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Home  >  Know Alaska  >  Alaska History  >  Nell Scott
Nell Chadwick Scott: First Female Elected to Congress

The New York Times hailed the election of Nell Scott as Alaska's first woman legislator with the headline: ALASKANS ELECT WOMAN.




It was November 1936. Alaska was still a territory with only four districts and the legislature only met every other year.

Nell Scott was 36 years old at the time. She and her husband, Dick, a territorial marshal, lived in Seldovia. "Somebody suggested we ought to have a woman in there," Scott recalled in an interview with Anchorage Daily News columnist Suzan Nightingale in 1985. "I just spoke out of turn and said I'd try it. Juanita Anderson ran on the Independent ticket. If I'd known she was going to run, I would have let her run. That was really what I was campaigning for, that a woman could get into the legislature, break the ice."

She said she couldn't remember much campaigning. She did fly around the state and talked with people one-on-one -- maybe one of the first politicians to campaign in a plane. She was the only person elected from outside Anchorage for her district. A Democrat, some say Franklin Roosevelt's landside reelection carried her to victory.

Scott took office on January 11, 1937 and served one session. "We started in January, and we were through in February. I remember we had a short extension so we finished sometime in March."

As she pointed out that there has been at least one woman in the legislature ever since she was elected, she said, "I don't think I personally did it, but all those that were backing it did it. There are a lot of capable women in Alaska that should be down there. It just needed to start, that's all."


Interview with Suzan Nightingale, published in the Anchorage Daily News, July 4, 1985.
Alaska State Library, Trevor M. Davis Photographs Collection, Trevor M. Davis, ASL-P97-0032.

Gallery of Images

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Nell Scott and Territorial Legislature

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