Lillian Ford Feickert

1928 GOP Primary: Wets, Suffragettes, Drys and Wine

One of the most divisive primaries in New Jersey history came in 1928, when a Kean and a Frelinghuysen faced off in a U.S. Senate contest where harsh personal attacks and rumors crippled the campaign of the first woman to ever run statewide.

Lillian Ford Feickert was a suffragette and prohibitionist who helped usher women through the newly opened door to politics in the 1920’s, but managed to get only 5% of the vote in a primary where five candidates fought for the chance to take on Edward I. Edwards, a one-term Democratic U.S. Senator and former Governor.

The irrefutable underdog, Feickert was the only candidate never to have held elected office. In addition to her relatively unpopular stance on Prohibition, she was also forced to contend with the war chests of deep-pocketed candidates like Hamilton Fish Kean and former U.S. Senator Joseph S. Frelinghuysen, as well former Governor Edward Stokes and former two-term Congressman Edward Gray.

With suffrage off the political agenda, prohibition became the decisive issue of the times. Running as a “bone-dry” candidate, Feickert faced rivals supporting more popular variations of “wet”.

The crippling blow however came in the final week before the May 15th primary when reports that Feickert had drunken wine while on a trip to Europe “came to the ears of Women’s Temperance Union Leaders” before reaching headlines.

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