Mae Nolan

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Mae Nolan
Mae Nolan.jpg
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from California's 5th district
In office
January 23, 1923 – March 3, 1925
Preceded byJohn Nolan
Succeeded byLawrence Flaherty
Personal details
Born(1886-09-20)September 20, 1886
San Francisco, California, U.S.
DiedJuly 9, 1973(1973-07-09) (aged 86)
Sacramento, California, U.S.
Political partyRepublican
Spouse(s)John Nolan
EducationAyres Business College

Mae Ella Nolan (September 20, 1886 – July 9, 1973) was an American politician who became the fourth woman to serve in the United States Congress, the first woman elected to Congress from California, the first woman to chair a Congressional committee, and the first to fill the seat left vacant by her husband's death. She took her seat in the United States House of Representatives in 1923.


Mae Nolan was born in San Francisco, California, and attended public schools, St. Vincent's Convent, and Ayres Business College of San Francisco.


Nolan was elected as a Republican to the 67th Congress by special election to fill the vacancy caused by the death of her husband, John Ignatius Nolan, on November 18, 1922. She served in the 67th and 68th Congresses, from January 23, 1923, to March 3, 1925.

The Nolans' grave at Holy Cross Cemetery

Nolan was the fourth woman elected to Congress, after Jeannette Rankin, Alice Mary Robertson, and Winnifred Sprague Mason Huck. All four were elected as Republicans to the House of Representatives. Nolan was a Catholic, hence she was the first woman from such a background who served in the federal legislature.

Nolan was the first woman elected to her husband's seat in Congress, which is sometimes known as the "widow's succession". As of 2004, 36 widows have won their husbands' seats in the House, and 8 in the Senate. Recent examples are Representatives Mary Bono (widow of Sonny Bono) and Lois Capps and Doris Matsui, all of California, and Jo Ann Emerson of Missouri. The most successful example is Margaret Chase Smith of Maine, who served a total of 32 years in both houses and became the first woman elected to both the House and the Senate. The third woman elected to Congress, Winnifred Huck, was similarly elected to her father's seat.

Nolan initially supported her late husband's stance on women's suffrage, but later supported the right of women to vote. During her term, she was the chairman of the Committee on Expenditures in the Post Office Department. She was not a candidate for renomination in 1924 to the 69th Congress, claiming "politics is man's business".[citation needed]


Nolan moved to Sacramento, California in her later years, where she died. She was interred in Holy Cross Cemetery in Colma.

See also[edit]


  • United States Congress. "Mae Nolan (id: N000125)". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress.
  • Associated Press. "Husbands' deaths often propel widows to office". Columbia Daily Tribune, January 22, 2005. Retrieved February 15, 2005. (alternate source[permanent dead link])
  • Office of History and Preservation, Office of the Clerk, U.S. House of Representatives (2006). "'I'm No Lady, I'm a Member of Congress': Women Pioneers on Capitol Hill, 1917–1934". Women in Congress 1917–2006. U.S. Government Printing Office. pp. 24–25.
U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from California's 5th congressional district

Succeeded by
Preceded by Chairperson of the Postal Expenditures Committee
Succeeded by