The Woman Who Became Governor 11 Years Before Women’s Suffrage

More than a decade before American women won the right to vote, a 32-year-old woman stepped into the role of governor of Oregon, becoming the first woman to assume high state office. While she was only housekeeper for a weekend and her impact on the state was minimal, the fact that Carrie B. Shelton served as the state’s chief executive helped to enforce attendance. women in politics and added to the call for women’s suffrage.

Shelton never actively sought out the governorship, but was rather well placed when circumstances left the post open. On Saturday February 27, 1909, Governor George Chamberlain of Oregon resigned his post before boarding a train across the country. He was traveling to Washington, DC to be sworn in as a United States Senator. Although Chamberlain has yet to complete his second term as governor, he was due to be in the capital on March 4 to be sworn in with the rest of the freshman senatorial class. If he arrived late, each member would have seniority on him.

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