Texas Women's History Month: South Texas Philanthropist and Matriarch

Mar 9, 2017

Petra Kenedy's Tejano heritage and altruism, along with her husband's investments, influenced the development of most of South Texas.

Remembered as South Texas philanthropist and matriarch of a large family, Petra Kenedy was born to modest beginnings in Mier, Mexico, in 1823. She was one of 17 children and a descendent of the town’s settlers. She had eight children of her own with Mexican army officer Luis Vidal, who married someone else but in common practice maintained two families.

 

Six years after Vidal’s death in 1849, Kenedy married Mifflin Kenedy in Brownsville in a union of Tejano and Anglo cultures. The couple raised Kenedy’s surviving children and six of their own. With her Tejano heritage and altruism, and his investments in livestock, railroads and ranch land, they influenced the development of most of South Texas. They survived the Civil War, yellow fever epidemics, a devastating hurricane and the deaths of children and grandchildren.

 

Kenedy gave generously to build Catholic churches and alleviate poverty. In addition to caring for her children, she oversaw the health, housing and education of the many workers and their families at the Kenedy’s 200,000 acre ranch south of Corpus Christi.

This month, KUT is partnering with the Ruthe Winegarten Foundation to celebrate Women's History Month. Every day, we'll bring you a short feature spotlighting a historic woman, movement, or group of women in Texas.