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Bridgie M. Porter
1894 - 1960
Bridgie M. Porter was one of a handful of pioneering women elected to the Arizona State Legislature in the 1930s, during the formative years of statehood. Born in Farmerville, Illinois on April 30, 1894, she and her husband moved to Phoenix in 1915. She faced tragedy as a young mother with the death of her infant son in 1916 and the untimely death of her first husband to tuberculosis shortly thereafter. Despite these adversities and heartaches she persevered, remarrying in 1922. By 1929 she was working as an assistant secretary for the 9th Legislature. Here she would have seen the legislative process and come in contact with women elected to the legislature. She decided to run for a seat in the Arizona House of Representatives. When she was elected, three of her four children were under the age of 10. Her eight year legislative tenure, from 1931 to 1938, impacted the state of Arizona then and today.
While in the legislature she represented Arizona as a delegate to two Democratic National Conventions in 1932 and 1936. After the particularly gruesome death of the only woman ever executed in Arizona, Bridgie authored a bill that changed Arizona’s capital punishment law. She enhanced the lives of female workers by enacting a minimum wage law for women. She made a difference for Arizona residents in the midst of the great Depression. She advocated for social welfare providing for the immediate care of seniors, old age pensions and pensioners. She fought for pensions for peace officers and championed the cause of professional fire-fighters.
She fought tirelessly for social justice and human rights, equal pay for women, humane treatment of prisoners and the safety and well-being of children throughout the State. She continually championed in all of her four terms for a woman to have the right to serve on a jury ( a bill that was first introduced in the 1920s and finally passed in 1945).
She demonstrated leadership by being unafraid to speak up or shout out for what she believed in and believed to be in the best interest for the state of Arizona and its diverse populations. In a 1937 session when the Judiciary Committee reported that portions of a bill she had authored in support of labor unions were unconstitutional, Bridgie replied, “Of course the committee finds it unconstitutional. All bills to help the working man and the farmer are unconstitutional.”
During the 13th legislative Sessions she was the first Arizona woman elected Speaker Pro Tem. She served as Secretary and Vice-president of the Democratic County Central Committee. In 1939 she was voted president of the newly formed group called Women of the Legislature, an organization that still exists. After she left the legislature she continued to be involved in political and civic organizations.
Bridgie M. Porter elevated the status of women in Arizona while balancing career, marriage and motherhood. She was a role model to the women of her day and for women and men who served in elected office after her.