Lenna (Wilson) Perry

1899 - 1986


The first female selectmen in New Hampshire.

On March 9th, 1899, Lenna Wilson was born in Sharon, New Hampshire, the last of Ellen Worcester and Thomas Wilson’s ten children. The Wilson’s were long time residents and farmers in Sharon—a small town with only 352 residents in 2010. 

Lenna went through the Sharon public schools and then attended the Katharine Gibbs School (Gibbs College), and Burdett College in Boston. In 1918, during World War I, she started working as a typist for the Department of Veterans Affairs in Washington, DC. Lenna lived with her sister, Edith, who also worked for the government. 

By 1925, Lenna was back in Sharon and started working as their town clerk, a position she held until 1939. In 1926, Lenna became a trustee of the town trust funds and the library, both positions she held until 1940. In 1927 Lenna was elected to the New Hampshire General Court as a representative for Sharon. During her term, she served as the clerk of the NH House of Representatives, a position the members of the house elect. Lenna was the youngest of 14 women serving at the time and was known as “the Rose of Sharon”. She later attended the New Hampshire Constitutional Convention in 1930 and 1938.

Perry, Lenna_Reading Times. 30 Apr 1928

Lenna became the first female Selectmen in New Hampshire in 1928 when she was elected to the position in Sharon. For her four terms, totaling 12 years, Lenna was the Chairwoman of the Board of Selectmen, and thus was the highest-paid. 

In 1928, Lenna’s mother, sister, brother, and sister-in-law all served as town officers. Ellen (Lenna’s mother) was the town treasurer, a supervisor of checklist, a trustee of the town trust, and treasurer for the school board. Edith (Lenna’s sister) was the town moderator. Harold (Lenna’s brother) was the collector of taxes, a supervisor of checklist, fire warden, highway agent, and a trustee of the town trust. His wife, Rosilda, was a trustee of the library and served on the school board. 

On May 9th, 1936, Lenna married James Bigelow Perry, who worked in manufacturing, and moved to Jaffrey around 1940. James went on to serve four terms representing Jaffrey in the New Hampshire General Court. In 1951, during his fourth term, James died unexpectedly. Lenna filled his seat in 1955, returning to the New Hampshire General Court to represent Jaffrey. During her term, Lenna served on the ways and means, municipal and county government, banking, real estate, forestry, taxation, and legislative committees.

Lenna was a member of the Peterborough chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution and was Regent from 1946 to 1954. She was also a member of the American Forestry Association, the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests, the National Order of Women Legislators, the New Hampshire Order of Women Legislators, and the Sharon Taxpayers Association. 

On February 17th, 1986, Lenna Wilson Perry died after a long life of public service and dedication to the communities of Sharon and Jaffrey.

Points of Interest

  • Hillside Cemetery, Goddard Road, Rindge, New Hampshire

Important Links

  • Lenna Wilson Perry - Cowhampshire blog by Janice Brown, 2014
  • - American Forest Association History
  • - History of the Department of Veterans Affairs