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Hough, Sue Metzger Dickey (ca. 1882–1980)

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Sue M. Dickey Hough

Sue M. Dickey Hough, one of the first women elected to the Minnesota Legislature. Photo by the Star and Tribune Company, 1926. Minneapolis Newspaper Photograph Collection, Hennepin County Library, Minneapolis.

One of the first four women elected to the Minnesota legislature in 1922, Sue Metzger Dickey Hough campaigned for gun control, strict capital punishment, and mandatory automobile insurance, among other issues. After four unsuccessful bids for re-election, Hough turned her attention to club work and other causes, including animal welfare and civic engagement.

Sue Metzger Dickey, born in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, in the early 1880s, joined a family with a tradition of public service. Her grandfather and an uncle served in both the Pennsylvania legislature and the US Congress.

The family moved to Minnesota about 1884. Sue attended Minneapolis Central High School, graduating in 1902. Before her marriage, she sold real estate under the name S. M. Dickey Lands. In 1912, she married Frank L. Hough Jr. and the couple moved to Chicago. When her marriage failed, she returned to Minneapolis in 1916 and resumed her real estate business.

Following the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment, Hough and nine other women filed to run for state office in the 1922 election. Four women won seats in the Minnesota House of Representatives for the 1923 legislative session: Hough, Mabeth Hurd Paige, and Myrtle Agnes Cain, all of Minneapolis, and Hannah Jensen Kempfer of Otter Tail County.

During her tenure as a lawmaker, Hough was appointed to six legislative committees, including Cities of the First Class, Crime Prevention, and Motor Vehicles and Motor Tax Laws. She co-authored a total of twenty-nine bills, with most reflecting her committee assignments.

Hough and her female colleagues co-sponsored two bills relating to child welfare, in particular the rights of illegitimate children. Unlike her female colleagues, Hough became a vocal advocate for such controversial issues as gun control and capital punishment. She co-authored two gun control bills, proposing a permit requirement for carrying a weapon and penalties for non-compliance. Neither bill passed.

Described in the local press as “one of the ardent advocates of hanging,” Hough co-authored two capital punishment bills and engaged in heated arguments with the bills’ opponents. Senator John C. Sweet, Hough’s fellow Republican from Hennepin County, was especially critical: “I have met only one woman in the whole state who favored the death penalty. That woman is a stateswoman, who seeks the bubble, reputation, on the steps of the gibbet.” Hough responded on the House floor that she would continue to follow her conscience in fulfilling her public duties, in spite of such criticism. Both bills died in committee.

Perhaps less controversial, Hough co-authored two bills requiring owners of motor vehicles to carry liability, accident, and indemnity insurance or provide a fidelity bond to protect those injured through negligence. The bills also required proof of such insurance when registering a vehicle or obtaining a license.

Hough’s legislative career came to an end with the close of the 1923 session. She made four unsuccessful bids for re-election: in 1924, 1926, 1930, and 1934. In 1939, she took a job with the Minnesota Department of Public Welfare, and remained there until 1953.

An active clubwoman, Hough often spoke on legislative matters at club meetings. She had memberships in the Fifth District Minnesota Federation of Women’s Clubs, a citizenship club, the Housewives’ League of Minneapolis, and others. After leaving the legislature, she turned her attention to campaigning for conservative candidates and became an activist on civic and animal rights issues.

She led protests of a state-mandated anti-rabies dog-muzzling law in 1928 and 1938. From 1949 into the early 1950s, Hough participated in a campaign to repeal a state law permitting the use of unclaimed impounded animals in University of Minnesota research experiments. She later served as second vice president of the Minnesota Society for the Prevention of Cruelty (Animal Humane Society).

In the 1960s, while in her eighties, Hough continued to speak out on controversial civic issues. She spoke out against a new city charter that she believed would grant the mayor too much power. She opposed the construction of a “Southwest Diagonal” freeway. She protested against a proposed civil rights ordinance that would permit African Americans to move into previously restricted white neighborhoods.

Hough passed away on December 28, 1980. She is buried in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

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"$1,000 Asked, $270 Offered for Dog Drive.” Minneapolis Morning Tribune, October 9, 1928.

“All but One County Legislator Victors.” Minneapolis Tribune, November 6, 1930.

“Anderson Leads J. E. Stevens for Senator in 33rd.” Minneapolis Daily Star, November 4, 1926.

“Anti-Vivisection Group to Test New State Law.” Minneapolis Star, August 30, 1949.

“Charter Campaign Goes Into High Gear.” Minneapolis Star, May 13, 1960.

“Charter Proposals Assailed as Vicious.” Minneapolis Star, April 10, 1963.

“Child Defeats Fowler with 46 Majority.” Minneapolis Morning Tribune, November 9, 1922.

Clark, Dowsley. “House Group to Re-Draft Tax Law for Autos.” Minneapolis Sunday Tribune, February 25, 1923.

“Complete Official Hennepin Vote.” Minneapolis Tribune, November 13, 1934.

“County Elects Six Laborites to Legislature.” Minneapolis Morning Tribune, November 10, 1922.

“Four Hennepin Members Lose in Legislature.” Minneapolis Morning Tribune, November 4, 1926.

Hough, Sue Dickey. “Everybody’s Ideas: The Freeway and the Bottleneck.” Minneapolis Star, November 6, 1958.

——— . “Everybody’s Ideas: Gun Law Issue.” Minneapolis Star, January 11, 1958.

——— . “Everybody’s Ideas: ‘U’ Dog Traffic Charged.” Minneapolis Star, November 25, 1949.

