Barbara Karkabi Living Archives Panel BIOS

Monday October 14, 2013: The Barbara Karkabi Living Archives: Women's Activism Then & Now (6pm-7:30) Rockwell Pavilion, - MD Anderson Library

A panel discussion with
Rep. Jessica Farrar, Poppy Northcutt, Sarah Slamen &
Rep. Senfronia Thompson
Moderator: Nancy Sims
Respondent: Rebecca Robertson


Representative Jessica Farrar is currently serving her 10th term as State Representative of District 148. First elected in 1994 at age 27, she is the longest serving Hispanic member from Harris County in the Texas House of Representatives. Rep. Farrar currently serves as the Vice-Chair of the Judiciary and Civil Jurisprudence Committee and a member of the State Affairs Committee. In addition, Rep. Farrar is the Founder of the Women’s Health Caucus and currently serves as its Chair. During the 82nd Legislative Session, Representative Farrar served as Leader of the House Democratic Caucus. She previously served as Secretary of the Mexican American Legislative Caucus (MALC) and Vice-Chair of the Legislative Study Group (LSG). Representative Farrar works extensively on issues related to the environment, women’s health, children's healthcare, education, taxes, homeowner rights, homeland and border security, domestic violence, sexual assault, reproductive rights, insurance coverage, transportation, discrimination, and criminal and juvenile justice. Rep. Farrar grew up in Houston. She received a Bachelor of Architecture from the University of Houston and a Juris Doctorate degree from the University of Texas School of Law.

Frances Miriam “Poppy” Northcutt was born in Louisiana, grew up in Luling, Texas, and graduated with a degree in Math from UT. She was the first woman to work in NASA’s Mission Control on the Apollo program, and was active in returning Apollo 13 safely to Earth. Houston’s Mayor Fred Hofheinz appointed Poppy Houston's first Woman’s Advocate in 1974. In that role, she was active in transforming the landscape for women in Houston. She was active in NOW, both locally and nationally, and in organizing the International Women’s Conference, held in Houston in 1977. She went on to law school, and then served as a prosecutor in the Houston DA’s office, before starting her own practice as a criminal defense lawyer. She continues to be an advocate for women’s issues today.

Rebecca Robertson (Respondent) is the Legal and Policy Director, ACLU of Texas. Prior to that she was a partner in the international law firm Baker Botts, LLP. Her practice focused on complex commercial litigation, and she served as co-chair of the firm’s securities litigation practice group and chair of the firm’s LGBT affinity group. While at Baker Botts, Robertson helped found the firm’s pro bono committee and led the amicus team working on the landmark civil rights case challenging the Texas sodomy law, Texas v. Lawrence. Robertson also helped the Houston Volunteer Lawyers Program run legal clinics for poor Houstonians living with HIV/AIDS. Rebecca has been recognized by both the Houston Bar Association and the State Bar of Texas for her pro bono service. Robertson is a graduate of the Harvard Law School, where she served as Executive Editor of the Harvard Law Review, and Rice University, where she received her B.A. magna cum laude.

Nancy Sims (Moderator) is Senior Vice President of Pierpont Communications. She leads the Public Affairs practice and also specializes in crisis response, consumer, and energy clients. Sims is actively engaged in the community by serving on several Boards and Advisory Boards as well as teaching Women in Politics at the University of Houston. Prior to joining Pierpont, Sims was a political consultant and specialized in working with women candidates. She was also a lobbyist in Austin when women lobbyists were few and far between. Sims has worked most of her adult life for the promotion and advancement of women.

Sarah Slamen is a 28-year old women's rights activist from the Houston area. She graduated from the University of Houston in 2008 with a degree in Political Science. Sarah has worked on over a dozen campaigns since 2004 including presidential, state, municipal, and grassroots efforts. She most recently worked with the Texas Coalition Against the Death Penalty during the 83rd legislative session and gained national media attention for her activism within the coalition that fought the passage of this summer's omnibus anti-abortion bill.

Representative Senfronia Thompson was born in Booth, Texas and raised in Houston. She represents Northeast Houston and Humble. Dean of women legislators, Rep. Thompson has served longer in the Legislature than any other woman or African-American in Texas history. A Houston attorney, Ms. Thompson is currently serving her 21st term in the Texas House of Representatives. Rep. Thompson has a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology and a Master's degree in Education from Texas Southern University; a law degree from Thurgood Marshall School of Law and a Master's of Law in International Law from the University of Houston. Rep. Thompson has two adult children, one grandson, one granddaughter and one great-granddaughter.