Women’s History Month is often spent celebrating“firsts” because women have struggled to break into so many industries that each first is a small victory for the greater movement. Even in 2018, when equality is a part of the national conversation, there are still offices that women have not held and tables at which women have not been allowed to sit. These issues sometimes receive national attention, but they are just as important locally. For this reason, today we are celebrating a Newport first, the first woman to be elected to the Representative Council: Lina Post Webster.
Lina Post Webster, 1892 By Théobald Chartran
From the Collection of the Redwood Library
Born in New York City on November 11, 1866 to A. Kingston Post and Marie de Trobriand, Lina Post began spending time in Newport after her marriage to Hamilton Fish Webster in 1891. Her husband was a descendant of Hamilton Fish, who was Secretary of State in Grant’s administration, and was active in life in Newport. In 1901, the Websters became permanent residents of Newport. They lived at Pen Craig Cottage until 1923 when they moved into the completed Pen Craig, which was fronted on the harbor.
Pen Craig Cottage, Newport Collection
Until 1926, Lina was active in Republican politics until she switched parties. Seven years later, she was elected to the Representative Council in December of 1933 as a Democrat from the Fourth Ward. She was named to fill a vacancy caused by the death of Councilman Edward A. Keating and was noted then as the first woman to serve on the council. She was reelected a year later in 1934 while also serving as the president of the Newport County Women’s Democratic Club.
Untitled Sketch of Newport Harbor, Webster Collection of Prints
By Elizabeth Stuyvesant Fish d’Hauteville, Hamilton's aunt
Webster and her husband broke with the party because of the policies of the New Deal under President Roosevelt D. Franklin and took no further active role in party politics, preferring to consider themselves Jeffersonian Democrats, but Lina continued to be heavily involved in Newport institutions. At different points she was president of the Newport Garden Club, a leader in the Aquidneck Cottage industries on School St., supply secretary for the Newport Branch of the Woman’s Auxiliary, active in providing recreation facilities at Coddington Point during WWI for Naval apprentices, and a supporter of the Redwood Library.
Bellevue Avenue-Afternoon, Webster Collection of Prints
By W.S. Vandebilt Allen
After her husband died in 1939, Lina donated money for the south wing of the Redwood Library, which was constructed in 1941 and contained offices that later became gallery spaces, and also donated a collection of prints. Portraits of both Lina Post and Hamilton Fish Webster were donated to the Library in 1956, following the death of Lina in 1951 at her home at Pen Craig. Lina Post Webster’s political career was short, but every time someone successfully becomes the “first,” they make it possible for someone else to become the “second” and that should be celebrated and encouraged globally, nationally, and locally.