|Marsha C. Wise, Executive Director
In 1995, the women of Maryland and all over the United States celebrated the 100th anniversay of the first election of women to a state legislature. In 1894, three women were elected to served in the Colorado House of Representatives and they were sworn in in January 1895. The next year, the first woman in a state senate was elected to the Utah Senate.
Maryland's first woman legislator, Mary Eliza Watters Risteau, was elected in 1921 from Harford County and took office in 1922. She served for four sessions, 1922, 1924, 1931, and 1933. In 1934, she became the first woman elected to the Maryland Senate and served in the 1935 and 1937 sessions. In 1950, she was again elected to the House of Delegates and served in the 1951 session.
In 1958, Verda F. Welcome and Irma George Dixon became the first African American women to be elected to the House of Delegates, and, in 1962, Verda Welcome became the first African American woman to be elected to the Maryland Senate.
In February 1972, Senator Rosalie Abrams introduced a resolution that the women in the Maryland General Assembly form a Women's Caucus that would meet regularly to "push for the recognition of women and their abilities." Acting on that resolution, eight women delegates and three women senators created the Women Legislators of Maryland, a group that has grown in membership, resources, and political strength. The overall mission of the group is to improve public policy that affects women's lives and to increase the number of women elected and appointed to public service in Maryland. On February 21, 1997, the Women Legislators of Maryland marked the 25th anniversary of this caucus which has grown from an "informal support group" with no staff or resources to a professionally managed, fiscally strong organization. This anniversary was officially celebrated with a Joint Session of the Legislature on March 7, 1997.
There are now 55 women serving in the Maryland General Assembly and a total of 153 women have served since 1922. Women have held and continue to hold positions of power and leadership in the General Assembly, and the Executive and Judicial branches of Maryland government. Women have, indeed, claimed their voice in Maryland.