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Women & Political Offices ~ Additional Information

Federal Offices

Anne Martin Senate campaign, 1918

In 1866 Elizabeth Cady Stanton was the first woman who campaigned for a federal office. Stanton announced her candidacy for Congress from Brooklyn, New York. In 1871 and 1872 Victoria Woodhull campaigned for the office of U.S. President. Belva Lockwood ran two full campaigns for president in 1884 and 1888, receiving perhaps several thousand votes. Marietta Stow was Lockwood’s running mate in the first campaign. Over 30 women campaigned for U.S. Senate and the House before 1920, most were not successful in gaining a seat. In 1918 Eva Harding of Kansas and Anne Martin of Nevada were the first women to run for the U.S. Senate. One woman, Jeannette Rankin, was elected as the Congressperson from Montana, in 1917, three years before the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment.

Items from Ruth Hanna McCormick's Senatorial Campaign in the 1920s
State & Territorial Offices

Catherine Waugh McCulloch, Campaigned for Illinois State Attorney, 1888

Women campaigned for at least 20 different political offices on the state level from the late 19th century through 1920. These included the offices of governor, lieutenant governor, state senate and house (or assembly), and numerous other state positions. Over 230 women ran for state-wide offices. Laura DeForce Gordon may have been the first woman to campaign for a state office in California in 1871, but was she unsuccessful in her bid. Women mostly aimed to serve in their state House of Representatives (also called Assembly), or in the State Senate. Three women successfully ran for their state senate, with Martha Hughes Cannon of Utah, the first woman to win a state senate seat in 1896. Seventy-three women campaigned for their state House or Assembly. Sixty-nine women campaigned as State Superintendent of Instruction.

County, City, and Other Local Offices

Campaign post card from Martha Haley's race for County Superintendent of Schools, 1910

By far most women campaigned for, and won their races, on the local level. Suffrage campaigns in many states from the 1860s onward had focused on gaining voting rights, and thus electoral rights, for women on the local level. As soon as women gained the right to vote for a particular office, they began to campaign for that office, often winning their races. It is true, however, that in some cases women ran (and won) office when only men could vote. Over 900 women ran for office at the city, town, or county level. The first hard-won rights to be elected to office in many states were for school boards and other educational offices. Beginning in the late 1860s and through the 1870s hundreds of women campaigned for election to their local school boards and boards of education. Over 450 women ran for the office of County Superintendent of Schools. Over 100 hundred women ran for, or were elected to, the office of County Clerk, and 90 women ran for their City or Town Councils. More than 25 women campaigned for Mayor, with at least 20 women elected to the office. These mayors often had an all-woman city council. Civic reform, including fiscal issues, sanitation, or temperance, often motivated them to become political candidates. In 1887 Susanna Salter of Argonia, Kansas was the first woman in the country elected to the office of Mayor.