In 1922, Mabeth Hurd Paige became one of the first four women to be elected to the Minnesota House of Representatives. Before the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment, she was a public speaker and an advocate for women’s suffrage and helped found the Minnesota branch of the League of Women Voters. Paige also studied both art and law, and was admitted to the bar. She was involved in charity and volunteer work that she continued until her death in 1961.
Mabeth Hurd Paige was born in 1870 in Newburyport, Massachusetts. She lived there through high school and attended Newburyport schools. She continued her education at the University of Nebraska for a year before deciding to pursue an education in art, after which she attended the Normal Art School in Boston as well as the Académie Julian in Paris. Hurd had a brief career in art and teaching before she married James Paige, a law professor at the University of Minnesota, in 1895.
Paige began her studies at the University of Minnesota’s College of Law. After receiving her degree, she was accepted to the bar, but she never practiced law. She and her husband had one child together: a daughter, named Elizabeth, born in 1902.
Paige was an active member of the Minneapolis community in charity and religious causes. She served as a member of the Budget Committee of the Minneapolis Council of Social Agencies, which distributed money to various charities in the area. She was also the president of the Woman’s Christian Association, which provided assistance to single working women in the city.
At the same time, Paige participated in suffrage work in Minneapolis. She was a frequent speaker at meetings and conventions on suffrage issues both within Minnesota and across the United States. She played an instrumental role in the creation of the Minnesota branch of the League of Women Voters and worked as the chairwoman of the Fifth Ward in Minneapolis. At the same time, she traveled around the country and helped other states, such as Montana, establish their own branches.
On January 21, 1922, Paige filed as a candidate and announced her intention to run for the Minnesota House of Representatives. Although she admitted that she was reluctant to run, she explained that she sought office because she believed that women should participate more in politics after winning the right to vote. In a statement outlining her campaign, Paige said, “I have no special program, but I am as much interested in good general laws as in welfare legislation, to which I have given some special attention.” Paige identified as a Republican.
Paige’s campaign consisted of speaking engagements and ads printed in newspapers. She spoke before organizations such as the Republican Women’s Club and the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union. She experienced early success, including in the June primaries. 1922 proved to be a busy year for Paige, as she also attended the Pan-American Conference of Women in Baltimore.
Paige won the election for representative of Minnesota’s thirtieth district on November 7, 1922. She was one of the four women elected to the House of Representatives, the other three being Myrtle Agnes Cain, Sue Metzger Dickey Hough, and Hannah Jensen Kempfer. Her term started on January 2, 1923.
During her twenty-two years as a representative, Paige consistently served on the civil administration, public welfare, education, university and state schools, and public domain committees. She supported bills that aimed to limit predatory lending practices, protect natural resources, improve working conditions, and improve care provided by hospitals.
Paige retired from the Minnesota House of Representatives in 1944. At the time of her retirement, she expressed dismay that so few women had been elected to public office. After retirement, she returned to charity work. She died in 1961.
Mabeth Paige Hall, a housing club for single women professionals (later known as Paige Hall Apartments), was built in the 1960s at 727 Fifth Avenue South and named in honor of her work for women’s housing. During her lifetime, Paige was also honored by the Junior Chamber of Commerce as one of the “Hundred Living Great Minnesotans.”
For more information on this topic, check out the original entry on MNopedia.