Helen Douglas Mankin
An ambulance driver, a lawyer and the first woman elected to Congress from Georgia* — all stops along the way for Helen Douglas Mankin.
Mankin was the daughter of two lawyers. She drove an ambulance in France during World War I, and then graduated from Atlanta Law School, which her father helped found. She and her mother both became lawyers when the state lifted the ban on female attorneys in 1921. Then it was on to politics.
Mankin won a seat in the state legislature in 1936, beating out five male opponents. Advocating for progressive reforms, she often went head–to–head with Governor Eugene Tallmadge.
In 1947, Mankin won election to Congress in a special election, becoming the first woman elected to Congress from Georgia. The following November, she won the popular vote in the general election but, Georgia’s electoral system, which favored rural districts, kept her from winning. She never held office again and died after an auto accident in 1956 — the end of a trailblazing life of service that began on September 11, 1894, Today in Georgia History.
* Additional research on this topic reveals that while Helen Mankin was the first woman elected to Congress from Georgia in a contested election, she was not the first woman elected to Congress from Georgia. Florence Reville Gibbs won an uncontested election in 1940 to serve out the term of her late husband, Representative W. Ben Gibbs. Georgia’s first woman elected to Congress served three months in the U.S. House of Representatives but chose not to seek reelection.
For more information on Florence Gibbs, please visit: http://history.house.gov/People/Detail/13759.