January 5th, 1921 is a milestone for North Carolinian women. On this day in history, Lilian Exum Clement took her seat in the State House of Representatives as the first woman to hold legislative office in North Carolina.
Clement was born near Black Mountain in 1894. She studied law while working for the Buncombe County Sheriff's Office and became the first woman in NC to open her own law practice.
In 1920 Clement was asked to run for a seat in the NC House of Representatives- she won the general election by a landslide. At the age of 26 she took her seat in the state legislature. During her time as a representative she introduced 17 bills, 16 of which passed. One bill, known as the Clement bill, called for private voting booths and a secret ballot throughout NC.
One of Lilian Exum Clement's most controversial projects was advocating that the Lindey Training School, a home for unwed mothers and delinquent girls, become a state institution. The plan stoked a hostile reception, but she remained steadfast and argues for the project until it became a reality.
Clement did not run for reelection, and died from pneumonia in 1925. She pioneered the way for women holding public office in NC, and her legacy lives on today.