Clara Cressingham

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Clara Cressingham (1863-c. 1906)[1][Note 1] was one of the first women elected to serve in any state legislature in the United States. She was also the first woman to serve in a leadership position in any state legislature.[3]

Legislative career[edit]

Colorado became the first state in which women obtained the right to vote, through popular election in 1893.[4] The following year, on November 6, 1894, three women were elected to serve in the Colorado House of Representatives. Besides Cressingham, they included Carrie C. Holly and Frances S. Klock.[5] All three were Republicans and were sworn into office in 1895. Each served one term, from 1895 to 1896.[3]

At 32 years old,[6] Clara Cressingham was the youngest of these three legislators. After she and her husband had moved from New York, she was employed as a writer, and she was the mother of two children when elected to the Colorado General Assembly.[7] As Secretary of the House Republican Caucus, Cressingham was the first woman to fill a leadership position in an American legislature. [8]

Cressingham is credited with introducing the first law introduced by a woman in the United States. It set a government–provided bounty of $3 per ton on sugar beets raised in the state and sold to a factory within its borders, thus boosting the budding Colorado sugar beet industry.[9] Other bills she introduced during her two years in the House addressed the creation of a state board of arbitration and a system of free schools. Along with the other two women in the legislature, she successfully supported a bill to create homes for delinquent girls.[9]


  1. ^ In addition to the recorded 1906 Denver burial for a Clara Cressingham, the 1910 US Federal Census has her husband listed as being a widower.[2]


  1. ^ "Fairmount sexton's records, 1891-1953, Fairmount Cemetery, Denver, Colorado". Denver Library. Retrieved March 15, 2013. 
  2. ^ "1910 United States Federal Census Record for William H Cressingham". National Archives/Ancestry.Com. 1910. Retrieved March 13, 2013. 
  3. ^ a b "Legislator Record". State of Colorado. Retrieved 10 March 2013. 
  4. ^ "House Bill 118". State of Colorado. Retrieved 10 March 2013. 
  5. ^ "First Women to Serve in State and Territorial Legislatures". National Conference of State Legislatures. Retrieved 10 March 2013. 
  6. ^ "1900 US Federal Census (Record for Wm. H. Cressingham)". US Government/Ancestry.Com. 1900. Retrieved March 15, 2013. 
  7. ^ "Clara Cressingham". Colorado Legislative Women's Caucus. Retrieved March 15, 2013. 
  8. ^ Kopel, Jerry. "Colorado Women First to Reach Statehouse". The Colorado Statesman. Retrieved 10 March 2013. 
  9. ^ a b "Colorado". National Women's History Museum. Retrieved 10 March 2013.