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Typist to Treasurer

9/7/2016:

Bernice Muriel Asbridge faced many obstacles on her road to success. She was born in Arena, North Dakota on this date in 1919. She graduated from Bismarck High in 1937 during the great depression and hired on as a bookkeeper for a department store, working there until she married Donald Asbridge during World War II. Donald trained with the 9th Infantry Division and would go on to fight in Germany.

Bernice traveled with him from army base to army base, serving as a clerk-typist at each new stop. In 1943, she gave birth to her first daughter, Donna, but because of the demands of base life, baby Donna was raised by grandparents until Bernice and Donald returned in 1945.

That same year, Bernice went to work for the county auditor, again as a clerk-typist. In 1950, she gave birth to a son, Darold. It was a time when only 12% of mothers with children under 6 were working outside the home. In 1948, she was promoted to machine bookkeeper, putting her in a good position to help support her family.

Tragically, in August of 1952, her husband, Donald, suffered a cerebral hemorrhage, which paralyzed the right side of his body and left him without speech and unable to work. This left Bernice as the sole provider. Her hard work led to a promotion in 1955 to second deputy auditor. And when the county auditor retired in 1958 she ran for the position and held it for 10 years.

The next step for Bernice was a run for state treasurer. At the 1968 September primaries in Fargo, she was given the Republican nod, making her the only woman on the Republican state ticket. She went on to lead a solid campaign, resulting in her election on November 5th. The following year, Bernice was elected as chair of the North Dakota State Investment Board, and she served in that position until 1972.

Bernice Muriel Asbridge had overcome hardships and social boundaries, helping pave the way for the many women who would follow into public office.

Today’s Dakota Datebook was written by Lucid Thomas, drawing upon the book Important Voices by Susan E. Wefald.