Archives On The Air 178: Leona Wells, The Most Envied Woman In Government Service

Mar 10, 2020

Leona Wells, ca. 1910. Photo courtesy U.S. Senate Historical Office.
Credit American Heritage Center

Leona Wells came to Wyoming from Illinois in 1898 because she wanted the right to vote. Wyoming’s U.S. Senator Francis E. Warren hired her as a staffer. She became one of the very rare well-paid professional women on Capitol Hill.

Leona Wells came to Wyoming in 1898 at age 21 to gain the right to vote.

She soon met Wyoming’s U.S. Senator Francis E. Warren, who hired her as a staffer. Warren chaired the Senate’s committees on Military Affairs and Appropriations. Any legislation in those two powerful committees passed through her hands.

She was unusual for the times—a well-paid professional woman on Capitol Hill. The Boston Globe called Wells "probably the most envied woman in government service."

But one area was off limits—the Senate Chamber. The Globe noted that while male clerks came and went, Wells had to wait outside. She had to keep the Chamber’s door slightly ajar so she could hear what was happening inside.

Learn more in the Francis Warren papers at UW’s American Heritage Center.