Minnie D. Craig
Minnie D. Craig was an American legislator
A legislator is a person who writes and passes laws, especially someone who is a member of a legislature. Legislators are usually politicians and are often elected by the people...

, notable as the first female speaker
Speaker (politics)
The term speaker is a title often given to the presiding officer of a deliberative assembly, especially a legislative body. The speaker's official role is to moderate debate, make rulings on procedure, announce the results of votes, and the like. The speaker decides who may speak and has the...

 of a state House of Representatives in the United States.

Born in Phillips, Maine
Phillips, Maine
Phillips is a town in Franklin County, Maine, United States. The population was 990 at the 2000 census. It is home to the Sandy River and Rangeley Lakes Railroad, a heritage railroad.-History:...

 on November 4, 1883 to Marshall and Aura (Prescott) Davenport, Minnie Davenport was a bright student. After graduating from the Farmington State Normal School she attended the New England Conservatory of Music
New England Conservatory of Music
The New England Conservatory of Music in Boston, Massachusetts, is the oldest independent school of music in the United States.The conservatory is home each year to 750 students pursuing undergraduate and graduate studies along with 1400 more in its Preparatory School as well as the School of...

 and became a school teacher. She married Edward Craig in July, 1908, and they moved from Maine to Esmond, North Dakota
Esmond, North Dakota
As of the census of 2000, there were 159 people, 78 households, and 42 families residing in the city. The population density was 352.8 people per square mile . There were 114 housing units at an average density of 253.0 per square mile . The racial makeup of the city was 94.97% White, 3.14% Native...

 where Edward was president of a bank. Both Craig and her husband became involved in the Nonpartisan League, and in 1923, just three years after women won the right to vote
History of women's suffrage in the United States
Woman suffrage in the United States was achieved gradually, at state and local levels, during the 19th Century and early 20th Century, culminating in 1920 with the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which provided: "The right of citizens of the United States to...

, she was elected to the North Dakota House of Representatives
North Dakota House of Representatives
The North Dakota House of Representatives is the lower house of the North Dakota Legislative Assembly and is larger than the North Dakota Senate....

. She became known by the affectionate nickname, "Min", but also had a reputation as a serious and meticulous legislator. A 1927 report noted, Craig served six consecutive sessions in the State legislature. During this time she also held the position of state president of the Non-Partisan League, and was a Republican National Committee
Republican National Committee
The Republican National Committee is an American political committee that provides national leadership for the Republican Party of the United States. It is responsible for developing and promoting the Republican political platform, as well as coordinating fundraising and election strategy. It is...

 woman from 1928 to 1932. In addition to forging her own political career, Craig encouraged other women to become politically active:

On January 3, 1933, she made history when she was elected Speaker of the House, the first time a woman had led a legislative body in the USA (in a permanent capacity). However, the session proved challenging for Craig. The House assembled in a temporary auditorium as the State Capitol had been consumed by fire. In addition, North Dakota was suffering from an agricultural depression caused by drought
A drought is an extended period of months or years when a region notes a deficiency in its water supply. Generally, this occurs when a region receives consistently below average precipitation. It can have a substantial impact on the ecosystem and agriculture of the affected region...

. Her tenure as an elected member of the legislature ended with that session, when she left to become a state worker for the Federal Emergency Relief Administration
Federal Emergency Relief Administration
Federal Emergency Relief Administration was the new name given by the Roosevelt Administration to the Emergency Relief Administration which President Herbert Hoover had created in 1932...

. The following year she returned to the House in an administrative role, as assistant to the chief clerk. In the 1937 and 1939 sessions she fulfilled the role of chief clerk.

On her retirement, Craig and her husband moved to California. She began writing an autobiography
An autobiography is a book about the life of a person, written by that person.-Origin of the term:...

 but, at 99 pages, left it unfinished around the time of the death of her husband in 1947. Craig moved back to Phillips, Maine, in 1959 and died in Farmington on July 2, 1966.

Minnie D. Craig's collected papers, consisting of her handwritten autobiography, correspondence, pamphlets and scrapbook
Scrapbooking is a method for preserving personal and family history in the form of a scrapbook. Typical memorabilia include photographs, printed media, and artwork. Scrapbook albums are often decorated and frequently contain extensive journaling...

s detailing her political and family life, are held at the North Dakota State University
North Dakota State University
North Dakota State University of Agriculture and Applied Sciences, more commonly known as North Dakota State University , is a public university in Fargo, North Dakota. NDSU has about 14,000 students and it is the largest university in North Dakota based on full time students and land size...

 Institute for Regional Studies. The United Nations
United Nations
The United Nations is an international organization whose stated aims are facilitating cooperation in international law, international security, economic development, social progress, human rights, and achievement of world peace...

 declared 1975 "International Women’s Year" and North Dakota chose the occasion to honor Craig for her pioneering work.

Further reading

  • Minnie D. Craig: Gender and Politics in North Dakota, Maren Claus, North Dakota History: Journal of the Northern Plains, Vol. 62, No. 2 & 3, 1996.
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