Grace A. Richardson

1873 - 1947


The first female County Commissioner in New Hampshire and one of the first female City Councilors in Keene.

When Grace Richardson moved to Keene in the 1910s, she joined a community of empowered Progressive Era women.  Richardson was born on February 2nd, 1873, into a large family of seven children.  Her father James worked as a mechanic during her youth and was a wounded veteran of the Civil War.   Her mother Sarah played an active role in community affairs, serving as the President of the West Acton, MA, Women’s Relief Corps—a national organization founded in the 1870s by women who served as nurses and aids in the Civil War. Some of the main goals of the organization were to help children and to improve public health—both causes that Grace Richardson would go on to advocate for throughout her life.

After high school, Richardson found work as a private family nurse. Following in her mother’s footsteps, she also became active in the Women’s Relief Corps. In 1905, Richardson was elected the President of the Middlesex County Women’s Relief Corp, already holding the title of President of the JP Gould Corp 65 in Stoneham, MA. Richardson also served at one point as Past Noble Grand for the Rebekah Lodge of IOOF of Stoneholm. 

In 1919, Richardson moved to Keene to work as a clerk to the county commissioners and an agent of the newly-formed Bureau of Public Service. In March of 1920, Richardson became a founding member of the Keene Visiting Nurses Association and served as secretary. She also joined the Keene Women’s Club and served as chairman of the programs committee in 1923.  Richardson led the charge to obtain a city nurse to monitor the health of the community and a nurse to specifically follow up on tuberculosis cases plaguing the city of Keene. As a result of her efforts, the city of Keene held clinics for tubercular patients in the 1920s.

Image of Grace Richardson from Boston Post article, 19 Dec 1920

In December 1920, Grace Richardson was elected to the Keene City Council, one of the first five women to hold the position after the passage of the 19th amendment only months before.  She had only lived in Keene for one year at that time.  In 1922, Richardson was elected County Commissioner, winning over “two men in her own party (Democratic) and seven in the Republican Party, both sides giving her the vote.” 

As county commissioner, Richardson oversaw a body of elected officials and was tasked with governing the county. A Boston Herald article from 1923 details her motivations and specific duties in the role, “She was convinced that her vote in county affairs help the women and children of the county and that is her reason for becoming a candidate for the office…Being in public health work she has thrown herself wholeheartedly into whatever she believed could assist in the cause. She finds her best satisfaction, however, in giving a helping hand to children who are poorly equipped either mentally or bodily and are not being cared for properly by their parents. She sees that these children have proper treatment, and, if possible, finds suitable homes for them…”

After serving as County Commissioner for 14 years, Richardson decided not to run for reelection in 1936. By the end of her service, she had found homes for 35 children in the county and was ranked second in the point of service in the state on the county commissioner board. Her work with children also led Richardson to become an incorporator of the New Hampshire Orphans Home in Franklin, New Hampshire.

Richardson continued to serve as the secretary of the Keene Visiting Nurses Association, as well as a trustee of the New Hampshire Tuberculosis Association, and a member of the committee on field services work. On February 10th, 1947 Grace Richardson died, leaving behind a long legacy of public service. She is remembered for her work to improve the lives of countless women and children. 

Bio by Grace Richardson, 2020

Points of Interest

  • Mount Hope Cemetery, Central Street, West Acton, Massachusetts - Find-a-Grave
  • Grace Richardson's home in the 1930ss-1940s: 48 Central Square, Keene, New Hampshire
  • Grace Richardson's home in the 1930: 45 Beaver Street, Keene, New Hampshire

Important Links