New Hampshire’s First Woman County Commissioner: Keene New Hampshire’s Grace A. Richardson (1873-1947)

Grace A. Richardson, New Hampshire's first county commissioner, from the Boston Globe newspaper.

Grace A. Richardson, New Hampshire’s first county commissioner (Cheshire County). Her photograph from a 1922 Boston Sunday Globe newspaper.

According to Leon Anderson, New Hampshire legislative historian, “Grace A. Richardson of Keene “agent” for that city’s Bureau of Public Service ( a private charitable society) became New Hampshire’s first woman County Commissioner in the 1922 election. She was re-elected on the Republican ticket for the following 12 years.”

A Boston Herald newspaper article of 1923 adds many details to this brief synopsis: “Miss Richardson has been running Cheshire county since the last election, when she won over two men in her own party (Democratic) and seven in the Republican party, both sides giving her the vote. Miss Richardson, who has been in social service work for many years, came to Keene from Boston in 1919. While in Keene she has not only been at the head of the social service work, but held for three years a position in the office of the county commissioner, where she became fully acquainted with its requirements. She was convinced that her vote in county affairs help the women and children of the county and that is her reason for becoming a candidate for the office.

Central Square Keene NH circa 1905; Detroit Publishing Co., gift of State Historical Society in 1949; Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Division

Central Square Keene NH circa 1905; Detroit Publishing Co., gift of State Historical Society in 1949; Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Division

“Besides her other duties, Miss Richardson is chairman of the program committee of the Woman’s Club. This again is in connection with her welfare work, as she wishes to interest women as much as possible. She is the founder of the Keene Visiting Nurse Association, which was incorporated in March three years ago [c1920] and of which she is now secretary. Being in public health work she has thrown herself whole-heartedly into whatever she believed could assist in the cause. She finds her best satisfaction, however, in giving a helping hand to children who are poorly equipped either mentally or bodily and are not being cared for properly by their parents. She sees that these children have proper treatment, and, if possible, finds suitable homes for them. “This is so much better,” she says, “than doling out clothes and food to people who will take everything they can get. Such people will take care of themselves, somehow, but unfortunate children are helpless.”

By 1936, after 14 years of service as a county commissioner, Grace A. Richardson decided not to run again.  The Springfield Republican (Springfield MA) reported the following story: “Senator Winfield C. Burbank of Winchester, well known Republican throughout the county, will ask for the nomination of county commissioner as Miss Grace A. Richardson will not be a candidate for reelection on the commission…..Miss Richardson who is now serving her 14th year as county commissioner, has been a resident of Keene for the past 17 years. She ranks second in the point of service in the state on county commissioner board. She is the only woman holding such an office in New England [Editor’s note: this statement is not  accurate, as Mary Perry Rich of Knox County, Maine, ran for county commissioner in 1922 and was elected from six years.] and succeeded the last J.P. Wellman.

During her years of service she has found homes for 35 children by adoption, thus relieving the county of their financial support and making it possible for these children to have privileges of a home and parental care. When Miss Richardson first came to Keene she had the position of agent for the bureau of public service and clerk for the county commissioners, and in those offices became familiar with the work of the county commissioners. Through her efforts the Keene District Nurse Association was organized in 1920. She was elected secretary of the organization and has served in that capacity ever since. A trustee of the New Hampshire Tuberculosis Association and an incorporator of the New Hampshire Orphans home at Franklin, she is also a member of the committee on field service work, recently started in New Hampshire. Miss Richardson says she has no plans for the future…. James S. Kellom of Winchester who has served as representative in the Legislature from that town, has filed as Democratic candidate in the 11th district…”

The Portsmouth Herald of 1943 shows her included on the list of men and women serving on the board of the New Hampshire Society for Crippled Children and Handicapped Persons, [Editor’s note: now Crotched Mountain] i.e., “Miss Grace A. Richardson, Keene.”

Concord Massachusetts High School, dry plate negative, Detroit Publishing Company, circa 1900-1910; Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Division

Concord Massachusetts High School, dry plate negative, Detroit Publishing Company, circa 1900-1910; Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Division

So now we know a lot about her political and occupational interests.  But who was she?  Grace Annie Richardson was the daughter of James E. & Sara (Stevens) Richardson, born in Acton, Massachusetts in 1873.  She most probably attended school in her birth town. We know from census records that she graduated from high school (about 1890)–probably Concord MA High School, as Acton did not have it’s own until 1925.  She arrived in Keene, New Hampshire in 1919.  There she began working for a private social service company and also in the office of the county commissioners. After she left politics, she continued to work for the Keene District Visiting Nurse Association, residing at 48 Central Square.

