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Timeline of Women's 'Firsts'

The Indiana Commission for Women is often asked for information on women's firsts in Indiana. We have compiled this list from a variety of sources.  However, we know we have left important people off the list.

Can you think of others?  It doesn't have to be in politics...It can be in business, education, nonprofit sector, anything. Just send us a quick email with the name, date and the notable fact to kgarvey@icw.in.gov.  All we ask is that you send us a link to a reliable source so that we can verify and cite the fact.

Date

 Event

 1875

Elizabeth (Bessie) Jane Eaglesfield becomes the first female lawyer admitted to the Indiana bar under a Vigo Circuit Court order and one of the first fifteen women lawyers in the United States

1870's

Carrie Gifford Shoaff became Fort Wayne’s first newspaper woman. [2]

1887

Emerine Holman Hamilton started Fort Wayne's first public library, known as the Fort Wayne Reading Room.  It was located at the corner of West Wayne Street and Webster Street. [1]

Susanna M. Salter became the first female mayor of Argonia, Kansas, which also made her the first female Mayor in the United States. [59]

 1895

Helen M. Gougar becomes one of the first women to argue before the Indiana Supreme Court on her own behalf in a case appealing the denial of her right to vote in the 1894 election.  The case was filed in the Tippecanoe Superior Court

 1896

Miss Mary Harry Peacock becomes the first woman admitted to practice before the Indiana Supreme Court

1902

Julie Emannuel became the first female pharmacist in Fort Wayne.  She opened a small pharmacy on Berry Street. [2][3]

1907

Valentine L. Shaffer (Democrat ) became the first woman elected to the Allen County Council. [51]  She served the 3rd District. [51]

1913

Fannie Winch became Fort Wayne’s first Police Matron.[6][7]

 1920

Indiana Legislature ratified the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, granting women the right to vote on January 16, 1920

The 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is ratified on August 26, 1920

In November 1920, Julia D. Nelson, of Delaware County, became the first woman to serve in the General Assembly as a member of the House of Representatives

Mrs. Anna D. Monroe is the first woman to vote in Indiana on November 2, 1920, after the passage of the 19th Amendment

 1921

Adele Ida Storck becomes the first woman admitted to the Indianapolis Bar Association

Catherine Dinklage is elected to the Fort Wayne City Council, becoming the first woman elected to any office in Indiana

 1922

Mrs. Georgia Blume is the first woman to be elected to a county office in Allen County when she defeated her opponent for the office of county recorder.

Mrs. Mary Caldwell is the first woman to be elected to a county office in Henry County when she is elected to county recorder. 

 1923

 Elizabeth Rainey of Marion County becomes the first woman officially elected to her seat in the Indiana House of Representatives

 1926

Grace Urbahns is appointed to State Treasurer following the death of her husband and was reelected in 1928 to become the first woman elected to Indiana State Treasurer

 1927

Fern Ale becomes the first woman to serve as secretary of the state senate during the 1927 session of the Indiana General Assembly

1931

Alma App Reed (Democrat) became first women elected to Allen County Clerk of Courts. [49]

Josephine Black (Republican) became first woman elected to Allen County Council, 1st District. [51] 

 1933

Virginia E. Jenckes unseats a 16-year veteran Congressman to become the first Indiana woman to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives

 1937

 Virginia Jenckes becomes the first American woman appointed as a delegate to the Interparliamentary Union in Paris

1939

Juliet Peddle, Terre Haute, becomes the first female architect licensed by the state of Indiana

1940 Mary Donovan Hapgood becomes the first woman to run for Governor of Indiana (Socialist Party)

 1942

Arcada Stark Balz became the first woman elected to the Indiana Senate and served until 1946

 1943

Marie Goth is the first woman commissioned to do an official portrait of an Indiana Governor, Governor Henry F. Schricker

1945

Fort Wayne Daisies became Fort Wayne’s first professional all-female sports team.  [11]  The team featured: Dottie Wiltse Collins [12], Lenna Arnold [13], Isabel Álvarez [14], Naomi Meier [15], and Phyllis Bookout [16].

