The club has grown. A possible fight for leadership and the stripping away of constitutional rights are just a few things we can expect from the Gilead Wives Club this session.
Texas’ Gilead Wives Club had a successful year last legislative session. The women pictured above managed to ban abortion in Texas, even in cases of rape and incest, take voting rights away from thousands, and all while managing affairs, leaked text messages, and fending off allegations of election fraud.
Their goals, like the last session, will be to hurt as many Texans as possible while keeping the men in the Freedom Caucus’ hands as clean as possible.
Who is in the Gilead Wives Club, and how is it structured?
To understand how and why the Gilead Wives Club came to be, you first have to understand the Texas
Fascism Freedom Caucus.
This caucus is comprised of the most extreme and far-right individuals in the Texas Legislature and is bankrolled by billionaires. Forced birth, protection of Jim Crow statues, and voter suppression are just a few of their priorities.
The caucus consists almost entirely of white men. Only one woman graces their ranks. That woman is Valoree Swanson.
The caucus and various billionaire oligarchs have allowed her in their good ol’ boys’ club because she’s power-hungry, which makes her easier to control.
During the 87th Legislature, the Freedom Caucus conspired to get the Republican women in the Texas House to push the abortion ban, and Swanson was the so-called wrangler of these women.
That was how Swanson became the leader of the Gilead Wives Club, but it was much deeper than the forced-birth laws.
Swanson bullied the other Republican women in the Texas House, held secrets over their heads, and even blackmailed them. The other GOP women are scared of her because she has so much pull with big donors, right-wing influencers, and the Freedom Caucus. So, these ladies complied with Swanson and allowed themselves to be bullied and pushed around because the consequences for them could be devastating. Loss of donations or even being drawn out of their district have all been threats levied against them by Swanson.
The Republican women who have been subservient to Swanson who will be returning to the Texas House this coming year are HD30 Genie Morrison, HD59 Shelby Slawson, HD89 Candy Noble, HD91 Stephanie Klick, HD112 Angie Button, and HD138 Lacey Hull.
These women will be seen in the Capitol traveling in a pack, and when one of them has a bill, they will crowd around her at the podium when she discusses or debates her bill.
The Gilead Wives Club has very specific rules that they must follow.
- Their primary concern has to be motherhood. Forcing women and girls to become mothers is their number one goal.
- Women in the Gilead Wives Club must always uphold Evangelical religious standards and introduce and vote on bills that push a christofascist agenda.
- The white patriarchy always comes first. Members of the Gilead Wives Club are under the obligation of expanding power to white men and stripping away the rights of marginalized communities. This might come in the form of voter suppression, blocking access to healthcare, or the deterioration of public education.
- All Texans are not equal in the eyes of the Gilead Wives Club, and white, cis-gendered men, are to be placed above any and all.
- The Gilead Wives Club also has strict rules behind what they call “gender treachery.” They intend to introduce and focus on bills intended to harm the LGBTQ community in the form of “moral codes” or “moral laws.”
We’ll get to some of the bills they’ve already introduced or intend on introducing during the 88th Legislature, but first we will need to talk about a huge power struggle coming and some of the new Republican women who will join their ranks.
There can only be one Queen B.
New HD23 Rep Terri Leo-Wilson is Valoree Swanson’s arch-nemesis. The two are long-time Harris County Republicans and have had a bitter feud going on for years. Unfortunately, neither has made their feelings about the other secret within Republican circles.
Leo-Wilson isn’t likely to fall in line with the other Republican women in the House and follow Swanson around like a baby chick.
While both Leo-Wilson and Swanson will put a smile on in public and give the appearance of having a superficial relationship with the other, behind the scenes, it will likely be a messy situation.
Leo-Wilson is a Capricorn with a Type-A personality who just as power-hungry as Swanson. And while Swanson already has a team of dedicated minions in the House, several new GOP women are joining their ranks who haven’t been swayed one way or the other.
