Terri Branham Clark
Representative 100th District
Today, I am humbled to be sworn in as our State Representative and proud to be the first female to represent the 100th District.
However, I am not the first woman to represent Boyd County in the Kentucky House of Representatives. That honor goes to Mary Elliott Flannery and was accomplished at a time when it was truly groundbreaking. As a resident of Catlettsburg, Flannery was the Democratic candidate and won in 1921 on the backside of the suffrage movement which Flannery was an active participant.
She was not only the first female to be elected to represent Boyd County, but also the first woman elected to the Kentucky General Assembly and the first female elected to a state legislature south of the Mason–Dixon line.
She was sworn in January 1922 and served in the General Assembly until an unsuccessful campaign for Secretary of State in 1923. She was a delegate to the Democratic National Convention in 1924 and remained politically active. Mary Elliot Flannery died at her home in Catlettsburg, Elliot Manor, in July 1933 and is buried in the Ashland Cemetery.
Flannery worked as a journalist and wrote for the Ashland Daily Independent from 1904–1926. She had a weekly column titled, “Impressions of Kentucky’s Legislature,” in which she advocated for social reform through legislation, specifically for women.
As a politician, she continued to advocate for women and children encouraging other legislators to amend laws on marriage and divorce. Additionally, she focused on educational reform and she introduced the bill that created Morehead State Teachers College. In the state Legislature, Flannery supported funding for the Shepard-Towner Maternity Act that provided health care and education for pregnant women and their children. Known as the “Maternity Act,” it was the first of its kind and designed to encourage states to develop programs to serve women at lower income levels and provided federal matching funds to support and educate lower income families that had higher infant mortality rates. As a legislator, she was a strong advocate for education and programs to improve conditions for those struggling in poverty.
Flannery was born in Carter County, briefly lived in Pike County and resided until her passing in Boyd County. She was a true representative of Eastern Kentucky and was quoted during her campaign, “the good people back home need hard roads and plenty of them, good schools and more of them, and a real Eastern Normal School.” Her legacy was memorialized in the House Chamber in 1963 with a bronze plaque placed at her seat No.40. She was named Kentucky’s Most Prominent Woman by the Kentucky Historical Society and in 2005, Kentucky Commission on Women added her portrait to the "Kentucky Women Remembered" exhibit at the Kentucky State Capitol building.
Initially, I intended to write this column about my gratitude to the family and friends who worked with me throughout 2018. But as I read about Representative Flannery, I decided to extend my deepest appreciation to her posthumously. Not only for her life’s work on social reform and education, but for blazing the trail that I am now privileged to walk.
My predecessors in the 100th District have been men who have represented without fault and worked endless hours to successfully improve the quality of life in our community. I have the greatest respect for each of them and all they accomplished for this district.
But as I begin this journey as your State Representative, I am inspired by the work and the spirit of Mary Elliot Flannery. Unbeknownst to me during my campaign, her platform to reform education, improve our infrastructure and secure social and medical equality for women, children and working families mirrored mine.
Almost a century later, I take the oath of office with the goal of protecting public education, improving our infrastructure and promoting legislation that stabilizes and sustains the weakest among us.
With genuine sincerity I thank you all for allowing me the opportunity to be our voice in the Kentucky General Assembly. I will strive to uphold the standard set by those who have previously had this honor and hope to continue to blaze trails for those who will come after me.