Finette Benson Nichols: Representing Fairfield 1864-1948
Nichols was part of a generation of women who developed new careers by working for social causes. The granddaughter of a Fairfield sea captain, she was educated at the Fairfield Academy. She worked for 25 years in New York City as secretary to the head of the American Baptist Society, which trained teachers and provided health and social services around the world as part of its missionary work. At home in Fairfield, she helped nurse veterans of the Spanish-American War, and organized efforts to help needy families in town. She helped establish the Family Welfare Society and was a member of the Visiting Nurses Association, helping to confront the flu epidemic in the 1910s.
Although she had been opposed to the suffrage movement, believing that voting was a male privilege, Finette Benson Nichols ended up devoting years of her life to politics. She recalled later, “I did not lose a day, after suffrage was won, to do my part as a citizen.” Like other women who had been involved in public causes, she found a home in party politics in the 1920s, helping to lead Fairfield’s Republican Town Committee. With support from Annie B. Jennings and other Republican women, she was nominated as a state representative.
In 1931 she was elected to the Connecticut General Assembly, becoming the first woman to represent Fairfield at the state level. One of only a handful of female legislators during that time, she went on to serve eight terms, until just before her death in 1948. She was known as a “liberal conservative,” serving on committees dealing with public health and safety, labor, towns and cities, and public welfare.