 1951

Cecil Harden became first woman member of a House Committee to make an official trip around the world

 1955

Z. Mae Jimison becomes first African-American woman to win an Indianapolis Mayoral Primary

 1957

Mary Jancosek Bercik becomes the first woman to serve as mayor of an Indiana city when she is appointed as Mayor of Whiting, Indiana after her husband dies in office

 1959

After completing her husband's term, Mary Jancosek Bercik went on to seek and win the mayoral office for the next four years

 1961

Dorothy Gardner becomes the first woman to hold the office of Indiana Auditor

Mary Jancosek Bercik became the first female elected Mayor of Whiting, Indiana, making her the first female Mayor elected in Indiana.  [59]

1962

Mary Alice Dunlap (Democrat) became the first female appointed Mayor of Bloomington.  She was appointed by the Bloomington City Council in May 1962 following the resignation of mayor Tom Lemon. [63]

 1964

V. Sue Shields becomes the first female trial court judge in Indiana when she was elected to the Hamilton County Superior Court

1965 Daisy Riley Lloyd becomes the first African-American woman to be elected to the Indiana House of Representatives and to serve in the Indiana General Assembly
1967 Flo Doty, Alberta Edwards, Barbara Hanley, and Liz Coffal Robinson serve on the Indianapolis Police Department's female pistol team, the first in the United States.

 1969

Barbara Boyd joins the staff of Channel 6 and becomes the first African-American female reporter

1971

Dorothy E. Raver (Republican) became the first woman elected Auditor of Allen County. [48]

 1973

Governor Otis R. Bowen enables the Governor's Commission on the Status of Women which lasted for several years but was disbanded after the Governor requested that the responsibility for funding be changed to the legislature.  The legislature did not appropriate funds for the Commission

Dorothy E. Myers (Republican) became the first woman elected Treasurer of Allen County. [55]

1974

Harriett Miller became the Fort Wayne’s first Weed Control Director. [17]

 1975

Betty Barteau becomes the first woman elected to the Marian Superior Court

Gloria J. Goeglein (Republican) became first woman elected to the Allen County Council, At-Large District. [51]

 1976

Linda Chazem becomes the first woman to serve as a county court judge

1977

Julia Carson and Katie Hall become the first African American women to serve in the Indiana Senate. 

Virginia Dill McCarty, first woman in the nation appointed to full term as U.S. Attorney (appointed to the Southern District of Indiana)

1978

V. Sue Shields becomes the first female Judge of the Indiana Court of Appeals

1979

Genois Wilson Brabson became Fort Wayne’s first female firefighter. [18][19]

Sandra Ann Houlihan (Republican) became first woman elected to the Allen County Council, 4th District. [51]

 1982

Katie Beatrice Hall becomes the first African-American woman to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives after being appointed to replace Indiana Democratic Representative Adam Benjamin, Jr., who died suddenly in

1984

Virginia Dill McCarty becomes the first woman to seek a major party nomination for Indiana Governor (Democratic Party)/

Katie Beatrice Hall becomes first African-American woman elected to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives

Sarah Evans Barker becomes the first female federal judge in Indiana when she was appointed to the United States District Court, Southern District of Indiana

1985

Cosette Simon (Democrat) became the first woman appointed Mayor of Fort Wayne.  [20][21][22]

 1988

Z. Mae Jimison becomes the first African-American woman judge in Indianapolis

1991

Nancy Eschroff Boyer (Republican) became first woman to be appointed to the Allen Superior Court, making her the first female judge of Allen County. [23][24]

 1992

By Executive Order 92-15, the Indiana Commission for Women is established

 1993

Pam Carter becomes the first woman elected to Indiana Attorney General

 1994

V. Sue Shields is the first woman appointed as a federal magistrate judge in Indiana

Dr. Suellen Reed becomes the first woman to serve as Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction

Sue Ann Gilroy becomes the first woman to serve as Indiana Secretary of State

Linda K. Bloom (Republican) became first woman elected to the Allen County Board of Commissioners. [25][50]

1995

Myra Selby becomes the first woman and the first African-American to be appointed justice of the Indiana Supreme Court

1996

Effective July 1, 1996, the Indiana Commission for Women received enabling legislation making it a state entity by statute. Sponsored by 16 state senators and 20 representatives, the legislation was co-authored by Senator Becky Skillman and Senator Vi Simpson and co-sponsored in the house by Representatives Susan Crosby and Sue Scholer.

