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About this collection

Gracie Bowers Pfost, the first woman elected to Congress from Idaho, was born in Arkansas in 1906 and moved with her family to a farm in the Boise Valley in 1911. She attended Idaho public schools and graduated from Links Business College in Boise. In 1923 she married John (Jack) Pfost. They pronounced their last name Post, with the "f" silent. After working as a chemist for a few years, she served as deputy clerk, auditor, and recorder for Canyon County, Idaho. Later, she opened her own real estate office. Pfost participated in numerous civic organizations, including the Business and Professional Women's Club and the Soroptimist Club. She was a delegate to the Democratic National Convention in 1944, and to every succeeding national convention through 1960.

In 1940 Pfost was elected treasurer of Canyon County, Idaho. She held that position for 10 years. In 1950 she sought the seat for Idaho's First Congressional District. She lost in a close race to her opponent, Dr. John T. Wood. Not one to accept defeat, she ran again for the same seat in 1952. This time she defeated Wood. She was reelected in 1954 and again 1956, 1958, and 1960.

While in Congress, Pfost served on the Public Works and the Interior and Insular Affairs committees. She was chairman of the Subcommittee on Public Lands. She was the chief sponsor of a bill to authorize federal construction of a high dam at Idaho's Hells Canyon, which earned her the nickname "Hell's Belle." She also worked to improve retirement benefits for civil service employees, protect the lead and zinc mining industries, and protect the agricultural sector.

In 1962, Pfost ran for the U.S. Senate, but lost to Republican Len B. Jordan. In 1963 President Kennedy appointed her as Special Assistant for Elderly Housing in the Federal Housing Administration. She served in that capacity until her death in 1965 from Hodgkin's Disease.

Sources:

Aiken, Katherine G. "Gender and the Congressional Career of Idaho's Gracie Pfost." Journal of the West 42 (2003), 44-51.

Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, 1776-1989. Washington DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1989.

 
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