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Rebecca Latimer Felton: A Featured Biography

Rebecca Felton

The first woman to serve in the United States Senate, Rebecca Latimer Felton (1835–1930) of Georgia was appointed to fill a vacancy on October 3, 1922. She took the oath of office on November 21, 1922, and served only 24 hours while the Senate was in session. The 87-year-old Felton's largely symbolic Senate service capped a long career in Georgia politics and journalism. When her husband, William Harrell Felton, served in the state legislature and the U.S. House of Representatives, she worked as his campaign manager, press secretary, and often his political surrogate. As she fought for temperance, populist agrarian reforms, and woman suffrage, fully embracing equality of the sexes, she was also an outspoken white supremacist and advocate of segregation. Beginning in 1899 and continuing for more than 20 years, Felton wrote a popular column for the Atlanta Semi-Weekly Journal, dispensing advice on everything from child-rearing to farming to voting. In her only Senate speech, delivered to a large audience in the Senate Chamber, Felton concluded with the following prediction: "When the women of the country come in and sit with you…you will get ability, you will get integrity of purpose, you will get exalted patriotism, and you will get unstinted usefulness."

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