Monday, October 3, 2011

The First Female US Senator & Racist

On this day in 1922, progressive reformer Rebecca Felton became the first female US Senator, when she was appointed by the Governor of Georgia to the position. I'd never heard of her, and was surprised by that.  So I looked into her a little further this morning and was glad I did.  There's always more to the story.

As it turns out, she served in the Senate for only 1 day. Especially since she was 87 years old at the time (in 1922!), it was a purely ceremonial appointment. That being said, she is still the only woman ever to have been a US Senator from Georgia. Felton was a prominent reformer in the Progressive Era, an advocate of women's suffrage, prison reform and modernizing eduction. But there was a dark side. She was, as Wikipedia put it bluntly, "a white supremacist...who spoke in favor of lynching." Some of her public statements on this topic quoted in that article are so offensive I wont copy them here.  But you can read them HERE, if you want more detail.

Why was an 87-year old woman appointed to the US Senate in 1922 (serving for only one day)?  Here's the explanation. "In 1922, Governor Thomas W. Hardwick was a candidate for the next general election to the Senate, when Senator Thomas E. Watson died prematurely. Seeking an appointee who would not be a competitor in the coming special election to fill the vacant seat, and a way to secure the vote of the new women voters alienated by his opposition to the 19th Amendment, Hardwick chose Felton to serve as Senator on October 3, 1922. Congress was not expected to reconvene until after the election, so the chances were slim that Felton would be formally sworn in as Senator."  But she was. And thus, history was made.

No comments:

Post a Comment