Assemblyman Sayegh: Edith Welty was a Trailblazer for Women in Local Politics

During Women's History Month, it’s essential to recognize the special women who shaped our history and those who are contributing to our future. That’s why I have honored the incredible women who continue to move our communities forward during my Women of Distinction Awards. These trailblazers overcame obstacles and challenges to achieve greatness.

As a father of five daughters, I know how important it is to acknowledge remarkable women for all that they’ve done because they serve as role models to young girls. In Yonkers, our history is filled with powerful women who have laid a foundation for others to follow, such as Edith P. Welty, the first and only woman to serve as mayor of the City of Yonkers.

Born on Sept. 10, 1882, Welty’s journey in politics began after she attended a League of Woman Voters meeting in 1934. During this time, not too many women were involved in creating legislation and presiding over communities. It had been a little over a decade earlier that the Women's Suffrage Movement fought for the passage of the 19th Amendment in 1920, giving women the right to vote. However, the passage of this law had restrictions on what race could vote.[1] Sadly, it took several more decades for all races to have the right to vote.

The lack of women in politics did not deter Welty. Her passion for studying issues affecting her community and how the government was run at this time helped her become an expert on these topics and led Welty to advocate for a city management style of government. In recognition of her dedication to the community, Welty earned the Most Outstanding Woman Award from the Business and Professional Women’s Club in 1938.[2]

Welty’s political contributions continued while serving two five-year terms on the city council, culminating in her taking office as Mayor for the final four months of Mayor Curtis E. Frank’s term following his resignation.[3] While serving as mayor, Welty garnered praise for her leadership skills and commitment to improving her community. She was so passionate about the work she was doing in her community that she was given the nickname “Public Energy Number One” by the local newspaper, The Herald Statesman.[4]

Following her stint as Mayor, Welty stayed involved in the community. She became a trustee for the Salvation Army in Yonkers, a member of the Young Women’s Christian Association and a member of the Chaminade Club.

Welty passed away on Dec. 31, 1957. To commemorate Welty’s legacy, the City of Yonkers dedicated a park in her honor, located on the East Side of Yonkers on Mile Square Road. Thanks to Welty and contributions from women leaders in our communities who continue to shatter glass ceilings, the future looks even more promising. If you did not know about Welty, I hope hearing about her inspires you to create positive change in your neighborhood, state or beyond.