She is last found in the Keene NH Directory in 1942: “Richardson, Grace A. sec Keene Dist Visiting Nurse Assn h48 Central sq.”  She died 5 years later, as her grave stone in her family’s plot, in Mount Hope Cemetery, Acton MA is dated: “February 10, 1947.”  Her partial genealogy follows.


Sherman Richardson born abt 1816-18 in Ashby MA, d. 18 Dec 1890 in Winchendon MA, age 74; m. Lydia Ann “Liddy” Blood. She b. abt 1814-1818 Boston MA, died 1 February 1887 in Winchendon MA; mechanic. In 1850 living in Rindge NH. In June 1880 he is listed as being blind. [A Shermon Richardson m. 23 July 1835 in Boston MA to Mary Ann Smith, possibly this is the same couple.]
1850 US Census > NH > Cheshire > Rindge
Sherman Richardson 32 MA Farmer 1000
Lydia Richardson 32 MA
Charles H. Richardson 14 MA
James E. Richardson 10 MA
Justis S. Richardson 7 MA
Frances M. Richardson 5 MA
George W. Richardson 2 MA
1870 US Census > MA > Worcester > Winchendon
Sherman Richardson M W 56 b 1813-1814 MA no occupation
Lydia M. Richardson F W 55 b 1814-15 MA
Joseph R Richardson M 16 W b 1853-54 MA works in pail shop
1880 us Census > MA > Worcester > Winchendon
Sherman Richardson W M 66 Seats Chairs [b abt 1814 MA]
Lydia R. Richardson wife F 65 MA [b abt 1815 MA]
Children of Sherman & Lydia Ann (Blood) Richardson:
1. Charles H. Richardson, b. abt 1836 MA; m. 19 Nov 1872 in Boston, Suffolk Co. MA to Cora Cunningham, dau of Edmund & ? (Sawyer) Cunningham
2. +James E. Richardson, b. 10 Oct 1839 in Groton MA
3. Justus S. Richardson, b. abt 14 March 1843 Groton MA, d. 3 Oct 1911 in Keene NH, sash & blind maker
4. Francis Marcia “Fanny Maria” Richardson, b. 10 Apr 1845 in Concord, Middlesex Co. MA; d. 4 Aug 1917 in Winchendon, Worcester Co. MA; m. Almond E. Carroll
5. George William/Washington Richardson, b. 5 Dec 1847 in Concord, Middlesex MA; m. 24 June 1886 in VT to Ava Leola (Smith) Ingalls; mechanic; res. Swanzey NH
6. Lucy Mersilva Richardson, b. 6 Oct 1851 in Jaffrey, Cheshire Co. NH, d. 2 May 1915 in Winchendon MA; she m. John W. Houghton.
7. Joseph Thomas Richardson, b. 30 March 1854 in Jaffrey, Cheshire Co. NH; he m. 16 Aug 1899 in Boston, Suffolk Co. MA to Etta A. Smith, dau of Winslow B. & Lucy (Cutter) Smith. She was b. abt 1882.

