Little Bits of History

Senator Rebecca

Posted in History by patriciahysell on November 21, 2011

Rebecca Latimer Felton

November 21, 1922: Rebecca Latimer Felton becomes the first female United States Senator. The Honorable Senator Thomas E. Watson from Georgia died and his seat was vacant. The governor of Georgia wished to run for the vacated seat. Thomas W. Hardwick had voted against the 19th Amendment (women’s suffrage) and needed to placate the newly minted women voters. He nominated Rebecca Felton to take the vacated seat, knowing that there would be no sessions before the elections. Instead, Walter F. George won the elections and graciously permitted Ms Felton to take the oath of office for one day before assuming his seat.

Rebecca Latimer was a writer, teacher, and activist. She was a graduate of Madison Female College in 1852. She was a reformer concerned with agriculture, women’s suffrage, temperance, and segregation. She married William Harrell Felton, a Methodist minister and politician. She served as his secretary when he served in the US House of Representatives from 1875-1881 and the Georgia House of Representatives from 1886-1892. She was 87-years-old when she served in the Senate for a day, the oldest freshman Senator. She was the first woman and the only woman from Georgia.

In 2011, there are 17 women serving in the Senate with a total of 38 women having seats since Ms Felton first took office. The next woman to grace the Senate was Hattie Wyatt Caraway who was a Senator from 1931-1945. Twenty-five of the women in the Senate have been elected rather than appointed. The longest term for a woman was Margaret Chase Smith’s 24 years from 1949-1973. There have been 13 Republican and 25 Democrat female Senators.

The Senate is one of two chambers of the bicameral US Congress. There are two members from each state serving six-year terms. The elections are staggered so that one-third of the body is elected every two years. The Vice President of the US is the President of the Senate. He sits in only on important debates and only votes on issues to break a tie. To be a Senator, one must be at least 30 years old, have been a US citizen for at least nine years, and reside in the state from which one is running.

“When the women of the country come in and sit with you, though there may be but very few in the next few years, I pledge you that you will get ability, you will get integrity of purpose, you will get exalted patriotism, and you will get unstinted usefulness.” – Rebecca Latimer Felton in Address to the Senate

“If you are going to sin, sin against God, not the bureaucracy. God will forgive you but the bureaucracy won’t.” – Admiral Hyman G. Rickover

“It is not who governs, but what government is entitled to do, that is the essential problem.” – Charles G. Bragg

“What we anticipate seldom occurs, what we least expected generally happens.” – Benjamin Disraeli

Also on this day:
Missing Link – In 1953, the Piltdown Man was declared a hoax.
North, to Alaska – In 1942, the Alaskan Highway’s completion was celebrated.

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