Women in Kentucky - Public Service

Emma Guy Cromwell: “American women, though not long in politics, are not altogether without political experience. We have about ten million women affiliated and federated in various organizations, dating for more than a century back. So we have leaders of women in every organization – religious, social or political.”

“It is important that every woman who possesses the constitutional and statutory qualifications should exercise her right to vote; because it is only in this way that there can be a fair expression of the political sentiment of the qualified voters on any question.”

These words were penned by Emma Guy Cromwell, the first woman elected to statewide office in Kentucky. She was elected state librarian in 1896 by a vote of the state legislature; this office was merely the first in a long career of public service. In 1923 she won the Democratic nomination for Secretary of State, defeating 3 other opponents, including Mary Elliot Flanery and two men. She then went on to win the election. While in office she became the first woman to serve as Acting Governor. She later wrote of this time: “We were not so well versed in politics as we are now, else we might have used this incident to promote the advanced sphere of womanhood in the state.”

In 1927 she became State Treasurer. Because of her early insistence that all banksholding state funds be fully bonded, a decision that she was severely criticized for at the time, Kentucky ‘s money was safe during the Depression. Cromwell was appointed Kentucky State Park Director in 1932 and in 1937 she was named State Librarian and Director of Archives. During this time she initiated the return of the Kentucky state constitution, which was in the University of Chicago Archives. Emma Guy Cromwell published her autobiography, Woman in Politics, in 1939. She died in 1952 and is buried in the Frankfort Cemetery.

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Site Overview


A. What

Performing Arts
Public Service

B. When

View a selected history of women
View a selected history of women
Sounds and images
Civil War Diaries

C. Where

Central / Northern Kentucky
Western Kentucky
Eastern Kentucky
Southern Kentucky


Selected Readings
Educational Tools
Web tools
Archival Collections
Children's Books

E. About this Project

Women in Sports:

Minnie Adkins
Elizabeth Barret, Anne Lewis, Mimi Pickering, & Justine Richardson
Jane Burch Cochran
Joan Dance
Enid Yandell

Women in Business:

Nelda Barton-Collings
Julia Dinsmore
Laura Freeman
Mattie Mack
Lena Madesin Phillips
Caroline Burnam Taylor

Women in Education:

Helen Lew Lang
Katherine Pettit
Jane Stephenson
Cora Wilson Stewart

Women in Health/Medicine:

Mary Britton
Linda Neville
Ora Framer Porter
Louise Southgate, M.D.

Women in Journalism:

Linda Boileau
Alice Allison Dunnigan

Women in Law:

Pearl Carter Pace
Lt. Colonel Linda Smith

Women in Literature:

Effie Waller Smith

Women in Military:

Lt. Anna Mac Clarke
Capt. Helen Horlacher Evans
Julia Ann Marcum

Women in Music:

Sarah Ogan Gunning
Helen Humes
Lily May Ledford
Reel World String Band
Jean Ritchie
Mary Wheeler

Women as Pioneers:

Esther Whitley

Women in Public Service:

Governor Martha Layne Collins
Emma Guy Cromwell
Rep. Mary Elliott Flanery
Sen. Georgia Davis Powers
Lt. Gov. Thelma Stovall

Women in Reform:

Madeline McDowell Breckinridge
Laura Clay
Eula Hall
Josephine Henry
Belinda Mason
Lois Morris
Eliza Caroline Calvert Obenchain
Charlotte Richardson
Joan Robinett
Mary Sue Whayne
Corinne Whitehead
Evelyn Williams

Women in Religion:

Eldress Nancy Moore
Rabbi Gaylia Rooks

Women in Science:

Sarah Frances Price
Ellen Churchill Semple

Women in Sports:

Terri Cecil-Ramsey
Geri Grigsby
Audrey Whitlock Peterson
Mary T. Meagher Plant