A Rare Victory for Texas Woman 1888

Lola Houck’s first-class ticket bought her a nightmarish 90-mile railroad journey. Mrs. Houck, whose lawyers carefully asserted was “a woman of education and refinement” had made the same trip numerous times without incident. However on September 21, 1886, a railroad employee physically barred her from entering the first-class car because she was black. The Jim Crow car was—in Mrs. Houck’s words, “not a fit place for a woman to go in”—being filled with smoke and rough characters both white and black, so she was compelled to ride between the cars in a rainstorm. She brought a lawsuit against the Southern Pacific Company that went to trial in 1888.

In a rare victory, the judge awarded Mrs. Houck $2,500 in damages and denied the company’s motion for a retrial.