First_Republican Woman Elected to Senate
Agnes Riddle served in the House beginning in 1911 and was re-elected for the 1913-1914 session. She was later elected to the Senate and was the first Republican woman to be sworn in as a state Senator in Colorado in 1917. She is also the first woman to serve in both chambers of the General Assembly.
Riddle, a German-born dairywoman, represented Adams, Arapahoe and Elbert counties. She fought for and won new dairy and farm inspection laws. She helped pass amendments for an eight-hour work day, minimum wage laws, and child welfare.
In 1917, a British suffragette newspaper used Riddle as an example of why it is important to have women involved in politics. Denver politicians were proposing to reopen their red-light district. They assumed that Riddle, a woman, would not be present for the debate and vote on such an unseemly subject.
“On that day, when the promoter of the Byles bill had made his neat little speech, over there in the seat they had counted on having vacant, Mrs. Riddle rose. As she slowly rolled the sleeves of her black silk waist and squared her elbows, the perspiration of nervous dread came out on the face of the leader of the Republican majority: Mrs. Riddle of his own party was breaking loose again!
. . . In her own words, . . . she ‘let them have it.’ And what she said was ‘a-plenty.’ ‘You, gentlemen, aren’t going at this matter right,’ she told them. ‘Why shut the gates of hell on the women of the red-light district, and leave the men who put them there free to roam around in respectable society? But I myself will vote for your bill if you’ll amend it to include also a segregated district for fallen men. Only how many of you would be left here in your seats in the State House?’
You could have heard a pin drop when the lady shot that last bolt. ‘Now,” she said finally, ‘I defy any of you who is without sin to cast the first vote against these poor fallen women!’ They took the ballot on the Byles bill. Only one vote, that of the man who introduced it, was recorded in favour of the bill. In the awkward silence of a sudden adjournement, one man after another, as they filed out, whispered to his neighbor, ‘She killed it! She killed it!’”
But, far from feeling any grudge against Mrs. Riddle for the slaughter of this abominable bill, her comrades in the Legislature appear to have been grateful to her for bringing home to them the cowardliness of what it was proposed to do. The woman’s point of view had not occurred to them. Once it was brought home, many among them were heartily ashamed of their blindness.
Next day on Agnes Riddle’s desk were heaped up fifty boxes of candy and a whole bush, forty-five blossoms, of American beauty roses with the ‘compliments of her admiring colleagues.’ After all, the woman who votes can always count on the chivalry of the American men.”
(As reported in The Common Cause of Humanity: The Organ of the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies, February 2, 1917.)
Later, in 1919, Sen. Riddle introduced a bill to ratify the Federal Women’s Suffrage Amendment during a special session of the Colorado General Assembly. The bill passed both houses unanimously.
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Note: The information on this page is made available through the generosity of the Colorado Legislative Women’s Caucus, which has asked us to preserve, maintain and promote information they gathered.