28 February 2020

Estelle V. Collier: First Woman Nominated & Confirmed as Customs Collector

Image from: The Independent Volume 102,
May 8-15 1920. Available on Google Books.

Today in History. 100 years ago, Sat Feb 28 1920, a Salt Lake woman- Mrs. Estelle V. Collier- was nominated by U.S. President Woodrow Wilson to hold the position of Customs Collector for the states of Utah and Nevada.

This was the first time a woman had been nominated by a Untied States President (and later confirmed by the U.S. Senate and appointed) to this position in the United States.

Estelle V. Collier was active in civic affairs and was well-connected in the Utah Democratic Party. She had been the Utah State Chair of the Women's Democratic Committee where she worked for women's suffrage, was Chair of the Women in Industry during WWI, and also worked with the Red Cross during WWI. All this while she raised 4 children.

In response to the nomination Mrs. Collier said "It is a feather in the cap of the women of this state and of all the states who are working for advancement of women's rights. I am as much pleased for the sake of the women generally as I am for myself personally." And "...I am confident that I can discharge all of the duties efficiently, even to directing raids on opium dens." Deseret News March 1 1920 p3.

In the 1920s, the duties of the Customs Collector were a combination of overseeing law enforcement and collection of import duties of foreign goods. Customs Special Agents investigated smuggling and other violations of customs, narcotics, and revenue laws... hence the comment about opium dens.

Later, I found that Mrs. A. J. Harris (Victoria Bell Shuman Harris) succeeded her husband as Collector of Customs when he was forced to step down due to ill health. This was in Fairport Ohio in 1901. So it seems Estelle Collier was the 2nd woman to hold this position. 

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