Monday, March 13, 2017

Indiana's First Female State Legislator Was a Mooresvillian

Did you know that the first woman to serve in the Indiana General Assembly was born and raised in Mooresville, Indiana?

Julia D. Nelson (née Julietta Reynolds)
First Female in the Hoosier State Legislature

Born in Mooresville on December 11, 1863, Julietta ("Julia") Reynolds attended the Mooresville Academy School until 1880, when she married Edward F. Nelson.  The couple moved to Indianapolis circa 1887.  Subsequently, in 1903 Julia and Edward moved to Muncie, Indiana, where Edward was employed as a pressman for the local newspaper.    (Pressmen operated the printing presses; not to be confused with a reporter.)  Julia served as chairwoman of the Delaware County Republican Women's Club during the 1920 elections.  She was also active in the women's suffrage movement, as well as organizations such as the Order of the Eastern Star and the State Assembly Women's Club.

Following the death of state representative J. Clark McKinley just before the November, 1920 election, Julia D. Nelson was selected as McKinley's replacement to represent Delaware County in the Indiana House.  Julia served one full term (1921-1923).  Her first speech before the General Assembly called for legislation for the care and support of poor parents by their children.  During her first year in office, she introduced five resolutions, of which the most notable were:

  • House Bill 425:  To establish private hearings in criminal cases involving rape and in determination of paternity hearings.
  • House Bill 322:  To establish an Indiana Motion Picture Board to examine, approve, and regulate movies shown in Indiana theaters.
In 1932, following Edward's death, Julia moved back to Indianapolis.  She died on May 27, 1936 and is buried in Crown Hill Cemetery.

Many thanks to the Indiana Commission for Women for information about Julia D. Nelson.

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