Myrtle Cain

Myrtle Cain.
Myrtle Cain.

“These discriminations by race and sex, all along the line, should be done away with once and for all. It’s ridiculous that here in the year 1970 we have to eliminate discrimination.”

Myrtle Cain, “19th Amendment Opposition Recalled by City Resident,” The Minneapolis Star, August 26, 1970

Myrtle Cain was elected to the Minnesota legislature in 1922. In 1970, on the 50th anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment, she looked back on her years advocating for working women.

Cain was among the last wave of woman suffragists — young, idealistic women who joined the cause in its final decade. She was inspired by Alice Paul, founder of the National Woman’s Party and leader of the movement’s radical arm. Cain co-founded the Minnesota Woman’s Party to extend Paul’s work.

During her single term in the state legislature, Cain and six male colleagues introduced the state’s first equal rights amendment (ERA). Her three female colleagues didn’t support the bill — they feared it was too ambitious so soon after the woman suffrage win. “We got nowhere then,” she recalled in 1970. “All kinds of terrible things were predicted.” In the end, the legislature voted to suspend the bill indefinitely.

After losing her re-election bid by only 39 votes, Cain worked as a political staff assistant. During World War II she was labor relations director at the Twin Cities Ordnance Plant. She fought successfully for equal pay for the many women who made ammunition at the plant.

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