Gay, Bettie Munn (1836–1921)

By: Melissa G. Wiedenfeld

Type: Biography

Published: January 1, 1995

Updated: June 21, 2016

Bettie Munn Gay, prominent member of the Farmers' Alliance and women's rights advocate, daughter of Mary Ann (Talbert) and Neill Munn, was born on December 24, 1836, in Monroe County, Alabama. While she was a small child her parents moved to Texas, and by 1844 her stepfather, Reddin Andrews, was teaching school in Rutersville. In 1851 Bettie Munn married Rufus King Gay in Fayette County, where they lived briefly. Gay served four years in the Civil War, after which he returned to a 1,700-acre farm in Colorado County to settle with his wife and their only surviving child, James Jehu Bates Gay, who later became a prominent Populist. Gay died in 1880, leaving his wife with a farm to manage and a mortgage to pay. In addition to managing her farm successfully, Bettie Gay participated actively in the Farmers' Alliance, the Socialist party, and the Baptist Church.

She played a large role in the Farmers' Alliance, although her only official position was as a delegate from Texas to the national Farmers' Alliance and Industrial Union meeting in St. Louis in 1892. As early as 1888 she wrote to the editor of the Southern Mercury, the official newspaper of the Texas Farmers' Alliance, urging alliance members to boycott high-priced coffee. In 1889 she wrote again, urging a revival of the alliance. The same year Nelson Dunning included a chapter on "The Influence of Women in the Alliance" by Bettie Gay in his Farmers' Alliance History and Agricultural Digest. Gay recommended education as a way women could improve their status in society. In 1894 and 1895 she continued to express herself on women's rights, including suffrage, in letters to the Southern Mercury. She believed that women were better informed in political economy than many men and that it was up to women to reform the world with their votes. Accordingly, she also worked for prohibition. She died in 1921 and is buried in Columbus, Texas.

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Annie L. Diggs, "The Women in the Alliance Movement," Arena, June 1982. Melissa Gilbert Wiedenfeld, Women in the Texas Farmers' Alliance (M.A. thesis, Texas Tech University, 1983).

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

Melissa G. Wiedenfeld, “Gay, Bettie Munn,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed August 18, 2022,

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January 1, 1995
June 21, 2016

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