Sterling, Florence M. (1871–1940)

By: Judith N. McArthur

Type: Biography

Published: July 1, 1995

Updated: March 19, 2021

Florence M. Sterling, business executive and women's rights proponent, was born on October 13, 1871, at Anahuac, Texas, the daughter of Benjamin Franklin and Mary (Bryan) Sterling. She began her business career as a bookkeeper at R. S. Sterling and Company, the corporation founded by her brother, Ross S. Sterling, and later assumed the position of secretary. By 1915 she had become secretary-treasurer of the company. Concurrently, she joined her brothers Ross and Frank in the management of their fledgling Humble Oil Company (now Exxon Company, U.S.A.) where she assumed the position of assistant secretary-treasurer in 1913. She retained this title after the company was reorganized as Humble Oil and Refining and eventually became secretary-treasurer. After 1920, when corporate growth forced a separation of the two offices, she became secretary, a position that she retained until her retirement in 1925. During her years at R. S. Sterling and at Humble she also served a brief term as vice president of the Harris County Building and Loan Association. Florence Sterling advocated political equality for women and held presidential office in a number of organizations that promoted voting rights and responsibilities for women, including the Houston Suffrage League, the Women's Political League of Houston, the Houston League of Women Voters, and the Texas Women's Democratic League. When the National Woman's party organized a Texas branch in 1916 Sterling was elected second vice president. She was well known for her civic and club work; she was treasurer of the Houston Recreation and Community Service Association and director of peace and arbitration for the Texas branch of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union. In the last phase of her career she edited and published her own magazine, Woman's Viewpoint, in which she publicized women's achievements and stressed their obligation to participate in civic and political affairs. She especially urged women to exercise their newly won right to vote and to channel their moral sensibilities into an effective force for clean government, strong prohibition and drug-enforcement laws, and world peace. The Woman's Viewpoint, produced by an all-female editorial staff, began publication as a weekly in December 1923; within a year the magazine had changed to monthly publication, and by the time it failed in 1927 it was appearing only quarterly. Florence Sterling never married. She died in Houston on March 24, 1940, and was buried in Glenwood Cemetery. See also WOMAN SUFFRAGE.

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Houston Post, March 24, 1940. The Suffragist, January 29, 1916. Who's Who of the Womanhood of Texas, Vol. 1 (Fort Worth: Texas Federation of Women's Clubs, 1923–24).

  • Oil and Gas Industry
  • Business
  • Women
  • Suffragists and Antisuffragists
  • Writers, Authors, Publications, and Literature
  • Publications, Journals, and Magazines
Time Periods:
  • Great Depression
  • Texas in the 1920s
  • Houston
  • Upper Gulf Coast
  • East Texas

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

Judith N. McArthur, “Sterling, Florence M.,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed August 15, 2022,

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July 1, 1995
March 19, 2021

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