——— . “’Skid Row’ Relief Plan.” Minneapolis Morning Tribune, March 7, 1958.

“Folwick, Orlin. Restriction of Primaries Law Sought by Bill.” Minnesota Daily Star, February 15, 1923.

House Bills (printed), 1879, 1891–1976
Minnesota Legislature
Government Records Collection, Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul
Description: Master set of bills that the Minnesota House of Representatives ordered to be printed by the state printer.

Journal of the House of the Forty-third Session of the Legislature of the State of Minnesota. St. Paul: McGill-Warner Company, 1923.

Lundegaard, Bob. “Civil Rights Substitute Voted by Council Unit.” Minneapolis Tribune, August 24, 1966.

Merrick, Martin. “Jamieson Hears Road Plan Critics.” Minneapolis Star. April 28, 1965.

Minnesota Legislative Reference Library. Hough, Sue Metzger.

Minnesota Legislative Reference Library. Sessions of the Minnesota State Legislature and the Minnesota Territorial Legislature, 1849–Present.

Minnesota Legislative Reference Library. Session Laws of Minnesota for 1923, Chapter 165–H.F. No. 83.

Minnesota Legislative Reference Library. Session Laws of Minnesota for 1923, Chapter 305–H.F. No. 244.

Minnesota Legislative Reference Library. Session Laws of Minnesota for 1923, Chapter 387–H.F. No. 607.

Morris, Oliver S. “Bill is Sent to House for Final Vote.” Minnesota Daily Star, February 7, 1923.

——— . “Bills to Gain Death Doom in State Dead.” Minnesota Daily Star, March 1, 1923.

——— . “Hanging Bill Railroaded to House Floor; Committee Refuses to Take Stand on Capital Punishment Measure.” Minnesota Daily Star, February 19, 1923.

“Mrs. Hough Nets Gain of 8 Votes in Recount.” Minneapolis Tribune, November 26, 1930.

“Mrs. Sue D. Hough will be Hostess at Political Tea May 6.” Minneapolis Star, May 5, 1931.

“O. D. Nellermoe Files for House.” Minnesota Daily Star, May 4, 1922.

“Paternity Bill Attack Made in Senate Hearing.” Minnesota Daily Star, February 28, 1923.

“Rights Hearing.” Minneapolis Tribune. August 17, 1966.

Spaeth, George. “Ask Resignation of Harrington in Dog Muzzle Row.” Minneapolis Tribune, May 14, 1938.

Stuhler, Barbara, and Gretchen Kreuter, ed. Women of Minnesota: Selected Biographical Essays. St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Society Press, 1998.

“Sue Dickey Hough Asks Recount in 34th District.” Minneapolis Tribune, November 18, 1930.

Sue Dickey Hough papers, 1858, 1894–1976.
Manuscripts Collection, Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul
Description: Correspondence, diaries, photographs, and miscellaneous material relating to Sue Dickey Hough, Minnesota state legislator from Minneapolis in 1923.

Taaffe, Agnes. “1,000 Women Plan to Attend Annual Federation Meeting.” Minneapolis Star, September 13, 1930.

“Three Present Legislators Are Beaten in City.” Minneapolis Morning Tribune, November 6, 1924.

“Woman Editor Will Address Voters’ League Lunch Meeting.” Minneapolis Sunday Tribune, June 11, 1922.

“Woman Urges Care in Voting; Mrs. Hough Advises Best Nominees Be Picked for Legislature.” Minneapolis Star, April 25, 1930.

“Women Review Results in the Legislature.” Minneapolis Sunday Tribune, April 22, 1923.

“Women’s Clubs Getting Behind 19-Ward Plan.” Minneapolis Star, April 16, 1930.

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Turning Point

On November 8, 1922, Sue Metzger Dickey Hough becomes one of the first four Minnesota women to be elected to the state legislature.


ca. 1884

The Dickey family moves to Minneapolis, where Thaddeus Dickey takes a job in the city engineer’s office.


On January 2, Sue Metzger Dickey marries Frank L. Hough Jr. in Minneapolis and the couple moves to Chicago.


Sue Hough returns to Minneapolis alone.


Hough is listed in the city directory as “S. M. D. Hough, Farm Lands, City Property, Investments,” with a business address of 6629 Andrus Building, Minneapolis.


On May 4, Sue Hough files as a Republication candidate for the office of state representative for District 34. She is one of nine women running for legislative office in Minnesota.


Sue M. Dickey Hough is granted a divorce from her husband on August 19 on grounds of desertion, non-support, and infidelity.


On November 8, Sue M. Dickey Hough, Myrtle Cain, Mabeth Hurd Paige, and Hannah Jensen Kempfer become the first female state legislators, all elected to the House of Representatives.


The forty-third legislative session opens at the Minnesota State Capitol on January 2.


Sue Dickey Hough, running as a conservative, loses her bid for re-election on November 5, coming in third out of four with 9,489 votes.


On November 3, Hough again fails in her attempt at re-election to the state legislature.


Hough is again defeated at the polls. She comes in third of four with 6,666 votes, just 214 votes behind incumbent L. E. Brophey.


Hough loses her final bid for re-election to the state legislature, coming in third of four candidates with a total of 8,573 votes.


Hough, as vice president of the Minnesota Anti-Vivisection Society, speaks out against the use of impounded and unclaimed animals for scientific purposes.


Hough speaks out against a proposed civil rights ordinance that would permit African Americans to move into white districts, saying Communists are behind the civil rights movement.


Sue M. Dickey Hough dies on December 28. She is buried in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, with her parents.