A pioneer for her time, Ms. Baker was the first woman elected to a countywide office in the county. She was elected to the county treasurer position in 1916, years before women received the right to vote. At the time, World War I was going on, and suffragettes marched for voting rights, but in Cherokee County, Ms. Baker decided to run and shake up the political arena, according to an article by Deborah Burkett, with the Cherokee County Historical Commission.
Ms. Burkett said Ms. Baker's father, a Civil War veteran, was extremely ill, and she needed to work to help support the family. She went to school for typing and secretarial skills, so her abilities fit right into a position at the courthouse, she said.
“People just fell in love with her. She was very personable and articulate. She was well thought of,” Ms. Burkett said.
When Ms. Baker decided to run for office, she said people also were shocked that she was such a good campaigner. She campaigned in an old Model T and did pen and ink drawings of residents she met on the campaign trail, Ms. Burkett said.
But there were challenges for her.
Ms. Burkett said she had to really win everyone over because in early 1900s, running against Joe G. Summers, whose last name is synonymous with the county, she really had to go “door-to-door and farm-to-farm.”
According to the article by Ms. Burkett, humor is showcased on the official return sheet, which has the phrase “That Tortured Nowise Peaceful Night.”
In addition to politics, Ms. Baker was the “toast of the town” for Cherokee County women's clubs, Ms. Burkett said, and people had her as the guest of honor. She also was a skillful artist.
Mary Taylor, with the Cherokee County Historical Commission, was a friend of Ms. Baker's sister and has two pictures that Ms. Baker painted.
She said Ms. Baker's sister indicated that she liked to paint but didn't have money for a canvas, so she painted on material from the skirt of one of her mother's dresses.
“She was just very (much a) people person and liked people and got out and visited with,” Ms. Taylor said.
After serving in Cherokee County, Ms. Baker went to work in Austin for the comptroller's office. She never married or had children but will be remembered as a “suffragette in the best of terms,” Ms. Burkett said.
She said Ms. Baker paved the way for women in Cherokee County because her initiative gave women the courage to speak up and “carry the banner.”
“They were really suffragettes to support women and politics and the votes,” she said. “It gave women the courage.”
She said wives of well-to-do gentleman in the railroad business, government and finance would even persuade their husbands they needed to accompany them to Cherokee County to meet Ms. Baker, who was at one point on the front page of the Houston Chronicle.
“She really was very accomplished. She really became the woman that everybody looked up to,” Ms. Burkett said.