Coya Knutson

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As Minnesota's first woman in Congress, Coya Knutson was a pioneer. Her political enemies manipulated her husband to write the infamous Coya Come Home letter that cost her a subsequent election, however, she was a leader that still made her mark on Minnesota -- and the country.
~Jane Holmberg, Mound, MN

In addition to having one of the best names in Minnesota politics, Coya Knutson was the first woman elected to Congress from Minnesota. Coya came from the distant northwestern part of Minnesota, with which I, a native of Thief River Falls, am very familiar. That a woman would be elected to Congress from a traditionally parochial and somewhat conservative part of the state was astounding enough. But Coya proved herself to her supporters and foes alike when she arrived in Washington, becoming very active with the party leadership and spearheading significant legislation. Her departure from Washington was initiated by a refusal to stand behind the emerging leader in the Minnesota DFL, Hubert Humphrey, and instead supporting Estes Kefauver, the eventual victor. Shortly thereafter her husband wrote the famous Coya come home letter, reminding all of us in northern Minnesota that a woman's place is, in fact, back in the home and not off in distant and disconnected places like Washington, D.C. I remember so well, even though I was but twelve years old, the approval with which Mr. Knutson's letter was met by both men and women in my hometown. Everyone seemed to agree that Washington was no place for a woman, and this in spite of the fact that Thief River Falls had a woman mayor at the time!
~John Weigelt, West Bend, WI

She was elected on her own right, was a woman from rural Minnesota and beat endorsed candidates to become Minnesota's first congresswoman in 1954. In Congress she was a trailblazer by being the first woman appointed to the U.S. House Agriculture Committee and did a lot of work for education and farming interests. After a controversial letter from her husband she was defeated and her name has since then been nearly forgotten regardless of all that she did.
~Caitlin Loehr, Eagan, MN

Coya Knutson was a courageous woman who championed her causes and remained true to herself and her beliefs in spite of the adversity she faced because she was a woman. She paved the way for women in Minnesota to enter and serve in politics in the U.S. She didn't back down and her courage serves as an inspiration to women everywhere. She was so ahead of her time and yet she was just being herself - working hard for the causes she so strongly believed in. She is one of the great Minnesotans of this century.
~Charlene Tholen, Plymouth, MN




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