Fay M. Bloom Sinkin, conservationist, community organizer, and activist, known as the “Mother of Aquifer Protection,” was born on March 24, 1918, in New York City. She was the daughter of Amelia (Kronish) Bloom and Joseph E. Bloom. Growing up in New York state, mostly in New York City, she enjoyed a predominantly middle-class life that her father’s work provided as journalist for William Randolph Hearst and later in marketing and advertising. One of her very first introductions to nature and the beauty of the environment was in Tarrytown, New York, where she enjoyed touring Japanese-style gardens.
In 1934 Fay Bloom moved to Lynchburg, Virginia, for her first year at Randolph-Macon Woman’s College, where she first witnessed the racial tensions between Whites and African Americans and became conscious of her own identity as a Jewish woman. After one year, she left the college for Syracuse University where she obtained her bachelor of arts degree in 1938. At Syracuse she joined the Phi Sigma Sigma sorority. By 1940 she was teaching dance in New York City and living with her mother, father, and younger brother Robert.
Fay Bloom married William “Bill” Rashall Sinkin in May 1942. William Sinkin, who built his reputation as a prominent businessman in San Antonio, Texas, took a trip to New York to buy goods for the small dry goods stores he owned back in San Antonio and met Fay while doing business. Shortly after they married Fay moved to San Antonio where she became increasingly involved with local government and a variety of social issues
Fay Sinkin’s first entrance into politics and organizing was in 1947 when she became the president of the League of Women Voters in San Antonio. The major issues that she and the League of Women Voters advocated were access to water and proper infrastructure for sewage systems. The League of Women Voters, under Sinkin, went door-to-door and counted all of the privies in the West Side (a predominantly Mexican American and Black community), documented the lack of sewage infrastructure in impoverished areas, and advocated that the problems be addressed by the local government and health department. Sinkin served as the president of the league until 1951—her intense passion for water quality was in full force. By 1953 she had already made a large enough impact in San Antonio that she was named “Woman of the Year” by the San Antonio Express/News. She was the first woman to serve on the San Antonio Board of Health and served as first president of the Visiting Nurse Association.
Concerned about the quality of the San Antonio Independent School District, Sinkin ran for a place on the San Antonio Independent School District board in 1957. She organized her campaign along two major changes—that the cafeteria food be organized and planned by an actual dietician and that schools implement a course for gifted students. Her opponent, Garlington Jerome Sutton, mounted a massive campaign against her, and she lost. That same year Sinkin became the first woman to serve on a grand jury in San Antonio.
By late 1950s and early 1960s, Bill Sinkin was involved in what became HemisFair ’68, and he was named the first president of San Antonio Fair, Incorporated in 1962. The next year Sinkin took a job offer, originally extended to her husband, from the Lyndon B. Johnson Administration to recruit for the Agency for International Development. Traveling across South Texas, she recruited mostly Mexican American professionals with prior leadership or professional training to work for the United States to develop civilian police forces in Latin America.
In 1976 Sinkin, at the request of the League of Women Voters and others, founded the Aquifer Protection Association in San Antonio. In coalition with the league and Communities Organized for Public Service, the APA organized against the construction of a strip mall on top of the recharge zone of the Edwards Aquifer, a precious natural source of water for the entire city and for a large portion of Central Texas. The APA coalition successfully petitioned for a city-wide vote that decided to stop construction over the recharge zone within city limits. However, although the coalition successfully petitioned for a referendum regarding the construction of the strip mall, the vote was considered null because the Texas Constitution (see CONSTITUTION OF 1876) at the time did not allow referendums.
From 1983 to 1989 Fay Sinkin served on the board of the Edwards Underground Water District (created in 1959) and was the first woman so elected. On the board, she helped advocate the protection of the Edwards Aquifer based on the cost to turn towards surface water. During this time, she also introduced xeriscaping—using indigenous plants to landscape in the city and in parks. She was inducted into the San Antonio Women’s Hall of Fame in 1985. She received the Women in Communication Inc. Headline Award in 1989. Shortly after leaving her position with the Edwards Underground Water District, Sinkin founded the Edwards Aquifer Preservation Trust by 1990. The trust helped purchase and preserve the land over the Edwards Aquifer Recharge Zone that eventually became Government Canyon State Natural Area in San Antonio. In 2005 the Government Canyon State Natural Area opened with a tree ceremony and plaque dedicated to Sinkin’s passion and dedication to preserving the aquifer. At her passing in 2009, the Medallion Natural Area, located near Government Canyon and the University of Texas at San Antonio, was renamed the Fay and William Sinkin Natural Area.
Fay M. Bloom Sinkin died on March 4, 2009, in San Antonio. She was buried in the Congregation of Beth El Memorial Park. Her life’s work as the “Mother of Aquifer Protection” in San Antonio lived on through the establishment of the Fay and William Sinkin Environmental Fund that was created to provide education to children on issues related to the environment and conservation.
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“Fay Sinkin: San Antonio Water Conservationist,” Texas Legacy Project (http://texaslegacy.org/narrator/fay-sinkin/), accessed February 11, 2022. San Antonio Express-News, January 9, 1983; March 7, 2009. San Antonio Light, December 3, 1975; March 24, 1985. Fay Sinkin Collection, Edwards Aquifer Material, Trinity University Archives and Special Collections. Fay Sinkin Interview, May 13, 1997, Archives for Research on Women and Gender Oral History Project, MS 317, University of Texas at San Antonio Libraries Special Collections (https://digital.utsa.edu/digital/collection/p15125coll4/id/2119), accessed February 11, 2022. William and Fay Sinkin Papers, MS 64, University of Texas at San Antonio Libraries Special Collections.
Activism and Social Reform
Environment and Geography
Texas Post World War II
Texas in the 21st Century
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