The young and dumb.
Swanson’s previous tactics in pulling some of the younger, more impressionable GOP women under her control was to approach them as a mentor. This is the strategy she used with Lacey Hull and Shelby Slawson. Once the younger ladies had their guard down, Swanson put her hooks in, learning their secrets and finding out how to control them.
The new young and impressionable Republican ladies headed to Austin in January are HD13 Angelina Orr, HD37 Janie Lopez, HD52 Caroline Harris, and HD73 Carrie Isaac.
Undoubtedly, Swanson will attempt this with the new cast of Republican women in the House. But, with her rivalry with Leo-Wilson and Leo-Wilson’s own leadership qualities, there’s a strong possibility that Leo-Wilson will try to take control of these young ladies herself. This could lead to two dueling factions of Republican women, which, at the very least, will be entertaining for the rest of us.
Texas’ oligarchs have overwhelmingly backed Leo-Wilson over Swanson, which could be a ploy to dethrone Swanson.
Even members of the Freedom Caucus, Mayes Middleton and Briscoe Cain, donated hefty sums to Leo-Wilson while donating only a small fraction of their money to Swanson.
Since Middleton and Cain have both long been active in the Harris County Republican circles, they would be aware of the long-standing feud between the two power-hungry women. They likely also know that their caucus isn’t big enough for both of their egos. It’ll be interesting to see how this power struggle plays out in the coming months.
Swanson has had a lot of dirt on her hands and received more than her fair share of publicity for her corruption and dirty deeds. So if the Freedom Caucus attempts to distance themselves from her or replace her with Leo-Wilson, we can expect to see a lot of drama behind it.
The other women will soon join the ranks of the Gilead Wives Club.
HD65 Kronda Thimesch will become a member. But, like Stephanie Klick or Candy Nobel, Thimesch won’t join because she needs a boss or a mentor but because it’s the only way she’ll have to fit in.
HD19 Ellen Troxclair is a wildcard. She doesn’t seem to be power-hungry or have a deep desire to fit in. However, she has presented herself as uneducated and easily influenced. There’s no question that she will become a member of the Gilead Wives Club, but if the club should split into dueling factions, she doesn’t seem loyal to one or the other yet.
We’ll have to see how it plays out.
The legislative priorities of the Gilead Wives Club during the 88th Legislature.
All of their legislative priorities will align with the rules of the club.
Their primary concern is motherhood:
- Nobel has introduced a bill prohibiting any government entity from providing any logistical support to women who travel outside of Texas for an abortion.
- Slawson, the author of last session’s heartbeat bill, is rumored to be working on a contraception ban.
They must uphold Evangelical religious standards:
- Leo-Wilson has introduced a bill mandating that schools teach life begins at conception.
- Troxclair has introduced a bill attacking anti-poverty programs, ensuring homelessness for struggling families.
The white patriarchy always comes first:
- Swanson has introduced a bill to eliminate Houston ISD, where 23% of the students are Black, 62% of the students are Hispanic, and less than 10% of the students are white.
- Swanson has identified one of her legislative priorities as increasing crime in the Hispanic community and making cities less safe for immigrants.
- Leo-Wilson has identified one of her legislative priorities as banning Black history from being taught in public schools.
All Texans are not equal:
- Swanson has introduced a bill to disenfranchise disabled individuals from voting in local elections.
- Swanson has introduced a bill increasing the filing fee to run for the Texas House, ensuring that people of lesser means have a larger barrier to running for office.
They seek to punish what they call “gender treachery:”
- Swanson has introduced a bill to ban transgender children from participating in sports.
These bills are just the tip of the iceberg.
More bad bills will come from these women, and all of them will be aimed at hurting one group or another. The best thing Texans can hope for is the infighting, which will hurt them all in the long run.
We’re less than two months away from the start of the new legislature. We’re in for a bumpy ride. Stay tuned.
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