Alice Skofield, a 76-year-old in Lewiston, was the first woman to register to vote in Maine. Lewiston Evening Journal

This year will mark a century since the first women won elective office in Lewiston.

Four women, each running for the first time, captured school board seats.

“Lewiston’s school board becomes unique in Maine, and probably in New England, in that its women members now outnumber the men,” the Lewiston Evening Journal noted.

The women taking office that summer were Marie Saucier, Florence Pendleton, Josephine Provost and Bertha Webber.

“Their assumption of office is a significant indication of the changed trend of the times,” the paper said.

Their election came a year after women initially gained the right to vote in Maine.


Four women were elected in 1921 to serve on Lewiston’s school board: Marie Saucier, Florence Pendleton, Josephine Provost and Bertha Webber. Lewiston Evening Journal

Lewiston allowed women to register starting Aug. 30, 1920 — four days after the 19th Amendment was certified and a day sooner than the rest of the state.

The first woman to register in Maine, 76-year-old Alice Skofield, wore a Warren Harding presidential button when she showed up 10 minutes before the clerk’s office opened for business.

An organist at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church, Skofield told a Journal reporter she gave up her vacation to make sure she registered right away.

“I never was active in the suffrage league,” she said, because she had “too many other cares with all my musical work. But I was always a suffragist at heart.”

“I was brought up to be interested in politics. My father lived in Oxford, participated in the town affairs and debated the issues at stake at our home table,” she said.

“If I had had the ballot, I should have voted for Franklin Pierce, as long ago as he ran for president – whenever that was!” she added. Pierce, who hailed from New Hampshire, was elected president in 1852.


By the time women could register in Maine, it was too late for any of them to run for office in 1920.

But the following year, women began to seek elected office for themselves, including the four elected to the school board in Lewiston. They took office 368 days after gaining the right to vote.

The four who won proved a diverse, public-spirited group.

Weber, who had trained in nursing at Central Maine General Hospital, married a doctor. Their children were “growing up in the public schools” at the time of her election.

Pendleton, the former Florence Hodgson, was the daughter of Robert Hodgson, a man prominent in Republican circles. She graduated from Bates College in Lewiston in 1904 and became a public school teacher before her marriage to Pendleton, a dentist. They had children in the public schools.

Saucier and Provost, the paper said, were each born “outside this country” — both were born in Quebec — and got their own education in parochial schools, where they trained as clerks. Each could speak English and French fluently.


A cartoon in the Lewiston Evening Journal in 1920 marking the day that Alice Skofield registered to vote in Lewiston. Lewiston Evening Journal

Provost was “the widow of a well-known businessman” in Lewiston. They had three sons, one of whom was still in high school.

Saucier said she ran for office “because she felt it was her civic duty. She is willing to do what she can for the city in which she has lived practically all her life.”

Provost, who also lived in Lewiston most of her life, told a reporter she wouldn’t have accepted a chance to run “if I had known the people would have to vote for me.”

“I know nothing about the public schools here, how many buildings there are, how many teachers, what they receive for salaries – nothing! But I am willing to learn,” she said.

The newspaper said the women “will have many delicate and difficult problems” to consider when the new board got to work.

“The effect of this upon the city’s education system is expected to be far-reaching,” the Journal’s news story said.


It said that “women are more intimately and sympathetically in touch with children, especially young children, than men can possible be.”

The three joined three men on the panel: the Rev. John Kealy, the Rev. George Robinson and Florian Marquis Jr.

Among the first issues they would deal with, the Journal said, is whether to require the school nurse speak both English and French, as the city’s health office suggested. The previous board “didn’t think this at all necessary,” the paper said.

In 1928, Florence Pendleton unsuccessfully sought election as mayor of Lewiston. Lewiston Daily Sun

Saucier went on to serve on the board for “many years, according to her 1965 obituary.

Provost, who also died in 1965, went on to hold a seat on the Board of Health and Welfare and later as the chairwoman of the Board of Voter Registration in Lewiston, where she lived for 82 of her 86 years.

Webber, who died in 1941, was called “one of the most energetic and capable of women,” and after her school board stint devoted considerable time to the Sarah C. Frye Home for Aged Women, the Daughters of the American Revolution and other charitable endeavors.


Pendleton, who died in 1939, was the Republican nominee for mayor of Lewiston in 1927 after “a number of years” on the school board. When she ran for mayor against Robert Wiseman, “her intimate friends say she hasn’t even a faint hope of winning,” as the Lewiston Daily Sun put it. And she didn’t.

A member of the Maine State Republican Party Committee, Pendleton said at the time she wanted to make sure the GOP had a full ticket. She got involved in a number of charitable endeavors after losing the mayoral bid.

The Sun said she “needs no introduction to the voters of this city. More than once in Ward One, she has shown her ability to play the political game and play it well.”

That summer in 1921, the same could be said of all four of the successful newcomers, allowed to run for the first time in the wake of the successful suffrage movement.

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