(Sgt.) James E. Richardson, son of Sherman & Lydia Ann (Blood) Richardson, b. 10 Oct 1839 in Groton MA, d 20 Feb 1917 in Acton, Middlesex Co MA; m. 20 February 1864 in Peterborough, Cheshire Co. NH to Sarah R. “Sara” Stevens, dau of William & Charlotte (?) Stevens. She b. 8 Nov 1844 Greenfield NH d 19 July 1922. At the time of their marriage his occupation was soldier and hers was seamstress. Later for births of children in Acton MA, his occupation was mechanic. They lived in Acton MA. He served during the Civil War, Co. B, 6th MA Vol Infantry. Enlisted 1861. Sergt Co K. 6th NH Vol Infantry from 1861-1865. They are both buried in Mount Hope Cemetery, West Acton MA.
1900 US Census > MA > Middlesex > Acton
James Richardson 60
Sara Richardson 55
J. Katherine Richardson 14
1880 US Census > MA > Middlesex > Acton
James E. Richardson 40 Works in Pail factory
Sara Richardson 35
Lottie Richardson 14
Everett Richardson 12
Florence Richardson 9
Grace Richardson 7
Linwood Richardson 3
Frank Richardson 3m
Children of James E. & Sarah R. (Stevens) Richardson:
1. Lottie Richardson, b abt 1866 MA; m. 16 Oct 1890 in Acton MA to Fred H. Dickerman, son of Charles S. & Elizabeth H. (Chamberlain) Dickerman
2. Everett A. Richardson, b. abt 1868 MA, d. 21 Jan 1925 in Worcester MA [see grave]. He m 28 Oct 1894 in Boston, Suffolk MA to Mary E. Powers, daughter of Michael & Mary (?) Powers. She b. abt 1870.
3. Florence Adeline Richardson, b. 31 October 1871 in Acton MA; d. 1932 Peaks Island, Cumberland Co. Maine; m1) 5 May 1890 to Frank Stanley Winslow (3 children); m2) 22 June 1903 in Acton MA to Frederick Wade Gray (1 child); m3) 19 Feb 1910 in Portland ME to Thomas A. Johnstone, son of Charles & Mabel (Mouteith) Johnstone.
4. +Grace Annie Richardson, b. 2 Feb 1873 in Acton MA
5. James Linwood Richardson, b. 2 November 1876 in Acton MA; m. 26 March 1902 in Boston MA to Minnie G. Dubuque, dau of Fred & Delia (Young) Dubuque.
6. Frank Leroy/P. Richardson, b. 1 Sep 1879 in Acton MA; m. 28 Nov 1913 in Boston MA to Phyllis L. Purchase, dau of William R. & Edith M. (Russell) Purchase.
7. Julia Catherine Richardson, b. 6 Feb 1886 in Acton MA

Grace Annie Richardson [this story is about her, see photograph at top of page], daughter of James E. & Sarah R. (Stevens) Richardson, b. 2 February 1873 in Acton MA;  died 10 February 1947; removed from Boston MA to Keene NH in 1919. She is buried in Mount Hope Cemetery, Acton MA in her family’s plot.  She was the first [elected] county commissioner in New Hampshire [Cheshire County].
April 2, 1919 Concord Enterprise, Concord MA
West Acton Exercises held in memory of Miss Harriet Gardner
included reading by Miss Grace A. Richardson
Boston Sunday Globe, August 22, 1920
Miss Grace A. Richardson of Keene, NH clerk of the County Commissioners of Cheshire County NH is the guest of her brother, Frank P. Richardson, Main Street, Hull Village.
1920 US Census > MA > Plymouth > Hull [same 1930]
Frank P. Richardson 40 M W Head MA MA NH b abt 1880 Real Estate
Phyllis Richardson 28 b abt 1892 Canada Can-E Can-E
Theodore Richardson 5 MA b abt 1915
James W. Richardson 2-6/12 MA b abt 1917/1918
Phyllis L. Richardson 1-2/12 MA b abt 1919 [Phyllis Lois Richardson, b. 4 Nov 1918 Hull MA; d. Feb 1978; mx3 – Burch, Brady, Kilpatrick
1930 US Census > NH > Cheshire County > Keene > ED 12
Potter Frank C Head M W 64 married 22 yrs NH VT NY Gardener, Private Garden
Potter, Lydia W wife F W 72 married 22 yrs NH MA NH none
Richardson, Grace A Lodger F W 50 single MA MA NH county commissioner
Ramsy, Edith M. Lodger F W 28 single VT VT VT Clerk Bank
1940 US Census > NH > Cheshire Co > Keene > Ward 4 > 48C Central Square
Richardson Grace A Head F W 60 single H4 MA Agent, public welfare office
1942 Keene NH City Directory
Richardson, Grace A sec Keene Dist Visiting Nurse Assn h48 Central sq.
1943 not in directory
Never married, no children.


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4 Responses to New Hampshire’s First Woman County Commissioner: Keene New Hampshire’s Grace A. Richardson (1873-1947)

  1. Pingback: March 2016: Celebrating Women’s History Month in New Hampshire | Cow Hampshire

  2. Amy says:

    Interesting that the Springfield Republican wrote about her since she lived in Keene, NH. Did you know that that paper still exists—struggling like so many local papers in the face of online sources of information?

    • Janice Brown says:

      Amy, I didn’t know it still exists, though New England has a few long-time newspapers. The Springfield MA area must have had a western New Hampshire readership, no doubt, for them to carry that story.

  3. Pingback: New Hampshire Political Heroines, Suffragists, Elected Women and Record Breakers | Cow Hampshire

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