The National Women's History Museum in celebration of the National Foundation of Women Legislators 70th Anniversary presents Women Wielding Power: First Female State Legislators

Michigan State Seal  Michigan

Michigan women ran several heartbreaking campaigns for the vote before winning in 1918 – two years prior to the 19th Amendment to the US Constitution that enfranchised all women.  Eva McCall Hamilton won a Senate seat in the next possible election, giving her and an Oklahoma woman a tie for the nation’s third female state senator.  The two elected earlier were in Utah (1910) and Arizona (1914).


Eva McCall Hamilton
Eva Hamilton
Michigan State Senate.

Jennifer Granholm
Jennifer Granholm
State of Michigan.

Eva McCall Hamilton (1871-1948)

    Like so many other pioneer female lawmakers, Eva McCall Hamilton was a teacher.  Born in the town of Memphis in St. Clair County, her Scottish/English parents saw that she was well educated for her era, and she graduated from “normal school,” as teaching-training institutions then were called.

    She also was an activist for women’s right to vote, and according to archives in the Michigan Senate, the governor wrote her in 1912, “I think no one has done better work for the cause than you.”  She had an uncle in the Michigan Senate, Thomas McCall, which helped her to network.  She did not profit from using his name, however, as she called herself “Eva M. Hamilton.”

    The political skills she learned in lobbying for the vote served her well four years later, when Michigan women won the vote and she began to prepare for her 1920 campaign. A Republican elected from Grand Rapids, she championed legal reforms for women and children – but a Republican man defeated Hamilton for the party’s nomination at the next election cycle.  She served only from 1921-23.

    She continued to be active in Grand Rapids civic life, however, until dying on January 28, 1948.  Hamilton also demonstrated a progressive attitude in death:  she was cremated, an unusual decision to make at the time.


Jennifer Granholm (1959-)
Nominated by NFWL

    Governor Jennifer Granholm, the 47th governor of Michigan, has been described as a “fiscal hawk.” Elected to office in 2003 and 2006, Granholm was born in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. The first in her family to attend college, she graduated from the University of California at Berkley and then Harvard Law School. She has three children with her husband Daniel G. Mulhern. She worked as a clerk for U.S. Judge Damon Keith on the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals before becoming a federal prosecutor in 1990, with a 98% conviction rate. Four years later, she became the Wayne County corporation counsel.

    Since winning her gubernatorial election in 2003, Governor Granholm has worked on many programs meant to address and rectify the problems facing Michigan today, including the economy, education, healthcare, alternative energy, and terrorism.

    On the economy, Governor Granholm supports fair trade at the federal level. Her focus is on protecting “workers and families during tough economic times.” She has created tax reform intended to “put more money into the pockets of working families,” and increased the minimum wage for the first time in nearly a decade.” In the 2007 State of the State address she proposed a No Worker Left Behind program intended to provide two years of free in-state higher education or training to “displaced” Michigan workers. She is committed to “diversifying [Michigan’s] economy” and wants to provide tax incentives to “businesses in the nation’s 50 fastest-growing industries that hire Michigan workers.” She also hopes to beautify cities to attract the film industry to Michigan.

    Granholm has also focused on providing Michigan citizens with affordable healthcare. She has added coverage for “approximately 300,000 uninsured Michiganians,” though it is her hope that eventually heath care in Michigan will be free and universal.

    Because Governor Granholm was the first in her family to attend college, she understands the importance of higher education, and believes that access to it should be universal. She has also been tough on sex offenders, passing legislation intended to keep them away from “schools and child care facilities.” During her tenure, she has also signed a bill creating “Jessica’s Law,” which created a mandatory 25-year minimum sentence for sex offenders. She has also urged legislators to pass anti-bullying legislation.

    Governor Granholm has also made alternative energy a priority, explaining in her 2008 State of the State Address that developing alternative forms of energy such as “wind, power, and wood,” can replace “lost manufacturing jobs.”

    Along with her other accomplishments, Governor Granholm has worked to promote diversity in Michigan. She has “the most diverse cabinet in the history of the state,” and employs an openly gay man as her Chief of Staff.” She supports domestic partnerships and civil unions, and helped ban discrimination in state employment based on sexual orientation.



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