Charles R. Ford announced the unveiling of a portrait of Amelia Elizabeth “Bessie” McColgin, as part of a series of paintings commissioned by the Oklahoma State Senate Historical Preservation Fund, Inc. The portrait of Oklahoma’s first female representative is by nationally- renowned artist Mike Wimmer of Norman, and was unveiled during a ceremony in the House Chamber this afternoon.
“It is a great honor to be able to dedicate a painting of such an important historical figure. Representative McColgin set the standard for women across the state that they too can be a part of the Oklahoma Legislature,” said Ford. “She was elected during a time when it was typical for men to hold positions of power and Bessie changed that stereotype by winning her House seat.”
The 19th Amendment, which allowed women the right to vote, was ratified in 1920, but unfortunately was not enacted in time for McColgin to vote in her own election.
McColgin came to Oklahoma in 1901 and helped her husband stake claim to a piece of property near Rankin in Roger Mills County in 1903. She was elected in 1920 and served in the Eighth Oklahoma Legislature from 1920-21. By winning her seat, McColgin paved the way for the election of three female members of the Oklahoma House of Representatives in 1923.
Octavia DeBerry, McColgin’s daughter, mentioned that her mother “was always focused on education. We had several books in our home and would always discuss issues as a family around the dinner table.
The painting is a gift from the family of Representative Bessie McColgin and United States Congressman Frank Lucas. The notable Oklahoma woman will be inducted into the Oklahoma Women’s Hall of Fame on March 31, 2005.
Lisa Coffee, the wife of Senate Republican Leader Glenn Coffee, is McColgin’s great granddaughter. “My great grandmother was an inspiration to our entire family. She loved people and believed in community service. This beautiful portrait is such a privilege to our family.”
“I am honored to still have the privilege and the means to keep dedicating and displaying art work in the State Capitol,” said Charles Ford, who recently left office in the Oklahoma State Senate due to term limits.
This and other art commissioned by the Oklahoma State Senate Historical Preservation Fund, Inc. can be found on the Internet at: http://www.lsb.state.ok.us/senate/welcome.html.