Rebecca Latimer Felton

American politician (1835-1930)

Rebecca Ann Latimer Felton (June 10, 1835 – January 24, 1930) was an American writer, politician and activist who was the first woman to serve in the United States Senate, although she served for only one day. A major figure in American first-wave feminism, Felton was also a white supremacist and the last slave owner to serve in Senate who spoke vigorously in of favor of lynching African Americans, under the pretense of protecting the sexual purity of white women. Ironically, many of the African Americans she admonished were falsely accused of rape. She was a prominent member of the Georgia upper class who advocated for prison reform, women's suffrage and education reform. Her husband, William Harrell Felton, served in both the United States House of Representatives and the Georgia House of Representatives, and she helped organize his political campaigns.


  • A Senator of the U.S., a woman, is still a sort of political joke with our masculine leaders in party politics.. But the trail has been blazed! The road is apparently rough—maybe rocky—but the trail has been located. It is an established fact. While it is also a romantic adventure, it will ever remain an historical precedent—never to be erased.
  • When the women of the country come in and sit with you, though there may be but very few in the next few years, I pledge you that you will get ability, you will get integrity of purpose, you will get exalted patriotism, and you will get unstinted usefulness." – Address to the Senate, November 21, 1922
  • When there is not enough religion in the pulpit to organize a crusade against sin; nor justice in the court house to promptly punish crime; nor manhood enough in the nation to put a sheltering arm about innocence and virtue----if it needs lynching to protect woman's dearest possession from the ravening human beasts----then I say lynch, a thousand times a week if necessary.
    • August 11, 1897
  • Savage tribes used physical force to manage their women. The club and the lash were their only arguments. Moslem fanatics go a step further in saying women have no souls.
    • 'Why I Am a Suffragist? essay, dated May 14, 1915. Cornerstones of Georgia History, p. 165.
  • This women's movement is a great movement of the sexes toward each other, with common ideals as to government, as well as common ideals in domestic life, where fully developed manhood must seek and find its real mate in the mother of his children, as well as the solace of his home.
    • 'Why I Am a Suffragist? Cornerstones of Georgia History, p. 169.
  • There were abuses, many of them. I do not pretend to defend these abuses. There were kind masters and cruel masters. There were violations of the moral law that made mulattoes as common as blackberries. In this one particular slavery doomed itself. When white men were willing to put their own offspring in the kitchen and corn field and allowed them to be sold into bondage as slaves and degraded as another man's slave, the retribution of wrath was hanging over this country and the South paid penance in four bloody years of war.
    • On slavery, in her 1919 autobiography Country Life in Georgia in the Days of My Youth Felton, p.79.
  • There was never a more loyal woman in the South after we were forced by our political leaders to go to battle to defend our rights in ownership of African slaves, but they called it "States' Rights," and all I owned was invested in slaves and my people were loyal and I stood by them to the end. Like General Lee I could not fight against my kindred in a struggle that meant life or death to them. Nevertheless I am now too near the borderland of eternity to withhold my matured conscientious and honest opinion. If there had been no slaves there would have been no war. To fight for the perpetuation of domestic slavery was a mistake. The time had come in the United States to wipe out this evil. The South had to suffer, and even when our preachers were leading in prayer for victory, during the war, and black-robed mothers and wives were weeping for their dead ones, who perished on the field of battle, I had questions in my own mind as to what would be the end of it.
    • From Country Life in Georgia in the Days of My Youth Felton, p. 86.
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