosque County, Texas, but the family soon moved to Moran. She claimed that her family staunchly opposed reform governor James S. Hogg and that Senator Joseph W. Bailey was a frequent visitor to their farm home. After briefly taking courses at a business college and at the University of Texas, in 1904 she married Bert Darden, an employee of Swift and Company in Fort Worth. The couple had a daughter, Helen, in 1905. Darden died in 1906, and Ida took up secretarial work. By the next decade she and her brother, Vance Muse, were employed by Bailey's friends, financier J. A. Arnold, for whom Ida worked, and lumber magnate John Henry Kirby, who employed Muse. They worked as publicists, fund-raisers, and lobbyists for a variety of conservative organizations, and the relationships lasted until the deaths of Kirby and Arnold in the 1940s. Ida was also employed by Pauline K. Wells as publicity director of the Texas Association Opposed to Woman Suffrage in 1916. The two ladies depicted woman suffrage as a socialist plot that would undermine White supremacy. Around 1920 Ida Darden married Fort Worth businessman Walter Myrick, who joined her and Muse in various projects. Their Southern Tariff Association, which lobbied for Arnold in the 1920s on behalf of higher tariffs for southern products, was investigated by Congress. Ida Darden denounced the Ku Klux Klan and voted for Al Smith in 1928. In 1932 she ran for congressman at large in the Democratic primary, believing the main issue to be stamping out prohibition, though she was personally dry. She published her first booklet in 1936, a gentle, tongue-in-cheek look at the Texas legislature, Gentlemen of the House.

By 1949, after decades of operating mostly behind the scenes, she was ready for a more public life. Financed largely by such Texas oilmen as George W. Armstrong and Arch Rowan, Darden launched her Southern Conservative, an eight-page newspaper, in Fort Worth in January 1950. Her major task was to take on the Communists, though she considered the fight nearly hopeless since she thought that Communist thinking had dominated all three branches of the government since 1933. Dwight D. Eisenhower, she thought, was as much a dupe of the Reds as Franklin Roosevelt. She considered the civil-rights movement, modern art, and modern movies all to be abominations perpetuated by inferior people. In 1959 she editorialized for the impeachment of all members of the United States Supreme Court. Darden was a Protestant, but she believed that the Protestant churches, having succumbed to the subversive social gospel, were increasingly atheistic. She alleged that all taxation was larceny and should be abolished, and that Edna Ferber's Giant was Communist propaganda from cover to cover, with its depictions of children who repudiated their parents for accumulating property and humiliated their fathers by marrying down. Darden terminated the paper in December 1961 and moved to Houston. She published two more booklets around this time—My Night (1951), a witty parody of Eleanor Roosevelt's "My Day" newspaper column, and Best of the Southern Conservative (1963), selected articles from her paper. Though most contemporary observers in Fort Worth in the 1950s regarded Darden as a crackpot, she did not lack influence. In the 1950s the Minute Women of the U.S.A. took over the Houston school board and harassed and fired teachers and administrators for alleged Communism. One of the two original organizers of the Minute Women was Darden's daughter, Helen Thomas, who was very close to her mother and was the resident intellectual and researcher in the organization. The C.I.O. News blamed the Southern Conservative for helping the Minute Women bar the annual United Nations essay contests in the Houston schools. A number of tumultuous events in Texas in the 1950s heartened ultraconservatives, and Ida Darden was with them every step of the way. Her columns were carried by or quoted favorably in daily papers in Dallas, Fort Worth, El Paso, and Lubbock. She died on March 24, 1980, in Holly Hall, New Hampshire, and is buried in Fort Worth.

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  • Journalism
  • Agriculture
  • Politics and Government
  • Women
  • Suffragists and Antisuffragists
Time Periods:
  • Progressive Era
  • Dallas/Fort Worth Region
  • Fort Worth
  • North Texas

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

George N. Green, “Darden, Ida Mercedes Muse,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed July 05, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/darden-ida-mercedes-muse.

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September 1, 1995
October 20, 2020

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