Social Graces on the Texas Frontier: The Lizzie Johnson Papers

Welcome to a special exhibit featuring highlights from the incoming correspondence of Lizzie Johnson, "Cattle Queen." Spanning approximately 1860-1886, the items in this exhibit appear in the Johnson Family Papers (1842-1963) housed in Southwestern University's Smith Library Center Special Collections. Although no photographs or outgoing correspondence survive, the collection highlights exhibited here provide remarkable insights into the young-adulthood of this dynamic female entrepreneur, whose legacy occupies a unique chapter in 19th-century Central Texas history. Over the course of her career Johnson was a schoolteacher in the Austin area, a bookkeeper for cattlemen, and a cattle investor with her own registered brand; upon her marriage to Hezekiah G. Williams in 1879, Johnson implemented a prenuptial agreement stipulating that she would continue to manage her own property and financial affairs.

The items featured here bear witness not only to Johnson's independent spirit; they also provide broad perspective on the social forms and conventions that helped shape life on the Texas frontier. In order to contextualize the items in terms of the social norms and expectations they reveal, each page of the exhibit includes supplemental materials from The Ladies' Model Letter Writer (187-?) and Gaskell's Compendium of Forms (1882), both 19th-century etiquette resources housed in SU's Special Collections. 


Charlotte Nunes and Rachel Robinson