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Edna Beard (1877-1928)

When The Burlington Free Press ran its roster of newly elected legislators in the 1921 session, it added (woman) next to the name Edna L. Beard of Orange. She was the first woman member of the General Assembly and the only one in the 1921 session. She was an oddity for the 245 other members of the House; after she took her seat (No. 145), one newspaper reported "for a long time, no mere man had the courage to select seat number 146, which adjoins her."

But in his inaugural address, Gov. James Hartness began by saying, "It seems most fitting to begin by welcoming woman into active participation in representing our people. "Woman's coming into full equality in suffrage bodes well for humanity," said Hartness.

Beard's first piece of legislation did seem to reflect a different perspective: The bill, which passed, provided $2 a week child support for women whose husbands were "incapacitated by an incurable disease."

Beard went on to win election to the state Senate in 1922, the first woman to serve in that chamber as well.

Aiken | Bailey | Davis | Fisher | Beard | Gibson | Hard | Merrill | Hoff | Packard

 

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