Women's Health Protective Association

By: Jane A. Kenamore

Type: General Entry

Published: September 1, 1995

The Women's Health Protective Association promoted public health and city beautification in Galveston during the first half of the twentieth century. Less than six months after the devastating Galveston hurricane of 1900, a group of sixty-six women established the organization to clean and replant the city. Led by the social elite of Galveston, the WHPA invited women of all social and economic classes to join their efforts. During the first decade of operation the women focused their efforts on city beautification. Though it was renowned as a tropical paradise before 1900, Galveston lost nearly all its trees and shrubs in the tidal flooding that accompanied the hurricane. The grade-raising project that followed the storm made the city a safer place to live; however, virtually all remaining vegetation in the fill area died under several feet of dredge material. While the grade-raising was still in progress, the WHPA studied vegetation that would thrive in Galveston's windy, hot, and humid climate, and the group replanted parts of the city outside the fill area. With money from dues and fundraisers such as horse shows and seed sales, the women imported oaks, palms, cottonwoods, and elms to plant along city streets and to sell at cost to private citizens. By 1906 the organization was operating its own nursery on land donated by J. C. League, and by 1912 the women had planted nearly 10,000 trees and 2,500 oleanders throughout the city. Once the WHPA had established the movement to beautify Galveston, they shifted their emphasis to public health and sanitation. In February 1913 the women joined with the Galveston Commercial Association to ask Dr. J. P. Simonds, head of the preventive medicine department at the University of Texas Medical Branch, to conduct a sanitation survey. Simonds completed the survey within two months. He reported that Galveston lacked strong civic pride and recommended that the city enforce sanitary laws, pass a building ordinance, regularly inspect sources of the city's milk supply, provide regular medical examinations to schoolchildren, establish more playgrounds, and eliminate breeding places for mosquitoes. Armed with the results of the sanitation survey, the WHPA successfully lobbied the city to appoint a dairy inspector and a building inspector and to pass ordinances regulating grocery stores and bakeries and requiring property owners and lessors to be responsible for maintaining clean sidewalks and alleys abutting their property. The women formed watchdog committees to ensure enforcement of the new ordinances. Other projects that the WHPA supported during the first two decades of the twentieth century included the establishment of the children's hospital at the University of Texas Medical Branch, the passage of the city's first zoning ordinance, and the annual antituberculosis Christmas stamp campaign. At its height the WHPA had over 400 members. Though the organization did not maintain the extraordinary level of activity established during the first twenty years of the century, it continued for the next fifty years to work for city beautification. In 1924 the association changed its name to Women's Civic League, and in the 1940s it became the Galveston Civic League.

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Meigs O. Frost, "The Women of Galveston," Southern Women's Magazine, June 1914. Galveston Daily News, March 7, 1901, January 10, 1912, February 22, 1913, December 11, 1921. Galveston Tribune, December 31, 1920. Women's Civic League Records, Rosenberg Library, Galveston, Texas.
  • Health and Medicine
  • Organizations
  • Associations
  • Boards
  • Women
  • Activism and Social Reform

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

Jane A. Kenamore, “Women's Health Protective Association,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed August 15, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/womens-health-protective-association.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

September 1, 1995

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