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From May Fete to First Woman Treasurer of the United States

Posted by Jocelyn Wehr (Digital Archivist) on May 6, 2014

Georgia Neese was born in 1898 in Richland, Kansas, to Albert and Ellen Neese. Gray attended school in Topeka and graduated from Washburn College in 1921. While attending the Sisters of Bethany College, Topeka, she was one of Miss Marguerite Koontz's students who performed in the college’s Alumnae May Fete. The performance took place in Central Park on Saturday, May 20, 1916. Georgia Neese is on the far left in the photograph.

During college, she developed an interest in acting and after graduation attended the Franklin Sargent School of Dramatic Art and spent nearly ten years acting with various stock companies. She married her manager, George M. Clark in 1929. They divorced in the mid-1940s. She started working at her father's Richland State Bank as an assistant cashier in 1935 and became president in 1937 following his death. She became active in the state Democratic Party and was elected National Committee Woman in Kansas in 1936, a position she held until 1964. She was an early supporter of Harry Truman. It was this support that brought about her nomination as the first woman to be Treasurer of the United States.  She served in that office from June 1949 until January 1953 when Truman left office.

Her name, Georgia Neese Clark, became known to millions through her signature on all U.S. currency issued while she was in office.

Reminiscing about her conversation with President Truman about taking the position, Gray said Truman pointed out the disadvantages of the job including low pay and asked her if she could afford to take the job. She replied, "Can I afford not to?" This is indicative of the zest and style with which she represented her position as first woman treasurer and her state.

 

 

Following her term, she returned to Kansas to work in the family's business. In the same year she married Andrew Gray and wished to become known as Georgia Neese Clark Gray. She remained active in national Democratic Party politics until 1964 when she resigned from the Democratic National Committee. Gray died in 1995.

 

Written by Pat Michaelis, Research Collections Division Director

Biographical information from Kansapedia

 


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