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Historical Highlights

Representative Ruth Sears Baker Pratt of New York

August 24, 1877
Representative Ruth Sears Baker Pratt of New York Image courtesy of Library of Congress The first woman elected to the New York City council, Congresswoman Ruth Pratt of New York was one of the few early Congresswomen to have prior experience in elective office.
New York Representative Ruth Sears Baker Pratt was born in Ware, Massachusetts, on this date. A government reformer and fiscal conservative, Pratt, on the eve the Great Depression, utilized her position as the first woman to serve on the New York City council to win a U.S. House seat representing Manhattan’s “silk stocking” district. Pratt rejoiced on election night: “I did not run as a woman. I ran for the Board of Aldermen and for Congress not as a woman but as a citizen.” When she took her seat in the 71st Congress, Pratt became the first woman to represent New York in the national legislature. The Congresswoman opposed government funding to support the Great Depression’s unemployed, preferring to remedy the economic crisis through private sector assistance. Pratt served two terms in the House before losing her re-election bid in 1932. After leaving Congress, she remained involved in New York City politics. She once remarked, “You know politics is nothing but theory with a lot of people, and that’s the trouble. To my mind, politics, or at least the thing that makes politics move, is personality. I happen to be one of those who like people, people of all sorts and conditions.”

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