West Virginia Encyclopedia Published

January 12, 1939: Anna Johnson Gates Dies


Anna Johnson Gates died on January 12, 1939, just before her 50th birthday. In the 1910s, the East Bank native fought for women’s suffrage.

After women were granted the vote nationally in 1920, she served as the associate chair of Kanawha County’s Democratic Executive Committee.

Then, in 1922, she was elected to the West Virginia Legislature, becoming the first woman ever to serve in that body.

During her one term in the legislature, she sponsored 13 pieces of legislation, and five were passed. One of the most significant established ‘‘Mother’s Pensions.’’ This state welfare program provided money to women whose husbands could not support their families. Another successful bill authorized the Kanawha County Board of Education to establish and support a public library. She also chaired the House Committee on Arts, Science and General Improvements.

At the end of her one term, she decided not to run for reelection. Although, she did remain active in local Democratic politics. In 1932, she served as a delegate to the Democratic National Convention, which nominated Franklin D. Roosevelt for president. She died in Charleston after a long illness.