Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1934
Biography of Nettie Truax, 1864-1934
By Michael Rodriguez, Librarian, and Rebecca Parmer, Archivist, University of Connecticut
Nettie (Annette) Truax (1864-1934) was among the first women elected to serve as state legislators in the United States. A long-time schoolteacher and superintendent, Truax served one term in the Wyoming House of Representatives in 1913. As chair of the House education committee, she shepherded passage of education reform bills.
Early Life and Family
Truax was born to parents Samuel Strahl Truax and Adaline Eliza (Dudrey) Truax in Illinois in August 1864. Her father was a farmer; her mother was a homemaker. Truax was the eldest of six children, including Lydia, Mabel, Charles, Samuel, and Ella. Her family moved to Lyon County, Minnesota, before 1870. After studying at the University of Minnesota, Truax taught school in the town of Balaton in southwestern Minnesota for many years. She then moved to northwestern Wyoming, where she continued to teach.
Truax launched her political career by serving as Superintendent of Schools of Crook County, Wyoming, from 1908 to 1912. In this elected office, she oversaw 95 schools, including 76 buildings owned by the county's 17 school districts, with a total enrollment of 1,425 pupils as of 1910. Truax made it a point to visit every school in Crook County, braving harsh winter weather and poorly maintained roads. Because of her success as school superintendent and her commitment to educational reform, Truax was urged by the residents of Crook County to run for state legislative office. She won her election in November 1912 by the largest majority ever given to any candidate in that county.
Truax served one term as a Democrat in the 12th Legislature of the State of Wyoming (1913), representing Crook and Campbell counties. Wyoming was a pioneer in women's suffrage, having granted women the vote in 1869 and again when the territory became a state in 1890. Truax was one of only seven women legislators in the United States at the time and one of only two women serving in Wyoming's legislature. The other female legislator was Anna B. Miller, a dry goods merchant elected to represent Albany County in the 12th Legislature. Miller and Truax were the second and third women to serve in Wyoming's legislature, preceded by Mary Godat Bellamy in 1911 and followed by Morna Alma Wood in 1914 (Wood had succeeded Truax as Crook County superintendent in 1913). Both Miller and Truax served on the House education committee.
Truax chaired the House Committee on Education and Public Libraries, which proposed, amended, and recommended passage of bills introduced to the House. She also served on the House committees on Sanitary and Medical Affairs and Enrollment. Truax prioritized educational and school reform. She introduced and helped pass bills that raised revenue for school purposes through taxation, designated county seats for and expanded the powers and duties of school superintendent offices, created school district boundary boards, granted first-class teaching certifications to candidates who had completed two years of training at standard colleges and universities, and required teachers of technical subjects to obtain technical certifications. Her bill to establish a pension system for Wyoming educators passed the House but failed in the Senate.
Contemporaries deemed Truax an effective reformer whose calm, pragmatic leadership demonstrated the advantages of women's suffrage. "I have come to accept suffrage as naturally as I do a cup of coffee with my breakfast," Truax noted to reporter Margaret B. Downing in 1913. Truax added that women tend to be more patient and detail-oriented than men are, making women ideal candidates to run schools, public utilities, and other areas that men are perhaps too hasty to administer effectively. According to Downing, many of "her reforms were made merely by pointing out to the thoughtful the obvious absurdity of existing statutes." Truax herself attributed her success to "cold logic and ability to prove one's conclusions" and praised her colleagues for their support.
After exiting politics, Truax attended business courses at the Mankato Normal School (now Minnesota State University, Mankato) from 1913 through 1914. After the 1910s, Truax largely faded from the published record, though her name surfaced occasionally in the social columns of local and regional newspapers. Truax evidently divided her time between family members in the Sundance and Mankato areas. She never married and had no issue. Truax died of pneumonia in Sundance, Wyoming, on February 25, 1934.
Nettie Truax circa 1913 (Source: Normal Instructor, November 1913, p. 15)
Biennial Report of the Superintendent of Public Instruction. Cheyenne: Wyoming Labor Journal Pub. Co., 1910. https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/100672280
Bloomfield, Meyer. "Educators Whose Work Is Bringing Them Fame." Normal Instructor, November 1913. https://hdl.handle.net/2027/uiug.30112109607355.
Downing, Margaret B. "Campaign for Better Schools - Miss Nettie Truax, Member of the Wyoming Legislature, Took the Office to Help Reform School Laws, and Has Had Her Measures Passed - Woman's Place in Law Making as She Sees It." Boston Sunday Globe, September 7, 1913. https://www.newspapers.com/clip/75176671
Downing, Margaret B. "Miss Nettie Truax: Representative Truax's Campaign for Better Schools and for the Passing of Better Laws Engaged the Attention of the Entire Northwest." Los Angeles Times, September 7, 1913.
Hein, Rebecca. "Wyoming Ratifies the 19th Amendment." WyoHistory.org: The Online Encyclopedia of Wyoming History, September 30, 2019. https://www.wyohistory.org/encyclopedia/wyoming-ratifies-19th-amendment.
House Journal of the Twelfth State Legislature of Wyoming, Convened at Cheyenne, Wyoming, on the 14th Day of January, 1913. Laramie: The Laramie Republican Co., 1913. Google Books.
"Miss Senator, Mrs. Commissioner, and Ladies of the Jury: Listen to the Amazing Case for the Western Woman as Argued by Mary Holland Kinkaid." The Delineator, September 1913. https://hdl.handle.net/2027/iau.31858046092197.
"Representative Truax: Wyoming Woman's Record - Miss Truax Obtains Reforms in First Suffrage State - Makes Enviable Record in Legislature." Woman's Journal and Suffrage News, July 26, 1913. https://archive.org/details/sim_the-womans-journal_1913-07-26_44_30.
Rose, Arthur P. An Illustrated History of Lyon County, Minnesota. Marshall, MN: Northern History Pub. Co., 1912. https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/008652553.
"Starts and Stops: Local Items of General Interest." Crook County Monitor, August 27, 1914.
Weatherford, Doris. Women in American Politics: History and Milestones, Vol. 1. Thousand Oaks, CA: CQ Press, 2012.
"Wyoming Marriage, Death, and Divorce Indices." Wyoming State Archives, Cheyenne.
"Wyoming Woman Swings Scale: Speaker Hesitates on Important Roll Call Till He Hears Mrs. Miller's Voice." Woman's Journal and Suffrage News, February 1, 1913, https://archive.org/details/sim_the-womans-journal_1913-02-01_44_5.
Fifteenth Census of the United States, 1930 (National Archives Microfilm Publication T626). Records of the Bureau of the Census, Record Group 29. Family Search, https://www.familysearch.org/.
Fourteenth Census of the United States, 1920 (National Archives Microfilm Publication T625). Records of the Bureau of the Census, Record Group 29. Family Search, https://www.familysearch.org/.
Thirteenth Census of the United States, 1910 (National Archives Microfilm Publication T624). Records of the Bureau of the Census, Record Group 29. Family Search, https://www.familysearch.org/.
Twelfth Census of the United States, 1900 (National Archives Microfilm Publication T623). Records of the Bureau of the Census, Record Group 29. Family Search, https://www.familysearch.org/.
Eleventh Census of the United States, 1890 (National Archives Microfilm Publication M407). Records of the Bureau of the Census, Record Group 29. Family Search, https://www.familysearch.org/.
Tenth Census of the United States, 1880 (National Archives Microfilm Publication T9). Records of the Bureau of the Census, Record Group 29. Family Search, https://www.familysearch.org/.