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Suffragist Hattie Hooker Wilkins of Selma defeated incumbent State Rep. J.W. Green 98 years ago this week and became the first woman to be elected to the Alabama Legislature.
Though three women across the state ran for seats in the Legislature that year, Wilkins was the only successful candidate. She served one term in the Alabama House of Representatives and chose not to seek reelection in 1926.
A founding member of the Alabama Equal Suffrage Association and the Alabama League of Women Voters, she was married to prominent industrialist Josephn Wilkins and was listed on the election ballot as “Mrs. J.G. Wilkins.”
Wilkins’s campaign material referred to her as “a woman of rare culture and brilliant mentality, being a leading club woman, prominent in church circles. Her most significant accomplishment was that of wife and mother, and maker of a beautiful home that is a center of refinement and those lovely characteristics that go to make the perfect home life.”
Upon learning of her election, Wilkins released a statement that read:
“There is no people on earth whom it would be so great an honor to represent as the people of Dallas County, and I am justly proud and deeply grateful to have been chosen by them as one of their next legislators.
It will be my purpose and constant endeavor to reflect the sentiments and promote the welfare of my constituents, and it is my eternal hope that I shall be able to be of use to them.”
Wilkins devoted her term in the House to working on issues related to public education and public health. She served as the chair of the House Public Health Committee.
Her House colleagues formally referred to her as “The Lady from Dallas” and presented Wilkins with a trophy cup bearing the inscription: “To Mrs. Wilkins, the First Woman Member of the Alabama House of Representatives, a Token of Esteem From Her Fellow Members, 1923.”
Following her retirement from the Legislature in 1926, eleven years would pass until another woman was elected to the body.
Wilkins passed away at her Selma home in 1949 at age 74.