© 2024
Prairie Public NewsRoom
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Dakota Drama


People complain that today’s politics have become too much of a show, more about drama than the issues. However, history reveals that humans have always been partial to drama. A great example is the end of the Emma Bates campaign for State Superintendent of Public Instruction. While most of her campaign had remained drama-free with most of her publicity being supportive, it seemed that people would not let her off that easily. On November 5th, 1894, the day before the election, the Fargo Forum and Daily Republic published a scathing letter from D.J. McKenzie, the former superintendent of education for Sargent County. In it, he claimed Bates was “unscrupulous,” having received a certificate without fulfilling proper certifications, and that not even, “…one fourth of her pupils who have votes will vote for her.” Yet McKenzie’s letter was too late to slow Bates’s momentum and she went on to win the election by over 5,000 votes. But she was not done with the drama.

Not even two days after she took office on January 7th, 1895, the Forum published a gossipy report, dramatizing Bates transfer to the new position as she took over for predecessor Laura Eisenhuth. The report was entitled, “Rumpus Among the Ladies,” and it described two rumors about the transfer of power. The first description says that while Eisenhuth was giving some ladies a tour of the capitol, she saw Bates and immediately turned away, and this supposedly hurt the feelings of Bates and her friends. The other account claims that Eisenhuth spent all day preparing the office for Bates when the secretary came in to tell her that Bates wanted the office immediately vacated. The newspaper report concludes by stating that these two women created more hard feelings than, “…all the men who have held office before them.”

Drama in politics, and sexist reporting, circa 1895.

Today’s Dakota Datebook was written by Lucid Thomas, drawn from the book “Important Voices” by Susan Wefald.