Jane Pratt

North Carolina’s First Congresswoman


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About the Book

On May 25th, 1946, after 22 years as a congressional secretary, Jane Pratt was elected as North Carolina’s first congresswoman. The press reported with great interest how “Miss Jane” won by a landslide with only a $100 campaign budget. She hit the ground running, voting to the pass the Atomic Energy Act, working tirelessly to mitigate a century of flood disasters in western North Carolina, and serving the constituents she knew so well.
This first biography of Congresswoman Jane Pratt recounts her youth and fascinating career on Capitol Hill. It also provides a unique federal view of North Carolina’s early 20th century history. After working as a rare female newspaper editor in the early 1920s, Pratt became secretary to five tarheel congressmen over some 30 years. Her career spanned the roaring twenties, the Great Depression, World War II, and the Cold War. Pratt’s amazing network was a who’s who of leaders in North Carolina and Washington, DC. Her decision not to run for re-election offers insight into why 46 years passed before the state elected another woman to Congress.

About the Author(s)

Marion Elliott Deerhake is an environmental scientist with more than 30 years of experience in research, outreach, and communication. She has co-authored articles in peer-reviewed journals and more than 90 technical reports and conference papers. She has volunteered on state and local environmental committees for decades in addition to nonprofit service. She lives in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Bibliographic Details

Marion Elliott Deerhake
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 317
Bibliographic Info: 34 photos, appendices, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2024
pISBN: 978-1-4766-9262-3
eISBN: 978-1-4766-5188-0
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix
Preface 1
Part I—­Life-Shaping Legacies, Education, and Opportunities
1. Legacy of the Pee Dee 7
2. Young Jane Pratt (1902–1918) 13
3. Woman Pioneer in North Carolina’s Press (1919–1923) 30
Part II—A Loyal Public Servant
4. Professional Woman in 1920s Washington, D.C. (1924) 41
5. An Advocate for Education: William C. Hammer (1921–1930) 47
6. A Short but Significant Term: Hinton James (1930–1931) 59
7. Furniture Diplomacy: J. Walter Lambeth, Jr. (1931–1938) 63
8. Wartime Congressional Tenure: William O. Burgin (1939–1946) 77
Part III—Congresswoman Pratt (1946)
9. An Unexpected Nomination? 87
10. Hitting the Ground Running 101
11. Easy Move into the Limelight 118
12. Legislating Atomic Energy 127
13. Seamless Provision of Constituent Services 132
14. Coincidental Tenures: Sam J. Ervin, Jr. 145
15. Three Powerful North Carolina Women 148
Part IV—Life After Holding Public Office
16. Pension Survival (1947–1956) 159
17. Back to the Capitol: A. Paul Kitchin (1957–1963) 166
18. Devoted Citizen Returns Home (1963–1981) 176
Part V—Looking Beyond Jane Pratt’s Service
19. ­Long-term Benefits of Pratt’s Service 187
20. Jane Pratt on North Carolina Women in Politics 194
Appendix I—Anson County Women Attending Salem Academy and College (1807–1924) 205
Appendix II—Select Articles from The Montgomerian, February 9, 1922, Edition 209
Appendix III—Women in Congress (1917–1947) 218
Appendix IV—North Carolina Women Leaders (1946–1947) 221
Appendix V—Three Powerful Women Visit the Legislature (1947) 224
Appendix VI—Select Items from the Jane Pratt Archives 227
Chapter Notes 235
Bibliography 271
Index 293

Book Reviews & Awards

• “In her book, Jane Pratt, Marion Deerhake introduces us to a pioneering woman who served North Carolina admirably in a number of ways—including 22 years in service as secretary to four North Carolina congressmen and ultimately serving herself as the state’s first congresswoman. The next North Carolina woman to serve in Washington would come nearly a half century later. Jane Pratt was a trailblazer, and her important story might have been forgotten had Deerhake not chronicled her life and its impact on the history of our state and indeed our nation. The book is a wonderful historical account of a woman who deserves to be remembered.”—Pamela L. Davies, president emerita and professor of strategy, Queens University of Charlotte

• “Long before North Carolina voters started electing women to Congress in the 1990s, Jane Pratt blazed a trail later followed by Rep. Eva Clayton, Sen. Elizabeth Dole, and the other Tar Heel women elected to serve in Washington. Pratt once was one of the most influential women in North Carolina, but her story largely has been lost to time. Marion Deerhake has done a good deed for North Carolina by documenting and elevating Pratt’s exemplary service to the state.”—John Drescher, contributing editor for The Assembly and former executive editor of The News & Observer

• “When Eliza Jane Pratt became North Carolina’s first congresswoman in 1946, the Democratic Party patronizingly congratulated her as ‘well-bred, well educated, well behaved and intelligent.’ Pratt, a career congressional staffer, served only eight months in office, but she would be the only Tar Heel woman in Congress until Eva Clayton’s election in 1992. Marion Deerhake has expertly shined a light on a largely forgotten figure—a career woman who succeeded in the testosterone-infused political world of the early 20th century.”—Rob Christensen, former political writer for The News and Observer of Raleigh and author of The Paradox of Tar Heel Politics.