Ring, Elizabeth L. Fitzsimmons (1857–1941)

By: Sharon Bice Endelman

Type: Biography

Published: 1976

Updated: February 16, 2020

Elizabeth Ring, clubwoman and social reformer, daughter of Henry and Elizabeth L. Fitzsimmons, was born in Houston on October 31, 1857. After attending Miss Brown's Young Ladies Boarding and Day School, she married attorney Henry Franklin Ring in 1880. In addition to raising their two sons, Mrs. Ring embarked upon a public service career that involved her with numerous reform movements within the state over the next fifty years. Her earliest civic campaigns focused on expanding library service for Houston and the state. In 1899, as president of the Ladies' Reading Club, she led a cooperative effort by several Houston clubs to persuade the city to take over the funding of the Houston Lyceum library. At the same time, as chairman of the library committee of the Texas Federation of Women's Clubs, she led the drive for state-supported libraries and convinced the governor of the need to appoint a state library commission (see TEXAS STATE LIBRARY AND ARCHIVES COMMISSION). The expertise that she developed at the state level led to a subsequent appointment as chairman of the library committee of the General Federation of Women's Clubs. She was instrumental in forming the Houston Federation of Women's Clubs in 1900 and used this group to mount a successful campaign to obtain a Carnegie Library for Houston. From 1900 until her death, she served as a library trustee.

After her husband's death in 1915, Elizabeth Ring took a two-year course at the Texas School of Civics and Philanthropy that qualified her as a social worker. At Mayor Ben Campbell's request, she became acting director of the Houston Foundation; as such she supervised community welfare programs for the duration of World War I. In this capacity she was also influential in urging the establishment of a publicly funded city recreation department. She was a supporter of the woman suffrage movement and also lent her energy to the local war effort as chairman of the Houston Women's Liberty Loan Committee. Ring was twice elected president of the Houston Federation of Women's Clubs and worked within the state federation in support of legislation that founded a College of Industrial Arts for women (now Texas Woman's University). She served on the TWU board of regents from 1929 until her death. While chairing successively the state federation's social and industrial conditions committee and its public welfare department, she lobbied for protective legislation for women and children in industry and a minimum-wage law for working women. Her campaign for prison reform in the 1920s resulted in the formation of the Texas Committee on Prisons and Prison Labor, a group of fifty-two outstanding citizens who successfully pressured the legislature into authorizing an independent survey of prison conditions; its findings became the basis of Governor Daniel J. Moody's prison reform plan (see PRISON SYSTEM). Ring served as first vice chairman of the Texas Committee and developed a statewide reputation that led to related appointments: she was a member of the Joint Legislative Council committee on prison reform, state chairman of the prison reform committee of the League of Women Voters of Texas, and an advisory member of the National Committee on Prisons and Prison Labor. Elizabeth Ring died on September 8, 1941, while on a visit to Alpine, Texas. In 1964 the Houston Public Library dedicated the Elizabeth L. Ring Branch in memory of her service and support.

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Orin Walker Hatch, Lyceum to Library: A Chapter in the Cultural History of Houston (Texas Gulf Coast Historical Association Publication Series 9.1 [September 1965]). Houston Daily Post, April 14, 1918. Mrs. Henry F. (Elizabeth L.) Ring Papers, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin. Mrs. Roland Ring Collection, Houston Public Library. Ruth West, "In Reminiscence," Houston Gargoyle, June 15, 1930. Who's Who of the Womanhood of Texas, 1924.

  • Education
  • Activism and Social Reform
  • Advocates
  • School Trustees and Regents
  • Women
  • Activists
  • Women's Clubs
Time Periods:
  • Progressive Era
  • Houston
  • Upper Gulf Coast
  • East Texas

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

Sharon Bice Endelman, “Ring, Elizabeth L. Fitzsimmons,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed July 05, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/ring-elizabeth-l-fitzsimmons.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

February 16, 2020

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