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State Sen. Mildred Barry Hughes (D-Union Township) became the first woman to serve in the New Jersey State Senate when she was elected in 1965. (Photo: New Jersey Legislature).

Trailblazer: Mildred Barry Hughes

First Woman to serve in the New Jersey State Senate

By David Wildstein, February 09 2021 12:10 am

Mildred Barry Hughes (1902-1995) was the first woman to serve in the New Jersey State Senate.  She was elected in 1965, 45 years after women won the right to vote.

Hughes, a Union Township Democrat, was elected to the State Assembly in 1957 and re-elected three times.

After the U.S. Supreme Court’s One-Man, One-Vote decision, New Jersey ended the practice of electing one senator from each of 21 counties and instead apportioned State Senate seats based on population in 1965.

Republican State Sen. Nelson Stamler (R-Union) sought re-election on a ticket with Assemblyman Peter J. McDonough (R-Plainfield).

Hughes ran for the Senate with William Hourihan, an Esso Refining Company executive.

While Stamler won by more than 18,000 votes, Hughes defeated McDonough by 1,841 votes.

Demcoratic Gov. Richard Hughes carried Union County by 24,247 votes, 56%-43%, against Republican Wayne Dumont that year.

Hughes sought re-election to a second term in 1967, when Union County’s Senate delegation expanded to three seats.

Republicans ran former Elizabeth Mayor Nicholas LaCorte, Assemblyman Frank X. McDermott (R-Westfield), and Union County Freeholder Matthew Rinaldo (R-Union).

Rinaldo ousted Hughes by 20,657 votes.

David Wildstein Collection.

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