Hattie Hooker Wilkins was the first woman elected to the Alabama legislature.
Hattie Hooker Wilkins (1875-1949)
Born in 1875 to Frederick Josiah Hooker and Alexina Fellows Hooker, she was a Selma native and was educated at Boss Calloway’s School. She graduated from Normal College in Nashville, Tennessee, taught school, and in 1898, married industrialist Joseph G. Wilkins. The couple lived in Selma and had three children; Hattie was active in the Broad Street Presbyterian Church and had a strong interest in politics, although – with typical Southern attitudes -- her family said that “her most significant accomplishment was that of wife and mother, and maker of a beautiful home that is a center of refinement and those lovely characteristics that go to make the perfect home life.”
Her interest would translate into a position as an elected official when she was the first woman elected to the Alabama State Legislature. Two of her main aims while working in the Legislature at Montgomery were reforming education and healthcare. Wilkins was respected by her colleagues in the Legislature who gave her a cup with the inscription: "To Mrs. Wilkins, the First Woman Member of the Alabama House of Representatives, a Token of Esteem From Her Fellow Members, 1923."
In addition to her tenure in the Alabama State Legislature, Wilkins was very much involved in the suffrage movement. She was one of the first suffragists in the state of Alabama and helped found the Alabama Equal Suffrage Association and the Alabama League of Women Voters. Hattie Wilkins explained her passion for women’s rights (specifically the right to vote and be involved in the political process) as: "Self-direction or freedom of choice is necessary to the highest mental and spiritual development of a human being. Because democracy gives to each person this opportunity for development, democracy is right. Because democracy is right, Woman Suffrage is right.”
Wilkins died in 1949, but was featured and immortalized as one of the twenty-five most important Alabamian women in an exhibit by the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa.