On this day in 1920, the 19th Amendment to the Constitution was certified, granting women the right to vote. The culmination of a massive, peaceful civil rights movement by women formal beginnings dating back to 1848 at the world’s first women’s rights convention in Seneca Falls, New York. The observance of Women’s Equality Day commemorates the passage of the 19th Amendment and calls attention to women’s continuing efforts toward full equality.
The roles and rights of women in American society have changed over the centuries. The following article titled ‘Woman’s Rise,’ appeared in The Bossier Banner on Apr. 2, 1931, and it elaborates on some of the changes being seen right here in Bossier Parish with having just elected their first woman to the office of Clerk of Court.
“Probably a great many women in Bossier Parish are elated over woman’s rise to the position in national affairs she has attained in a very few years. For a long period of time women did not wield any influence in this nation, that is as voters or office-holders. Now, however, women are serving the nation in many places of responsibility, and are exercising their right to vote with telling effect.
|Grace H. Larkin C. 1931.|
Source: The Bossier Banner
“Here in Bossier Parish we have one of our first major office-holders, from the ranks of the women voters. She is Miss Grace H. Larkin, Clerk of Court. The voters showed no hesitancy in elevating her to this position of trust, although it was not many years ago that scores of people, in this very section, were bitterly opposed to the idea of giving women the right to vote.
“For those Bossier Parish people who now take women’s rights for granted, we might say that for nearly one hundred years after the Declaration of Independence no women were employed by the Government. This is shown in a recent statement by the president of the Civil Service Commission.
“The first law permitting the employment of women as clerks in Federal Government offices was passed during 1870. Today more than 28,000 women are employed in such offices, in Washington alone, and nearly 60,000 more are employed outside of the capital city.
“Women are being appointed to such government positions as bacteriologist, biologist, botanist, chemist, economist, educationist, patent examiner, pharmacologist, physicist, statistician, zoologist and technologists of various kinds. As is well known, many women hold postmasterships.
“The employment of women in private business has shown a steady increase also, the number of women wage-earners at present being nearly ten million.
“Whether this increasing activity of women in industry, business and the professions is an indication of an improved civilization depends upon one’s viewpoint. However that may be, women have shown their ability to engage successfully in nearly every vocation under the sun, and that they will continue to do so cannot be doubted.”
Larkin’s long career with the Bossier Parish Clerks office began in 1903 when Beverly A. Kelly, Clerk of Court, employed her as his assistant. Then in 1914, James M. Henderson became the Clerk of Court, and he kept her on. She was appointed Chief Deputy with the approval of Judge John N. Sandlin in 1920.
On Jan. 17, 1931, Judge J. F. McInnis appointed Larkin as ad interim Clerk of Court pending a special election to name the successor to the late James M. Henderson, who served as the clerk for the past 16 years before his death. In a special election held on Feb. 24th, Larkin defeated State Senator V.V. Whittington with 1326 votes to his 870.
Then, in the general election of 1932, she was re-elected without opposition after her opponent Mr. J. M. Emmons, withdrew his candidacy. After being defeated in the 1936 general election and thirty-three years serving the Bossier Parish Clerk office, Larkin retired.
Larkin joined the ranks of “first” in women’s equality, through her hard work and devotion in her career and to the community she served. Not only was she the first woman Clerk of Court in Bossier Parish, but she was also the first in Louisiana. And as one of the first women in Bossier Parish that registered to vote in 1920 when the 19th Amendment was certified, Larkin never took her right to vote for granted.
To learn more about the women of Bossier Parish, visit the Bossier Parish Libraries History Center at 2206 Beckett Street, Bossier City. Or, contact us by email at email@example.com or by phone (318) 746-7717.
By: Amy Robertson