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Author to sign copies of book Thursday at Fort Hood

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Posted: Wednesday, March 19, 2014 4:30 am

The author of a new biography about Killeen native Oveta Culp Hobby will be signing books at Fort Hood on Thursday.

The book shines a light on Hobby’s extraordinary life in politics, as the head of a media empire and the first commander of the Women’s Army Corps.

Hobby’s legacy lives on at Fort Hood as the namesake of an elementary school and family readiness center.

Austin teacher and author Debra Winegarten wrote “Oveta Culp Hobby: Colonel, Cabinet Member, Philanthropist” to show young people they can achieve their dreams.

“I wondered when I was in the fifth grade, what could a young girl be when she grew up,” Winegarten said. “In school we studied and dressed up like a Texas hero Sam Houston or Jim Bowie, but there were no books on Texas women.”

Her mother, author Ruthe Winegarten wrote 18 books on women in Texas history, so writing is a part of her family tradition.

“Often I fell asleep to the sound of my mother’s typewriter,” she said.

A third generation Texan from Dallas, Winegarten also works as an administrative assistant in the astronomy department at the University of Texas at Austin, and she teaches sociology at South University in Austin.

Written for middle-school students, this is her fifth book and Winegarten made three research trips to study the Hobby archives at Rice University. Two of Hobby’s granddaughters spoke with her as did her son, Bill Hobby Jr. He also reviewed the book before it was published and gave it thumbs up.

At the age of 20 before women could even vote, Oveta Culp was the youngest parliamentarian in the Texas Legislature, making certain members followed the rules.

She married former Texas governor William P. Hobby, and together they owned and managed the Houston Post newspaper and radio and television stations.

But it was during World War II that Hobby drafted the plan for the Women’s Army Corps. She then became its first director.

“At that time, people had a level of patriotism that we rarely see today,” Winegarten said.

Hobby received the rank of colonel and served for two years. When the corps began, the Army identified only 54 jobs for women. By the time she left the corps, there were 254 jobs available.

Winegarten said she thinks Hobby was an unsung hero of the women’s movement before there was even a name for it although Hobby’s son disagreed. Looking at her stellar record, Oveta Culp Hobby broke down many barriers.

When Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower ran for president, Hobby started the Democrats for Eisenhower campaign. Once elected, Eisenhower chose her as secretary of health, education and welfare, making her the second woman appointed to a president’s cabinet.

“She was an amazing administrator and knew how to manage a lot of people and do it well,” Winegarten said.

“Oveta Culp Hobby opened doors for women to serve in the military as well as other professions that still benefit women and our country today,” she said. “I want the readers, especially the young girls, to know that they can have extraordinary lives and go way beyond the borders of a small Texas town because the whole world is open to them.”

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