1920 : First Woman Elected to Michigan Legislature

November 2, 2020 all-day

Eva McCall Hamilton

Eva M. Hamilton of Grand Rapids was the first woman elected to the Michigan legislature, winning a seat in the Senate in 1920.

Like so many other pioneer female lawmakers, Eva McCall Hamilton was a teacher. Born in the town of Memphis in St. Clair County, her Scottish/English parents saw that she was well educated for her era, and she graduated from “normal school,” as teaching-training institutions then were called.

She also was an activist for women’s right to vote, and according to archives in the Michigan Senate, the governor wrote her in 1912, “I think no one has done better work for the cause than you.” She had an uncle in the Michigan Senate, Thomas McCall, which helped her to network. She did not profit from using his name, however, as she called herself “Eva M. Hamilton.”

The political skills she learned in lobbying for the vote served her well four years later, when Michigan women won the vote and she began to prepare for her 1920 campaign. A Republican elected from Grand Rapids, she championed legal reforms for women and children – but a Republican man defeated Hamilton for the party’s nomination at the next election cycle. She served only from 1921-23.

She continued to be active in Grand Rapids civic life, however, until dying on January 28, 1948. Hamilton also demonstrated a progressive attitude in death: she was cremated, an unusual decision to make at the time.

Source : Historical Society of Michigan

Women Wielding Power : Pioneer Female State Legislators

Jim Harger, “Grand Rapids women led suffrage movement, helped elect first female to the State Senate”, MLive, November 6, 2011.

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