Ruth Hanna McCormick’s story is littered with “firsts.” She was the first woman elected to a national statewide office, the first woman nominated by a major party to the Senate, and the first woman to manage a presidential nomination campaign. Born in 1880, McCormick grew up in Ohio but moved to Washington, DC at just 16 years old to work for her father, who had just been elected to the Senate. In 1913, she succeeded Alice Paul as the chair of the Congressional Committee on the National American Woman Suffrage Association, and her steadfast suffrage work continued until the ratification of the 19th amendment in 1920.
While serving in Congress as a representative from Illinois in 1928, she became the first woman appointed to the prestigious House Committee on Naval Affairs. McCormick was also deeply involved in the pure foods movement, even opening her own dairy and breeding farm. She also managed newspapers and a radio station, and even founded a girls’ school in New Mexico. McCormick died in 1944 at the age of 64, but her legacy in politics and the suffrage movement lives on as an enduring example of pioneering career moves and trailblazing “firsts.”
About the Narrator:
President & CEO of the National Women’s History Museum
Holly Hotchner is the President & CEO of the National Women’s History Museum, which is currently a virtual museum and platform for discussion and building community around women’s stories. Prior to her current role, Hotchner was the first museum director at the New-York Historical Society (one of America’s oldest museums).
Regarding Ruth Hanna McCormick, Hotchner says, “Her work as a political figure and as the first woman in politics was extremely important, and her being a figurehead for other women to feel that they could go into political work and have an equal impact to men was huge. She began a huge legacy for other women to fight for the right to vote, and it was her work that created the platform for everything that came after her.”