Laura Emelia Naplin: first woman in the Minnesota state Senate

Laura Emelia Naplin, born in 1893, was the first woman elected to the Minnesota state Senate in 1927, seven years after women gained the right to vote in the United States. Originally from South Dakota, Naplin lived in and served Northern Minnesota. After 9 years as a schoolteacher in Thief River Falls, Naplin filled the vacated seat after the death of her husband. She was voted into the seat for the 45th legislative session and served until the 48th session in 1934.

Laura Naplin was a member of the Farmer-Labor party, which at the time was titled the Nonpartisan Election-Liberal Caucus. During the early years of the Great Depression, she gained a reputation through her work on economic issues, administration, and organization of government. One of her most popular bills included a moratorium on mortgage foreclosures, which was praised for years by constituents of her district.

After choosing not to run for a third term in the Legislature, Naplin set her sights on a seat in the United States Senate. Both of her runs in 1936 and 1940 were unsuccessful.

Naplin moved to California in 1940 where she found work in insurance and real estate. Naplin continued to work into her eighties and expressed her concern to peers that retirement would be dull and boring. She passed away in Oakland, California in 1985 after a long life of working in service to others.

The next woman to serve in the Minnesota Senate did not come until more than thirty years later, when Nancy Braatas of Rochester, Minnesota was elected in 1975.