Charlestown women in politics
By Catherine O’Reilly Collette
|This resolution gave women the vote|
in Rhode Island
March is Women’s History Month and a fine time to mark the progress women have made in Rhode Island politics over the past century.
In 1922, only two years after the US Constitution was amended to give women the vote, Rhode Island elected the first woman to the Rhode Island Legislature. She was Isabelle Ahern O’Neill of Providence and was elected to the House of Representatives and then the RI Senate where she served until 1934. She fought for pensions for widows and helped to create a Rhode Island Narcotics Board which was a model for its time.
She was quoted as saying “I will not wear a hat to session nor do I want the men to stop smoking or stop doing anything they normally do….I want to be treated the same.”
Ms. O’Neill began her career as an actor and orator, perfect skills for political life. She served in the state legislature until she was recruited to work in the Roosevelt Administration where she worked until 1943, whereupon she came back to Rhode Island to work in the state Labor Department. She lived to age 94 and died in 1975.