Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Ladies in the House

One of my favorite projects in this job was digitizing the photographs from Hugh Peterson’s office in Ailey, Georgia. He renovated the old sugar house, one of the many outbuildings on his property, and decorated it with personally inscribed photographs of fellow politicians, certificates, and photographs chronicling his time in the Georgia Legislature from 1922 to 1932.

The most interesting photo in the bunch shows the members of the Georgia General Assembly standing on the steps of the State Capitol in Atlanta. It was taken during the 1923 – 1924 session and is a panoramic shot, 28” x 8.5”. The men in the group look dapper in their straw hats and bow ties. It’s amusing to pick out some of the young faces that would go on to shape Georgia politics, men like Richard B. Russell, Jr. and Roy V. Harris.

I also noticed some other faces looking back at me: those of the first women to be elected to the Georgia House of Representatives. 1923 was the freshman year for Bessie Kempton (Fulton County, 1923 – 1927, 1929 - 1931) and Viola Ross Napier (Bibb County, 1923 - 1926). The fact that they were elected to multiple terms is very interesting as is the fact that they were from the two major metropolitan areas in Georgia at that time, Atlanta and Macon. In the current session of the Georgia General Assembly, there are 38 women in the House of Representatives and 7 in the Senate, something that I’m sure would make Kempton and Napier proud!

Post by Renna Tuten, Project Archivist, Russell Library

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