Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Finette Benson Nichols (1864-1948)

Portrait from 1945-46 Connecticut State Register.

   The recent discovery of the name of Finette Benson Nichols comes as a welcome surprise, as oddly named female political figures remain difficult to come by! An eight-term member of the Connecticut House of Representatives between 1931 and 1947, Nichols etched her name into the history books when she became the first woman to represent Fairfield in the state legislature.
   One of three daughters born to John and Finette Edwards (Benson) Nichols, Finette B. Nichols was born in Fairfield on November 5, 1864. She received her education at the Fairfield Academy and for over two decades was employed as a private secretary to Henry L. Morehouse, the head of the American Baptist Society in New York City. Nichols would also work as a nurse during the Spanish American War, and later was a founder of the Family Welfare Society. 
   It wasn't until after entering her sixth decade that Nichols decided to enter politics. Although women had received the right to vote in 1920 Nichols was remarked to have been "opposed to the suffrage movement", believing that voting was a privilege reserved for men. Despite her feelings regarding the suffrage question, Nichols lost no time entering the political life of Fairfield following the passage of the 19th amendment, being a member of the Fairfield town Republican committee and in 1923 was a candidate for Fairfield County Commissioner
   In 1930 Nichols was elected as one of two representatives from Fairfield to the Connecticut legislature, receiving 2,076 votes. She would be reelected to a further seven terms in the state house and her long term of service saw her serve on the committees on Claims, Public Welfare, Human Institutions, Labor, Towns, and Cities.
  Nichols' final term in the legislature concluded in 1947 and she died the following year at age 83. Nichols had never married and was interred at the Fairfield East Cemetery, the same resting place as that of her parents.

Nichols during her time in the legislature.

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