Edna Louise Beard (1877-1928)

Edna Beard managed to win election in November of 1920, just months after the 19th Amendment was adopted.  Voters in Orange County, a rural area east of the capital of Montpelier, chose her to represent them in the Vermont House.  Representative Beard thus was in the unique position of being a legislator while her colleagues belatedly addressed the moot point of women's right to vote in February of 1921.  Despite her presence and the irrelevance of their action, three House members nonetheless had the temerity to vote against ratifying the 19th Amendment.

   

Although its readers lived far from both Orange County and Montpelier, the Rutland Herald found the phenomenon of a female legislator interesting enough to report: "She chose seat number 146, and for a long time no mere man had the courage to select seat number 145, which adjoins hers. The seat stood vacant for over an hour until Horatio Luce of Pomfret took the dare of his fellow members and sat down beside Miss Beard amid a storm of laughter and applause."  Governor James Hartness, however, was more enlightened and greeted her with, "It seems most fitting to begin by welcoming woman into active participation in representing our people. Woman's coming into full equality in suffrage bodes well for humanity."

 

  Her priorities reflected an understanding of women's economic and legal needs, and her House colleagues had come to respect Beard enough that she passed a bill, Act 218, which provided welfare to women with disabled husbands.  She moved up to the state Senate in 1922, and thus became the first woman to serve in both of Vermont's legislative chambers.

Image credit: Vermont Arts Council, Vermont State Arts Collection.