Ahead of Her Time: Mayor Edith P. Welty

Authored by Marnie Mallah

Edith P. Welty taking the oath of office as Mayor of Yonkers, NY in 1949. She remains the only female Mayor that Yonkers has ever had. Taken from Edith P. Welty’s scrapbook, which is held at Westchester County Historical Society.

In 1949, at a time when few women worked outside of the home, let alone were politicians, Edith Welty became the first female mayor of Yonkers, NY. She remains the only one the city has had since its founding, over a century ago. 

Mayor Welty’s interest in politics began later in her life, when she was 52 years old and a grandmother. At the time that Mrs. Welty became involved, local politics were under the control of both Democrat and Republican party machines, the city was in great debt, and property values were low.  She researched and advocated for a City Manager type of government, feeling that the party system of Democrats and Republicans was too extravagant with spending and also corrupt (Flynn 2000). 

Shortly thereafter, she was elected to five two-year terms on the City Council. She spent the last four months of her last term on the Council as Mayor, serving out a term of the previous mayor who had resigned.  Though her time as Mayor was short, her service to the city of Yonkers spanned over a decade and her dedication to the community earned her the nickname “Public Energy Number One” (The Herald Statesman Staff 1957).  Though she was up against party machines conspiring for power, as well as the challenges of leading a city in the post-Depression, post-WWII era, she was tireless in appealing to her community to strive for a better form of governance. 

References

Barra, Ernest R. 1969. “Mrs. Edith P. Welty, Madame Mayor of Yonkers in 1949…”. The Herald Statesman, July 16, 1969.  https://fultonhistory.com/Fulton.html.

Flynn, Tom. 2000. “Before Feminism, Yonkers Had Edith Welty.” Yonkers History: The Quarterly Journal of the Yonkers Historical Society 8 (4)/ 9(1) (Winter 1999-2000).

Mayor Edith Welty’s Scrapbook. 1949. Westchester County Historical Society.  Scrapbook 19. n.d.

Special to the New York Times. 1958. “Mayor Edith Welty, Yonkers Leader: Crusader for Civic Reform, First Woman Mayor, Dies.” New York Times, January 1958. https://timesmachine.nytimes.com/timesmachine/1958/01/01/83385081.html?pageNumber=25

St. John’s University. 2015. “Our Mission.” History & Facts.  Last modified October 2015. http:/www.stjohns.edu/faith-service/our-mission.

The Herald Statesman Staff. 1957. “Former Mayor Edith P. Welty Dies; Energetic Leader in Civic Reform.” The Herald Statesman, December 31, 1957. https://fultonhistory.com/Fulton.html.

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