Long before the Nineteenth amendment passed in 1920, women in many states could vote and run for elective office in certain types of elections. In some states they could vote in school elections or in city elections. For more information see my essay, “‘The Women Voted’, School Suffrage in Dakota Territory and South Dakota,” in the 2019 book Equality at the Ballot Box.
In 1896, Kate Taubman of Aurora County, South Dakota, came close to being the first woman elected to statewide office in that state. Seven years earlier, the South Dakota Constitution had enshrined women’s right to vote in school elections and to run for school offices. Even before that, women could run for the office of county superintendent of schools, and many women won their elections.
Taubman came within 270 votes of winning her election for state superintendent of public instruction. Running as a Populist on the People’s Party ticket, Taubman received 49.6 percent of the state vote and 59.4 percent of Aurora County’s vote. In an article profiling all People’s Party nominees on the 1896 ticket, The Dakota Farmers’ Leader newspaper of Canton, South Dakota, praised Taubman’s qualifications for the position.
“Miss Kate Taubman, of Plankinton, Aurora County, was nominated for Superintendent of Public Instruction. She is at present principal of the Aberdeen schools, and is well known in various parts of the state as an educator of remarkable ability and thoroughly qualified to handle the responsible duties of the office. Miss Taubman keeps abreast of the times in everything pertaining to advanced and scientific education. She will be an honor to the position and the state.”
Taubman, born in 1862 in Iowa, had earned her degree from Iowa State Normal School. She taught school in Iowa before moving to Aurora County in 1882, when she first taught in the Plankinton city school, then served as principal, before being elected as county superintendent of schools in 1890. In her first years in the county, Taubman took advantage of the homesteading laws to become a landowner. By 1884, Taubman had obtained patents to two quarters of land in South Dakota, one in Palatine Township near her father’s homestead, and another in Jerauld County, just north of Aurora County.
In 1892, Taubman accepted the role of recording secretary of the South Dakota Educational Association. After serving in that office for three years, she became the first female elected as president of the association. By 1896, when Taubman ran for state superintendent, she had joined the National Education Association and held the position of high school principal in Aberdeen, South Dakota. In an era when few women achieved her level of prominence, Taubman stood out as a strong woman in a leadership role. In her twelve years of residency in Aurora County, Taubman developed the skills and confidence to run for statewide political office and advance as a leader in the education community.
 “Proud of an Iowa Girl,” Waterloo (IA) Courier, October 2, 1896; “High School Items,” Mitchell (SD) Daily Republican, March 13, 1886; South Dakota, Aurora County, Dedication of the New Aurora County Courthouse, July 9, 1940, 14; Kate Taubman (Aurora County, South Dakota) homestead patent no. 7823: (Bureau of Land Management, “Land Patent Search,” digital images, General Land Office Records, ( http://glorecords.blm.gov/Patent Search : accessed 2013-2015), Aurora County, SD;
William P. Taubman (Aurora County, South Dakota) homestead patent no. 7824: BLM “Land Patent Search,” Aurora County, SD; Kate Taubman (Jerauld County, South Dakota) homestead patent no. 11265: BLM “Land Patent Search,” Jerauld County, SD; Biennial Address of Governor Charles N Herreid to the Ninth Legislative Session (Pierre, SD: State Publishing, 1905), 182; Journal of Proceedings and Addresses of the Forty-First Annual Meeting (Minneapolis, MN: National Education Association, 1902), 899.