Friday, August 2, 2013

Friday Photo: First Elected Women

On this day in 1919, Montana became the thirteenth state to approve the Nineteenth Amendment.

Not all women favored suffrage. Those against it, called “Antis,” argued that no woman could possibly find time for politics without neglecting her family. Harriet Sanders, wife of pioneer attorney and politician Wilbur Fisk Sanders, countered the opposition, saying that suffrage made women better mothers. Better mothers kept better homes, and their children were better educated. Better homes and educated children in turn improved the nation. Women had much work to do.

Jeannette Rankin speaks in Washington, D.C., just before her election to Congress.
Montana Historical Society Photograph Archives
Montana women helped elect Jeannette Rankin to Congress in 1916, four years before women achieved national suffrage. But other equally significant victories were overshadowed by Rankin’s election. Not only did Montanans send the first woman to Congress in that historic election, they also elected the first two women to the Montana House of Representatives and the first woman Superintendent of Public Instruction. The first women legislators, Emma Ingalls of Flathead County and Maggie Smith Hathaway of Ravalli County, both championed the cause of woman suffrage and spoke out for the disenfranchised. As Ingalls and Hathaway took the seats they earned in the Montana House in 1917, they became the voices of many more than the voters who elected them, especially children and their welfare. And Flathead County’s May Trumper defeated three men in the race for school superintendent. Together these women represented the ribbon at the finish line of a long and hard-won race.

From Montana Moments: History on the Go

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