The First Women in Idaho's Legislature

In 1896, Idaho became the fourth state in the nation—preceded by Wyoming, Colorado, and Utah—to give women the right to vote. If you want to get technical, Idaho was actually the second state to do so, since Wyoming and Utah were both territories at the time. This was 23 years ahead of the 19th Amendment which gave that right to all women in the United States.


It wasn’t just voting that interested women. They wanted to be a part of the political process at every level. In 1898 voters elected three women to the Idaho Legislature, Mrs. Mary Wright from Kootenai County (left in the photo), Mrs. Hattie Noble from Boise County, and Mrs. Clara Pamelia Campbell from Ada County. It was the fifth Idaho Legislature.


On February 8, 1899, the Idaho Daily Statesman noted that Mrs. Wright had become the first woman to preside over the Idaho Legislature, and perhaps the first to preside over any legislature in the nation. She was chairman of the committee of the whole during the preceding afternoon and “ruled with a firm but impartial hand.”


Mary Wright was elected Chief Clerk of the House of Representatives, and went on to take a job as the private secretary of Congressman Thomas Glenn.


All of this seemed not to sit well with her husband, who “filed a red hot divorce bill” according the Idaho Statesman, reporting on the proceedings in a Sandpoint court in the April 26, 1904 edition. Mr. Wright claimed that while in the legislature in Boise she “mingled with divers men, at improper hours and times, making appointments with strange men at committee rooms and hotels.” He also claimed she lost $2,000 on the board of trade, and “used improper language before their son, a lad of 16.”


Mrs Wright shot back with a suit of her own claiming her husband had slandered her. The paper reported that “She produced two witnesses in court and showed that Wright had done little toward her support in years.” The divorce was granted… In favor of Mrs. Wright.



Speaking of Idaho history posts are copyright © 2020 by Rick Just.

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