Bill to honor first women Representatives

Apr 14, 2017

Next Thursday, April 20 the Senate will vote on a bill that would direct the state to hang portraits of New Hampshire's first two female Representatives in the Statehouse.

Women's right to vote in the United States became official August 26, 1920. That was too late for any women to register with the Secretary of State to run for office in that year - but that didn't stop two women from running write-in campaigns. Jessie Doe of Rollinsford and Mary L.R. Farnum of Boscawen won and became the first two women to serve in the New Hampshire House of Representatives.

Doe, a Republican, came from a political family. Her father was Chief Justice of the New Hampshire Supreme Court, and her brother served in the House and Senate. Doe was active on her family farm and an avid hiker. She was also very involved in the community, from the Red Cross to the Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. At one point she even organized rifle training for women in Concord in case of a Nazi invasion.

After winning election in 1920, at age 33, Doe said, "I feel that the man and woman form of government should make a very good blend. Some questions are naturally more vital to women than to men, and they will now have their fighting chance." 

Farnum, a Democrat, married in Penacook at age 23. When her husband died a year later, Farnum entered Boston University School of Medicine. She practiced as a doctor for many years, forging an uncommon path in a profession dominated by men. She returned to Penacook in her forties to care for her aging parents. She was fifty when she ran for the House of Representatives in 1920. She beat a prominent Republican (male) candidate, 264 to 27.

"I am not enjoying this publicity very much," Farnum told a Boston newspaper, "but I feel that I owe it to the women to comply with requests like this, for I represent women and the personal part is left out." 

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Related Bill

HB 475 (2017)
Bill Status: Signed by Governor
Hearing date: Apr 04, 2017

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