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Political Parties ~ More Information

Women campaigned for public office endorsed or nominated by at least 16 different political parties. For about two-thirds of the women and the campaigns they ran, we have no information about political party. This information was usually not reported in the directories and state statistical handbooks most often used as sources for this database and web site. For the 700 or so campaigns for which there is information about political party, we have found the following: the Republican party nominated or endorsed the most women candidates; the Democratic party nominated or endorsed the next highest number of women; women supported by these two parties were often successful in being elected to office; the Prohibition party and the Socialist party were the other two parties most likely to nominate women candidates. A few women were endorsed by more than one party in a race, or switched parties in subsequent campaigns. Geneva L. Barkley of Washington state was endorsed by the Republicans in her 1909 race for county superintendent of schools, but in 1911 she changed to the Democratic party. Barkeley was elected in both campaigns.

Republican Party

Margaret Zane Witcher - County Clerk, Salt Lake, Utah

For the campaigns and races documented so far, the Republican party endorsed or nominated far more women than any other party. The first woman known to have been elected to a public office, Julia Addington (in 1869), was nominated by the Republicans in Iowa. Laura J. Einsenhuth, nominated by the Republican party for state superintendent of public instruction in North Dakota, was the first woman to be elected to a state-wide office. In some states or territories where women had some suffrage rights early on, women soon participated in partisan politics. In Utah Republican, Democratic and Socialist women often campaigned against each other for county level offices, after the turn of the twentieth century. Margaret Zane Witcher who ran for County Clerk from Salt Lake County, Utah in 1908 and 1910, was heartily endorsed by the local women's Republican Club for her second campaign for the office. The Salt Lake Herald-Republican printed both an article about the endorsement and printed the campaign song Rose L. Ward had written for Witcher. As part of the endorsement for their candidate the Republican Women's Club sang the song, and announced their intention of working together to get Witcher elected. Republican women were also active in Illinois where several ran for the state wide office of University Trustee, often with the active support of women's groups.

Photo above: Margaret Zane Witcher [Cherdron], County Clerk, Salt Lake, Utah, 1908-1912

Democratic Party

Evangeline Heartz

After the Republican party, the Democrats nominated or endorsed the next largest number of women candidates for office. The Democrats supported a large number of women candidates in Utah, Kansas, Colorado and Wyoming, where women had longer experience with party politics and had gained some rights to vote earlier than their sisters in other states. Like the Republican party, the Democrats also endorsed some of the first women candidates in a state or office. Democrat Elizabeth Bacon, elected to the school board in Hartford, Connecticut in 1895, was the first woman elected to a public office in that state. Maggie Smith Hathaway of Montana was the first woman elected to that state's legislature, in 1916, where she served for three terms. It is difficult to find descriptions of the nomination and endorsement process. However, a description of the proceedings of the Illinois Democratic State Convention for 1906 was reported in The New York Times. That year Caroline Grote, the county supervisor for schools in Pike County, Illinois was nominated by the Democrats for the office of State Superintendent of Schools. Grote was the first woman in Illinois to run for a state-wide office. She was greeted enthusiastically by the Convention members, with frantic cheers, calls for a speech and the band playing "Good Morning Sweet Carrie." Grote spoke briefly thanking the delgates for her nomination.* The Convention delegates had rioted on the floor over internal political battles for control of the state party machine, but all seemed in agreement over the nomination of Grote.

*See "Bryan Is Indorsed [sic]; Delegates in Riot," The New York Times, August 22, 1906.
Photo above: Evangeline Heartz, Member of Colorado State Assembly, 1898-1904

Prohibition Party

For many politically active women, from the second half of the nineteenth century onward, alcoholism, temperance, and prohibition were important social and economic issues. Some of these women found their way forward as political candidates with the Prohibition party. Their work with the party was almost always an extension of their work with women's or local temperance organizations. In the campaigns discovered so far, very few women endorsed by the Prohibition party were elected. Ada M. Bittenbinder devoted her public life to the temperance movement, serving as an attorney for the Woman's Christian Temperance Union. In 1891 and 1893 the Prohibition party in Nebraska endorsed Bittenbender for State Supreme Court Judge. She did not win either race. Mary Jewett Telford was nominated by the Colorado Prohibition party to run as that state's Lieutenant Governor in 1894. Telford was not elected. Campaigning as Prohibition party candidates gave women experince in the political arena, even if they were not successful in winning their races. Some Prohibition party women, such as, Flora B. Quick a county superintendent of schools in Nebraska, were successful candidates for office in campaigns when they switched parties or gained additional endorsements from more mainstream parties.

Photo above: Helen M. Stoddard, Prohibition candidate for the U.S. House from California, 1912

Socialist Party

The Socialist party endorsed women for office, but these candidates were unlikely to win their races. There have been no successful female Socialist party candidates found so far in the course of this project. Socialist women campaigned in midwestern and far western states. In Utah and Illinois Socialist candidates campaigned for offices on the county level. In other states, such as California, Colorado, and Kansas, Socialist women were more likely to run for offices on the state or federal level. New York was the only state in the East where the party nominated women for office. Once women in New York gained full suffrage in 1917, the Socialist party endorsed several women for the next election. These women, such as Ella Bloor and Jessie Wallace Hughan campaigned for state offices. These offices included Lieutenant Governor, Secretary of State, and State Assembly. Grace Campbell, a Socialist party candidate for New York State Assembly from Harlem in 1919 and 1920, may have been the first African American woman in the entire country to run for public office.

Photo above: Grace P. Campbell at Harlem, New York rally

Other third parties

The People, Populist, and Progressive parties all supported women candidates throughout the western and midwestern states where women had suffrage and electoral rights. Of all the People's party candidates found so far, only one, Cora Diehl of Oklahoma, was successfully elected to an office. Diehl was also endorsed by the Democratic party. Three-quarters of the Progressive party candidates found at this time, campaigned in Utah and Kansa. Only two candidates, Etta Joe McCoy of Kansas and Mary A. Boedcher of Washington state won their races. Of these three parties, Populist candidates were the most likely to win their campaigns-about 50% were successful. Populist party activists such as Mary Allen Wright, a state representative in Colorado, was first elected in 1898. Some of these women were also endorsed by other parties. Harriet G.R. Wright, also in Colorado, was a Populist who ran successfully on fusion ticket.

Photo above: Harriet G.R. Wright, Colorado State House of Representatives, 1898