< Gouverneur Benefactors — Rhoda Fox Graves
Rhoda Fox Graves 1877-1950
Rhoda Fox Graves was the first woman elected to New York State Senate. She was also the first woman to preside over the senate. As a senator, she founded the Organized Women Legislators of New York State and was its first president. Women had only been given the right to vote in 1920. By 1925, she was in the legislature.
Rhoda was married to Perle A. Graves and had two sons, Paul and Marcus.
While in the Legislature, she sponsored the junior operator license law, the creation of a State Publicity Bureau, a state highway snow clearance provision, as well as legislation to benefit farmers and the St. Lawrence Seaway.
One year after her election to the Assembly, Graves was appointed chair of the Assembly Public Institutions Committee. A former teacher, Graves sponsored legislation to finance school buildings and to create teaching scholarships. She also sponsored legislation authorizing the Conservation Department to issue pamphlets on state tourist attractions.
Elected to the Senate in 1935, Graves became the first woman chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee, sponsoring legislation that aided the dairy industry and helped dairy farmers receive better prices for their milk.
She was also a member of many Senate committees including Conservation, Highways and Parkways, Public Education, Affairs of Villages, Civil Service, Labor and Industry, Public Relief and Welfare, and Public Printing and Revision.
In addition to her activities as a legislator, Mrs. Graves had been conspicuous in other fields. She was a past regent of the Gouverneur Morris Chapter, Daughters of the American Revolution, Gouverneur, and was a state director of the Daughters of the American Revolution.
She was a member of the child welfare board of St. Lawrence county. Mrs. Graves also took an active part in many civic activities on the local and state levels, including, the Business and Professional Women's Club of Albany, the Gouverneur Business and Professional Women's Club, the Gouverneur Shakespeare club, the Julia Ward Howe Tent, Daughters of Veterans, the Marble City chapter of the Order of the Eastern Star, the Gouverneur, national, and state Pomona Granges, Home Bureau, the Academy of Political Science of Columbia University, the Women's National Republican club, and the Northern Federation of Women's Clubs.
A profile in the Times at the time of her death Jan. 25, 1950, included some of the awards for which she was named. The National Organization of Women in the legislatures once proclaimed her the nation's outstanding woman legislator. The National League of Women Voters in 1940 hailed her as an outstanding state lawmaker in the nation. In 1938 the National Federation of Business and Professional Women’s club designated her as the “one woman in the country who was rendering not only distinguished service to her constituents but whose record strongly commended itself to her constituents."
News article from 1948
Rhoda Fox Graves' desk at the museum.
Gouverneur's Rhoda Fox Graves, NYS Political Trailblazer — by Lawrence P. Gooley
In the Spring of 2019, Lawrence Gooley wrote and published a series of five articles, published 3/14/19 online, by the Adirondack Almanack. With permission from the author, we have reproduced those articles here.
About the Author
Lawrence Gooley, of Clinton County, is an award-winning author who has hiked, bushwhacked, climbed, bicycled, explored, and canoed in the Adirondack Mountains for 45 years. With a lifetime love of research, writing, and history, he has authored 22 books and more than 200 articles on the region's past, and in 2009 organized the North Country Authors in the Plattsburgh area.
His book Oliver’s War: An Adirondack Rebel Battles the Rockefeller Fortune won the Adirondack Literary Award for Best Book of Nonfiction in 2008. Another title, Terror in the Adirondacks: The True Story of Serial Killer Robert F. Garrow, was a regional best-seller for four years running.
With his partner, Jill Jones, Gooley founded Bloated Toe Enterprises in 2004, which has published 83 titles to date. They also offer editing/proofreading services, web design, and a range of PowerPoint presentations based on Gooley's books.
Bloated Toe’s unusual business model was featured in Publishers Weekly in April 2011. The company also operates an online store to support the work of other regional folks. The North Country Store features more than 100 book titles and 60 CDs and DVDs, along with a variety of other area products.
Material on these pages is used with the permission of the author, Lawrence Gooley. It may not be reproduced or copied without the permission of the author. Mr. Gooley's writing and projects can be seen on the website: www.lawrencegooley.com