In June 1915, socialist-feminist Estelle Lawton Lindsey became the first woman elected to the city council of a major metropolis in the United States. While Lindsey ran as a “woman’s candidate,” she won her seat on the Los Angeles City Council by constructing a broad and diverse electoral coalition. Although organized womanhood (largely white and middle class) constituted the heart of her coalition, she garnered significant backing from many reform constituencies, including trade unionists, socialists, progressive reformers, and African American community leaders. Lindsey turned coalition building into a successful electoral strategy for two major reasons. First, although Lindsey was a socialist, she ran for city council as an independent, adopting an independent partisanship, resting between the gendered political cultures of her day, that likely broadened her support among both female and male voters. Second, the structure of the city council election, in which candidates ran in a nonpartisan, at-large, and multimember district race, made the election of women like Lindsey possible in this period. Once elected, Lindsey championed measures tied to the goals of the electoral coalition that had embraced her candidacy and worked with coalition groups (especially women’s clubs) on specific policies. Despite robust support and collaboration for two years, Lindsey’s electoral coalition ultimately fragmented and doomed her reelection bid in 1917.

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