A powerful woman behind the scenes, gracious and charming in the public eye, Cornelia Cole Fairbanks was a progressive operative in political and social circles.  Nellie Fairbanks helped to pave the way for women to be revered as leaders.  She believed that women should be able to hold public office although she died before they were even allowed to vote in national elections.

Just over a century ago Mrs. Fairbanks was the equivalent of female President of the United States - President General of the Daughters of the American Revolution, headquartered in Washington, D. C.  One of the best known women in the United States at the time, she was on the National Board of the giant General Federation of Women's Clubs.  Club women of her day assumed leadership roles long before professional women would be able to be leaders in many venues. 

She was on the board that helped design the first women's club building in Indianapolis, the second such structure in the nation.  This experience would serve her well when she later was able to plan and initiate the building of a national headquarters for the DAR in Washington, the most impressive monument ever designed and built by women at the time.

The nation and its capital saw this woman campaign across the country, raise considerable sums of money, complete projects of national importance including a unique building, and skillfully manage the components of a major national organization both publicly and behind the scenes. 

She was a complex woman - devoted to family and home, but not to domesticity; feminine, yet a suffragist and proponent of the rights of women.  Her career in the public eye contributed positively and powerfully to attitudes about woman suffrage and women in public office.  She was a pathfinder for what was to come in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.

Copied from the cover of Madam President, 1901 - 1905

Nellie Fairbanks, Path Finder to Politics for American Women

Written by Lucy Jane King


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