Radical Woman of the Day: Hattie Caraway

Born in 1878, Hattie Caraway was appointed to a temporary position in the U.S. Senate in 1931, when her husband Thaddeus Caraway, who had been occupying the seat, died in office. She won the special election for the seat in January 1932, completing the remainder of Thaddeus’ term as the first woman ever elected to the Senate.

Deciding that “the time has passed when a woman should be placed in a position and kept there only while someone else is being groomed for the job”, Caraway ran for re-election in 1932 and won. She supported the New Deal but, unfortunately, opposed an antilynching bill—she was a resident of Arkansas—put forward by the Roosevelt administration.

Caraway held a reputation for integrity among the Senators but rarely made speeches, preferring not to “take a minute away from the men. The poor dears love it so.” Despite her historic position, she maintained that homemaking and child-rearing should be a woman’s primary responsibilities. She did, however, co-sponsor the Equal Rights Amendment in 1943, becoming the first female legislator to do so.

She lost her seat in the 1944 election, but President Franklin Delano Roosevelt appointed her to the Employees’ Compensation Commission. After an appointment by President Harry Truman to the appeals board of the Commission in 1946, she served there until suffering a stroke in January 1950 and died in December of that year.

Hattie Caraway was honored with a 76¢ Distinguished Americans series postage stamp in 2001.

Via the Radical Women’s History Project.