Julia C. Addington

Honored by:Carrie Chapman Catt Center for Women and Politics
Brick location:O:6  map

Julia C. Addington (June 13, 1829 – September 21, 1875) was the first woman elected to public office in Iowa and one of the earliest women elected to public office in the United States.

Addington was born in New York and came to Iowa from Wisconsin with her family in 1863. By 1869, when she was chosen as a candidate for superintendent of schools for Mitchell County by a faction of the Republican Party called the "Bolters," she had taught school in Cedar Falls, Waterloo, Des Moines and at the Cedar Valley Seminary in Osage; owned land in and around Stacyville; and had been appointed to complete the unfinished term of the previous superintendent.

Addington received the same number of votes as the Republican candidate, and the election was settled by a coin toss. Before assuming office, Addington wrote to the state superintendent of public instruction, A. S. Kissell, to verify whether she could legally hold office—and be paid—and whether her decisions would be legal and binding. Kissel consulted with the state attorney general, Henry O’Connor, who ruled that her election was legal since there was no explicit requirement in the law for a candidate for this office to be male. Nevertheless, her election was not universally accepted by her colleagues.

As county superintendent, Addington oversaw 76 schools—including 3 log schoolhouses—with 2,231 students and 122 teachers. During her tenure, 17 new schoolhouses were built. She retired for health reasons in 1871.

Addington died at the age of 56. She was inducted into the Iowa Women's Hall of Fame in 2010.