Eli M. Oboler Library
Nellie Cline Steenson - Biographical Sketch
Taken from obituary in the Idaho State Journal, April 6, 1984
Nellie Cline Steenson, 99, a prominent political figure in Pocatello history, died April 1, 1984, in a Pocatello nursing home.
She was born in 1886 to G. Polk Cline (whose name as a famous lawyer is a legend in the history of Kansas) and Maggie Ward Cline in Larned, Kansas. After attending schools in Larned, she went to finishing school in Kansas City, Mo., and graduated from Baker University in Baldwin, Kansas.
Her life from this point was taken up with the study of law. She was admitted to the state bar and was the first women who pleaded criminal cases orally in the state Supreme Court. She was elected as county attorney. With the passage in 1920 of the national Suffrage Amendment, Mrs. Steenson was elected one of the first four women ever to serve in the House of Representatives in Kansas. She introduced and succeeded in passing the first law in Kansas which gave protection to farm labor (Threshermen's Lien Law).
In 1943, Mrs. Steenson after the death of her husband, Jim, and her father, continued her political career in Idaho, having moved here in 1935. She was elected to the Idaho State House of Representatives and was the first woman to serve in the Idaho Senate. She then served for eight terms in the Idaho Legislature.
She succeeded in getting passed the first laws in Idaho calling for pensions for retired firemen and policemen, and session after session carried her bills in the state Senate for Social Security pensions for teachers. Many bills were carried by her for social health, sanitation, shorter hours and higher wages for women.
Mrs. Steenson's original purpose for entering the political field in Idaho was to help promote the University of Idaho, Southern Branch, located in Pocatello. She introduced the bill which resulted in the conversion of the two-year Southern Branch into a four-year school, Idaho State College. A bill to grant Idaho State College a master's degree status was then passed, leading to the university status. Another of her accomplishments was the introduction of the Indian Day Bill.
In 1953, Mrs. Steenson was one of 14 women from six states selected for a cruise by the U.S. Navy to Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. She represented the state of Idaho.
Mrs. Steenson's book reviews were sought in many cities in the state.
She participated in many civic and social clubs, including PEO, DAR, BPW, Sigma Phi, international honorary member of Beta Sigma Phi, honorary member of Alpha Pi Omega, Rebekah Lodge, and Woman's Club. She was a member of the Christian Science Church.