Image courtesy of Library of Congress
Eliza Pratt of North Carolina was the first non-related, female congressional staffer to succeed her boss in a special election.
On this date, Eliza Jane Pratt
became the first woman to represent North Carolina in the House of Representatives. A longtime legislative aide for four North Carolina Congressmen (William C. Hammer
, Hinton James
, J. Walter Lambeth
, and William O. Burgin
), Pratt developed a rapport with voters and an extensive knowledge of their legislative interests. When Burgin died during his fourth term in the House on April 11, 1946, the North Carolina Democratic executive committee debated only 30 minutes before nominating Pratt over six other candidates to run for the vacant congressional seat. Campaigning for the special election and paying all her own expenses, Pratt won a lopsided victory over Republican H. Frank Hulin. During her brief term, Pratt’s legislative knowledge enabled her to effectively manage her office and handle constituent requests. “With her background and training, Miss Pratt would make a worthy Congressman for years instead of a few months,” a Washington correspondent for Pratt’s hometown newspaper noted. Yet Pratt admitted she did not have the financial means to mount a campaign for a full term. After leaving Congress, Pratt served in a number of federal positions before returning to North Carolina. She lived in Wadesboro, North Carolina, until her death in Charlotte on May 13, 1981.