 1998

Sen. Vi Simpson becomes first woman to serve as the caucus' representative on the State Budget Committee (1998 to 2007)

Jane Ellen Henney became first woman to serve as commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). [26]  

1999

Linda Buskirk (Republican) became the first woman to win a major party Primary for Fort Wayne Mayor. [27]

Hannah Stith became the first woman appointed to the Fort Wayne Redevelopment Commission.  [28][29]

2000

Hannah Stith became the founder of Fort Wayne’s first multi-cultural museum, the African/African-American Historical Society & Museum. [28]

2002

Karen E. Richards (Republican) became first woman elected Prosecutor of Allen County. [30][52]

Una Mae Reck becomes the first female chancellor at Indiana University South Bend on July 1, 2002

 2003

Kathy Davis becomes first woman to be appointed to Indiana Lt. Governor

Patricia Love (Democrat) became the first woman elected to serve as the Assessor of Allen County. [47]

Paula Hughes (Republican) became the first woman elected to serve the 2nd District of the Allen County Council. [53]

SuzAnne Handshoe (Republican) became the first female elected Mayor of Kendallville, Indiana. [69]

 2004

Becky Skillman becomes first woman to be elected to Indiana Lt. Governor

Maria Parra (Democrat) became the first female nominee for the Congressional 3rd District. [33] (Note:  Jill Long Thompson represented Fort Wayne, Allen County as part of the Congressional 4th District, 1989-1995. [34])

2005

Tina Taviano (Democrat) became first woman in Allen County to hold the position of District Fire Chief in a volunteer township department. [35]

 2006

Rep. Phyllis Pond becomes the first female lawmaker to sit in the front row of the Indiana House of Representatives

Tina Taviano (Democrat) became first female candidate to pursue the Office of Allen County Sheriff and the first woman to win a major party nomination for that Office. [35][54]

Rep. Mara Candelaria Reardon becomes Indiana’s first female Hispanic state legislator

2007

Shawna Girgis (Independent) became the first female Mayor of Bedford, Indiana. [65]  She successfully served 3 terms and self-imposed term limits by refusing to run a 4th term. [66]

Patricia “Patty” Fisel (Republican) became the first female Mayor of Ligonier, Indiana. [70]

 2008

Sen. Vi Simpson becomes the first woman elected as Minority Leader by the Senate Democrat Caucus

Jill Long Thompson (Democrat) became the first woman to win a major party nomination for Governor of Indiana. [36][37][38]

 2010

Judge Tanya Walton Pratt is the first African-American federal judge in Indiana history when she is appointed to the United States District Court, Southern District of Indiana

2011

Karen Freeman-Wilson (Democrat) became the first female Mayor of a Gary, Indiana, a large city with a population in excess of 30,000. [60] She is also Indiana’s first black female Mayor. [61]  Gary has a population of 80,294. [62]

Mary Snyder became the first female Mayor of Cannelton, Indiana. [68]

Blair Milo (Republican) became the first female Mayor of LaPorte, Indiana. [71]

Kathy Bantz became first female Mayor of Montpelier. [72]

2012

Amy Bigg’s became Fort Wayne’s first female Fire Chief. [39][40][41]

 2014

 Loretta Rush becomes the first female Chief Justice of the Indiana Supreme Court

2015

As of 2015, there are 8 women serving as Mayor in Indiana.  They are:  Shawna Girgis, first female Mayor of Bedford; Mary Snyder, first female Mayor of Cannelton; Karen Freeman-Wilson, first female Mayor of Gary; SuzAnne Handshoe, first female Mayor of Kendallville; Blair Milo, first female Mayor of LaPorte; Patricia Fisel, first female Mayor of Ligonier; Kathy Bantz, first female Mayor of Montpelier; and Gay Ann Harney, first female Mayor of Rockport. [64] Harney was elected in 2015. [73]

2016

Lucy Brenton (Libertarian) became the first Indiana woman to win a major party nomination for U.S. Senate. [42]

Betsy Keisler is Allen County’s first female building inspector. [43]

2017

Holli Murphy became the first female President of Allen County UAW Local 2209. [45]

2018

Melissa Rinehart (Democrat) became the first woman to seek the Office of Township Trustee in Perry Township, Allen County.  [46]

2019

Gina Burgess (Democrat) became the first Democratic woman to seek the Office of Mayor of Fort Wayne.  [57]  She is one of 15 women seeking an elected office on the Allen County Primary ballot. [58]  This is a record number of woman running for elected offices in Fort Wayne city government.  The other women include:  Lana R. Keesling, Katie Zuber, MaryClare Akers, Michelle Chambers, Rachel Lott, Patti Hays, Sharon Tucker, Cynthia L. Barhydt, Lori J. Nash, Pamela K. Spannuth, Melissa Hayes, Natalie Strock, Sarah DiGangi, and Tiffany McFadden. [58]

Diana Snyder  (Republican) became the first woman to seek the Office of Mayor of Washington, Indiana. [67]

 


Citations