Project background

The "Her Hat Was In the Ring" web site and database are part of an ongoing project collecting information concerning women who campaigned for elected public office before the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in August of 1920. This amendment extended the right of full suffrage to all women across the United States. With equal rights to suffrage, women also gained the right to be elected to all political offices. Before ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment, in some states and territories, beginning as early as the 1860s, woman battled for local and state suffrage. With each suffrage right gained women also had the legal right to be elected to that public office. For example, when women could legally vote on school matters, states also allowed them to run for school boards, for the office of city and county superintendent of schools, and in some states, state superintendent of schools. We estimate that about 4,000 women either campaigned and/or were elected to more than 60 different political offices between the late 1860s and 1920. In addition to significant contributions to voluntary organizations, women in this period were political and often partisan. Currently all information on the web site is based on collection of data from just over 3,300 women (Summer 2016) who participated in over 4,600 campaigns. 

Description of Project (what you can find out now)

This web site includes an individual biographical entry for each woman. An entry might include the following (when known): First, last, and middle names; birth and death dates; state of her campaign; occupation; marital status; a description of political career; political affiliation; title of political office(s) sought; campaign dates; success or failure of campaign; and political party affiliation. These entries have been created by project staff. The web site is searchable by last name of a woman who campaigned for office, and separate pages are included of campaigns and names by state, political office, and political party. Total numbers of women or campaigns run (which are listed by state, political office, or political party), are automatically updated on the home page of the web site as additional women and campaigns are entered into the database. Other search functions may be available at a future date.

Who is included in the project?

We have attempted to collect the names and biographical information of all U.S. women who campaigned for elective office, before the Fall of 1920. At this time (Summer 2016), there are just over 3,300 women entered into the management system for this web site. This includes women who were successful in their bid for an office, as well as women who ran, but did not win their seat. To be included in this project a woman had to either declare her candidacy, or be nominated by another individual or political party; and potentially face the voters to be chosen for office. From our research we have estimated that there were at least 4,000 women who campaigned and/or were elected to public office in this period. Eventually we hope to include all of these women in the web site. Women who were appointed to a public office, hired for a civil service position, or served their communities as volunteers- running non-government agencies and participating in civil society, have not been included in the project. Nationally there were many thousands of women who served in a public capacity during this period and recounting their service is well beyond the parameters of this project.


At least one resource has been linked to each biographical entry. At this time there is no single list on the web site of all the resources used in this project. Resources are linked to individual biographical entries. Some resources include information about more than one woman and are linked to several entries. When available, the following information has been included for each resource: Author; title; publisher, place of publication; date of publication; and page numbers. For information included on web sites an appropriate URL has been given. We have not provided URLs for most digitized books because permanent URLS are frequently unavailable (e.g. Google Books). However, this project would not have been possible without the many resources now available through the World Wide Web.

Types of resources include
  • Books [print and digital formats]-histories, biographies, biographical dictionaries, county histories, and scholarly interpretations.
  • Statistical abstracts, state and federal governmental reports
  • Primary resources

Both primary and secondary sources have been used, and include contemporary sources when available. Every effort has been made to check the accuracies of information and sources, but for many of the women included in this database very little information about their campaign for office has been found and there are bound to be some errors.


Whenever possible a photograph of a woman has been attached to her biographical entry. The photograph is credited and a source is cited. In some cases, photographs are only available at other web sites, and a URL is listed or linked.

Project Creators & Staff

Project Creators
Dr. Wendy E. Chmielewski

Wendy Chmielewski is the George R. Cooley Curator of the Swarthmore College Peace Collection. She has published several works on women in nineteenth and twentieth century social reform movements, including her latest publication (2009), a co-edited volume of scholarly essays: Jane Addams and the Practice of Democracy.

Dr. Jill Norgren

Jill Norgren, professor emerita of political science at John Jay College, and the Graduate Center, the City University of New York, is the author of numerous books and articles. She has published two biographies of Belva Lockwood. Her collective biography of 19th century women lawyers, Rebels At the Bar, was published in April 2013. In 2018 she published Stories from Trailblazing Women Lawyers: Lives in the Law.

Dr. Kristen Gwinn-Becker

Kristen Gwinn-Becker is the founder and CEO of HistoryIT, a transformative technology company that provides clients with a brand new approach to making historical collections more useful, meaningful and accessible. She believes that utilizing technology to educate one another about history is of vital importance.

Project Staff

Research Assistants (Summer 2012)
  • Ani Chen (Bryn Mawr College)
  • Minh Duyen Thi Nguyen (Swarthmore College)
  • Alison Roseberry-Polier (Swarthmore College)
Project Interns (Summer 2015)
  • Spriha Dhanuka (Swarthmore College)

Project Support


Swarthmore College, 2014, supported this project with matching research funds for a student research internship.

The Gilder-Lehrman Institute of American History, 2013-2014, awarded a short-term fellowship to Wendy E. Chmielewski to conduct research in sources at the New York Public Library.

Wendy E. Chmielewski received Honorable Mention for the 2013 Carrie Chapman Catt Prize for Research on Women and Politics from the Carrie Chapman Catt Center on Women and Politics, Iowa State University.

2011-2012, TriCo Digital Humanities Initiatives Grant for project development and research assistance. Supported by a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Trico Digital Humanities initiative (TDH) is a research and teaching collaboration of Bryn Mawr, Haverford, and Swarthmore Colleges. Grants support the study and uses of new media and computing technologies in humanities-based scholarship and teaching, across the liberal arts.