Florence Theodora Terry Shaw Brundage Griswold, cattle woman, suffragist, and founder of the Pan American Round Table, was born Florence Theodora Terry near Eagle Pass, Texas, on May 29, 1875, to Louisa Jane (Lampkin or Lamkin) Terry and Judge William Theodore Terry. The family lived near the Texas-Mexico border on The Pendencia, a ranching settlement located in an area between Eagle Pass and Carrizo Springs, Texas. Florence had three older siblings: Annie Louise, Alice, and William Nathaniel. Growing up on The Pendencia fostered her appreciation of both Mexican and American cultures and the interdependency both groups played in the region. Her compassion for others started when she witnessed poverty and malnourishment in Mexican communities along the border. Florence’s social position as a daughter of a wealthy rancher provided her the means to help those she recognized as poverty-stricken and in need of assistance.
On September 5, 1894, Florence Terry married Felix Shaw, a prominent rancher, in Dimmit County, Texas. The couple had four children: Ruth, Adele, Hazel, and Felix Matlow, Jr. The Shaws lived on West Woodlawn Avenue in San Antonio, Texas, during the children’s school year. During 1908 Felix Shaw suffered a heart attack and died, leaving the cattle business—consisting of three ranches—in Florence’s hands. Within two years, she increased her holdings to include more than 100,000 acres and 5,000 cattle between her ranches in Webb and Dimmit counties. These vast holdings earned her the title of the “cattle queen of Southwest Texas.” Her success led President James Callan of the Cattle Raisers Association of Texas to select Florence Shaw as a delegate to the 1909 Trans-Mississippi Congress, and in 1910 she helped bring the congress to San Antonio, which she attended as the only female delegate.
Florence Terry Shaw married Spencer Patterson Brundage, who practiced real estate at Hust & Brundage Company, on September 29, 1910, but the couple divorced around three years later. Her second husband brought Florence into contact with international government elites as well as politicians and other wealthy individuals, perhaps through his involvement with the International Club that advertised San Antonio to potential international visitors. She later married insurance executive John Case Griswold on June 8, 1914. Her financial success and social standing allowed Florence to embrace the life of a socialite through her memberships in social clubs such as the Reading Club and the Woman’s Club. She expressed her passion for music by joining the San Antonio Woman’s and Symphony Society and the San Antonio Musical Club. In 1912 the Equal Franchise Society of San Antonio was established. Florence Griswold served as the corresponding secretary for the organization in 1914 and met with U.S. congressmen to discuss the status of the suffrage amendment. Because of the local success of the San Antonio franchise society regarding suffrage, Griswold utilized her connections to other groups, such as the Woman’s Club of San Antonio, to help promote the work for suffrage to various club meetings across the state.
Florence Griswold also spoke frequently at social events for various clubs in San Antonio. On May 5, 1915, she participated in San Antonio’s Suffrage School, an organizing effort to arm suffragists at the local level with information and logical arguments to combat anti-suffrage rhetoric. At a Woman’s Club event in November 1915, she gave a speech titled, “The Further Humanizing of Government by the Extension of Suffrage to Women,” in which she argued that placing women’s participation in the democratic process was essential in achieving true progress in society. According to Florence, granting full citizenship rights to women would uplift the entire country.
During July 1916 Griswold chaired the convention committee of eight women who presented arguments promoting woman suffrage at the state Democratic convention. Despite opposition by Texas Governor James E. Ferguson and U. S. Senator from Texas Joseph Weldon Bailey, two of the state’s most prominent Democrats, Florence’s committee successfully received the unanimous endorsement of the state Democratic party. Her political interests extended to national causes when she chaired the suffrage committee of the Food Administration. Herbert Hoover led the Food Administration, organized in 1917, which controlled food output in the United States. Griswold organized a Suffrage-Hoover tea featuring speakers and musical performances to rally support for the effort by encouraging women to sign Hoover pledge cards that promoted food conservation.
Although she was concerned with the war in Europe, she also paid close attention to the conflict in Mexico, a country near and dear to her heart and home. During the Mexican Revolution, Texas served as a hub for various revolutionaries, fundraising activities, Mexican refugees, political movements, and state and national policing actions. Florence’s early life, spent in the community along the Texas-Mexico border, compelled her to help families fleeing across the border into Texas during the Mexican Revolution. On October 16, 1916, Griswold established the Pan American Round Table at the Menger Hotel in San Antonio. The Pan American Round Table had two objectives: to support programs aiding women and children and to strengthen relationships between nations in the Western Hemisphere through friendship and cultural appreciation. Unlike men, who focused on economic and political motivations, Florence promoted the idea of cultivating positive international relations through humanitarian efforts. Her social connections in San Antonio enabled her to garner the support necessary to build this organization and effectively provide aid to countless individuals from its inception to the present day. Florence Griswold devoted much of her life to building the Pan American Round Table, and the organization operated branches in numerous cities throughout the United States and in several countries in Latin America.
Throughout Griswold’s life, she remained socially and politically active. Aside from her work with the Pan American Round Table, she served as the Republican National Committeewoman for Texas for eight years. She advocated equal pay for equal work as well as including the unpaid labor of housewives as an essential part of the economy. Florence also served as the general chairman of a coalition of women—Republican and Democrat—supporting Wendell Willkie’s run for president of the United States in 1940.
Florence Theodora Terry Shaw Brundage Griswold died at the age of sixty-six on July 7, 1941, at Nix Hospital in San Antonio. Her obituary in the San Antonio Light described her as a “prominent San Antonio clubwoman,” devoted to “promoting cultural relations between the United States and the Latin American countries.” The Texas divisions of the Pan American Round Table, which is still thriving today, established a scholarship and an endowment fund in her name that provides financial assistance to Latin American graduate students at state-supported Texas universities and graduate students from Texas studying at a Latin American university or another institution. She is buried in Mission Burial Park South in San Antonio, Texas.