Helen F. Holt

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Helen F. Holt
Secretary of State of West Virginia
In office
December 4, 1957 – January 19, 1959
Governor Cecil Underwood
Preceded by Daniel Pitt O'Brien
Succeeded by Joe F. Burdett
Member of the West Virginia House of Delegates
In office
February 17, 1955 – December 1, 1956
Preceded by Rush D. Holt, Sr.
Succeeded by Louis D. Craig
Personal details
Born Helen Louise Froelich
(1913-08-16)August 16, 1913
Gridley, Illinois
Died July 12, 2015(2015-07-12) (aged 101)
Boca Raton, Florida
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Rush D. Holt, Sr. (1941-1955) (his death)
Children 3
Alma mater Northwestern University

Helen Louise Froelich Holt (August 16, 1913 – July 12, 2015) was an American politician from the state of West Virginia. She served as the Secretary of State of West Virginia from 1957 to 1959 and also served in the West Virginia House of Delegates from 1955 to 1957. Holt was married to Senator Rush D. Holt, Sr. from 1941 until his death in 1955 and was the mother of New Jersey U.S. Representative Rush D. Holt, Jr.

Early life[edit]

Holt was born Helen Louise Froelich on August 16, 1913 in rural Gridley, Illinois, to Gridley Mayor William E. and Edna M. (née Gingerich) Froelich.[1][2][3] Holt studied at Stephens College and the Marine Biological Laboratory before earning her bachelor's and master's degrees in zoology at Northwestern University. She taught biology at the National Park College in Forest Glen, Maryland and Greenbrier College for Women in Lewisburg, West Virginia before marrying former U.S. Senator Rush D. Holt, Sr. in 1941.[2] Following her marriage, she moved to Weston, West Virginia and became a close advisor to her husband as well as serving as an officer for the General Federation of Women's Clubs.

Political career[edit]

Following Rush's death from cancer in 1955, Helen was appointed by Governor William C. Marland to fill Rush's seat in the West Virginia House of Delegates.[4] A Republican, she served the remaining two years of his term until choosing not to stand for reelection and instead to run as a delegate to the Republican National Convention.[5]

Holt continued to serve as a professor at Greenbrier until 1957 when she was appointed by Republican governor Cecil Underwood to serve as Secretary of State of West Virginia in 1957 following the death of Democrat Daniel Pitt O'Brien. Her appointment made her the first woman to hold a statewide-office in West Virginia.[5] She served until January 1959 when she was defeated in the November 1958 general election by Democrat Joe D. Burdett.[6]

After her defeat, Holt was appointed in 1959 to be Assistant Commissioner of Public Institutions, a position that oversaw women's prisons and nursing homes in the state. President Dwight D. Eisenhower appointed Holt in 1960 to a commission to reform nursing homes nationwide. She also served in the Federal Housing Administration and its successor, the Department of Housing and Urban Development until the 1980s.[2] She also served on the boards of various women's clubs and organizations.[2]

Personal life[edit]

Holt married the former U.S. Senator Rush D. Holt, Sr. on June 19, 1941. Rush was the youngest person ever elected to the Senate at the age of 29 in 1934.[7] She remained married to him until his death from cancer on February 8, 1955. At the time of his death, Rush was serving in the first month of a term in the West Virginia House of Delegates. Holt has three children, including the Congressman from New Jersey's 12th congressional district, Rush D. Holt, Jr..[8] Holt never remarried and in 2013, she was a resident of Washington, D.C.. She received an honorary degree from West Virginia University in 2013[2] and turned 100 in August of that year.[9] Holt died in Boca Raton, Florida of heart failure on July 12, 2015, aged 101, a month shy of her 102nd birthday.[10][11]


  1. ^ "Stumping for her son doesn't ever grow old". Asbury Park Press. July 12, 2013. Retrieved August 7, 2013. 
  2. ^ a b c d e "West Virginia University Honoroary Degrees - Helen Holt". Retrieved August 7, 2013. 
  3. ^ Illinois Senate Resolution, Act No. SR0588 of 2011
  4. ^ "Chronology of Women in the West Virginia Legislature" (PDF). Retrieved August 7, 2013. 
  5. ^ a b "Mrs. Holt Takes Secretary Post - Resigns College Office". The Charleston Gazette. December 5, 1957. Retrieved August 7, 2013. 
  6. ^ "Burdett Wins Over Mrs. Holt". Williamson Daily News. November 5, 1958. Retrieved August 7, 2013. 
  7. ^ Associated Press (June 20, 1941). "Ex-Senator Holt Weds". The New York Times. 
  8. ^ Bob Braun (July 20, 2013). "Helen Holt: Teacher, Pioneer, Mother". Retrieved August 7, 2013. 
  9. ^ "W.Va.'s 1st female secretary of state turns 100". Associated Press. 2013-08-18. Retrieved 2013-08-20. 
  10. ^ "Helen Holt, former WV Secretary of State, passes away". wvnstv.com. 13 July 2015. 
  11. ^ Ashton Marra. "Helen Holt, First Female to Hold W.Va. Statewide Offices, Dies at 101". wvpublic.org. 

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