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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