Joining an all-too-short list of oddly named female political figures who've been featured here, Arcada Campbell Stark Balz etched her name into the history books in November 1941 when she became the first woman to be elected to the Indiana State Senate. A lifelong resident of the Hoosier State, Balz was active in numerous women's civic organizations in the state and gained further distinction as president of the General Federation of Women's Clubs in the late 1930s.
The daughter of James Orbin and Mary Elizabeth Stark, Arcada Campbell Stark was born in near Bloomington, Indiana on December 31, 1879. She was a student at the Manual High School in Indianapolis and would later be engaged as a teacher in that city's junior high school system, teaching history, literature and art classes. Stark married in Marion County, Indiana on November 20, 1905 to Frederick George Balz (1875-1954), the owner of the Indianapolis based Star Millinery Company. The couple is believed to have remained childless through their nearly fifty years of marriage.
Prior to her time in state government, Arcada Stark Balz was a prominent figure in numerous women's clubs in Indianapolis, including service as president of the Indiana Federation of Women's Clubs from 1932 to 1935. Two years later she would assume the directorship of the General Federation of Women's Clubs, holding that office until 1939. Beginning in 1937 Balz was affiliated with the New Harmony Memorial Commission, a "voluntary commission" established by an Indiana legislative resolution which aimed to "preserve and protect" the historic New Harmony settlement, a 19th-century community that had been devoted to religious/Utopian ideals. Balz had been appointed to the commission by then Indiana Governor Maurice Townsend and served as the group's president. During the commission's existence its members:
"Diligently conducted surveys and programs in keeping with the provisions of the joint resolution. It sponsored two elaborate annual Golden Rain Tree Festivals in New Harmony....and numerous newspaper and magazine articles were published for the purpose of cultivating public interest."
From the 1943 Indiana State Senate composite portrait.
In November 1941 Arcada Stark Balz was elected to the Indiana State Senate from the counties of Marion and Johnson. The first woman ever to win election to the state senate in its 120-year history, Balz defeated Democratic nominee Robert C. Kirby by a vote of 89,093 to 78,654 and took her seat at the start of the 1942-44 session. She would be returned to the senate in the 1945 election year and served another four-year term. During the 1947 session, Balz was chairwoman of the committee on Public Health and also held a seat on the Committee on Benevolent Institutions. Having set a precedent as the first female member of the Indiana senate, her government service was praised in her 1973 Kokomo Tribune death notice (shown below) which noted that she:
"Pioneered in the campaign for legislation to license nursing homes and to regulate women's working hours and wages. She was also amongst the first to push for improving school attendance requirements and establishing a merit system for state employees."After leaving the senate in 1950 Balz continued to reside in Indianapolis until a few years before her death. She celebrated her 90th birthday in 1969 and later removed from Indiana to Orlando, Florida, where she died at age 93 on August 18, 1973. She had been preceded in death by her husband Frederick in 1954 and was later interred alongside him at Indianapolis' famed Crown Hill Cemetery.
Arcada S. Balz, from the 1947 Indiana Senate composite.
From the Kokomo Tribune, August 20, 1973.