Rep. Bessie S. McColgin
Oklahoma’s first woman to serve in the House of Representatives was Amelia Elizabeth “Bessie” McColgin, a Republican from Rankin in western Oklahoma. She was elected in 1920 and served in the Eighth Legislature from 1920-21.
Born on January 7, 1875, she married Grant McColgin on August 21, 1895 in Earlville, Illinois. She attended Teachers Normal College and Wesleyan University in Bloomington, Illinois. Her education also included the School of Oratory and Georgian Academy in Georgia, Vermont.
McColgin came to Grant County in Oklahoma Territory in 1901 with her husband, and in 1903 she helped drive a wagon to their “claim” near Rankin in Roger Mills County. She taught school in her home and was appointed postmistress for Ridgeton in 1904. Her family moved to Rankin in 1909 where she and her husband alternated teaching school, delivering mail, and in 1913, began operating the Rankin Telephone Company in their home.
The McColgins had nine children and Bessie had given birth to the youngest son, Franklin, just one month before leaving Rankin, near the Texas border, for the Legislature in Oklahoma City.
Many considered McColgin to be a superior orator and believed her election win was due to her popularity in western Oklahoma. McColgin took an active interest in the soldiers’ relief program and helped establish the Tuberculosis Sanatorium at Clinton. She filed legislation calling for the creation of a child hygiene bureau and a public nursing board.
Although not re-elected to a second term, McColgin led the way for the election of three female members of the Oklahoma House of Representatives in 1923.
On March 31, 2005, Representative Bessie S. McColgin will be inducted into the Oklahoma Women’s Hall of Fame.
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