Gladys Pyle (October 4, 1890
– March 14, 1989) was a South Dakota politician and the first woman elected to the
United States Senate without
having previously been appointed to her position; she was also the
first woman senator to serve as a Republican and the first
woman senator from South Dakota.
She was also the first
female senator never to marry.
She was born to John and Mamie (Shields) Pyle and graduated from
Huron College in 1911. She taught in the public high schools at
Miller, Wessington, and Huron from 1912-1918.
In 1923 she
became first woman member of the State House of
, serving from 1923-1927. Pyle then served as
Secretary of State of
from 1927-1931 and ran unsuccessfully for the
nomination for governor in 1930, garnering nearly a third of the
vote in the primary but losing after seven recounts of the votes.
She was a member of the State securities commission from 1931-1933.
She engaged in the life insurance business in private life.
Gladys, her mother Mamie, and two sisters very involved in the
frequently hosted meetings of the local chapter in their
On November 8, 1938 she was elected as a Republican
to the United States Senate
to fill the
vacancy caused by the death of Peter
. She defeated Tom Berry
Governor of South Dakota
She served from November 9, 1938, to January 3, 1939, and did not
seek re-election to the seat.
In 1940 she became the first woman to deliver a presidential
nominating speech at a national convention, speaking out for
candidate Wendell Willkie
She resumed her career in the life insurance business and also
engaged in farm management. She later became a member of the
Dakota Board of Charities and Corrections
1943-1957 and agent
for Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Co. 1950-1986.
Gladys Pyle died in Huron on March 14, 1989. Her ashes are interred
in Riverside Cemetery with her relatives.
The family home that she lived in from 1894 until 1985 is on the
of Historic Places
and has been converted into a museum. It is
largely unchanged from when it was built and has many of the
original furnishings. The carpeting, wallpaper, windows (including
three stained-glass sections), doors, interior layout, radiators,
door hardware, and wood finish are original or nearly so. In fact,
although a more modern gas-powered furnace has replaced the
original coal-fired one, the original ornate radiators still heat
The home remained largely in its original state due to the untimely
death of Gladys' father, John Levi Pyle, in 1902 of typhoid fever.
John Pyle was a local attorney as well as local politician, so
after his death his family had to work hard to keep the house, and
little money was available for new furnishings or interior
The house contains numerous Pyle family artifacts, including her
maternal grandfather's discharge papers from the 2nd New Jersey
Infantry Regiment (dated March 27, 1866), photos of both of Gladys'
grandparents, and the Pyle family Bible dating to the 1840s. The
Huron College Rubiquat from the early 1900s (featuring pictures of
her two sisters as students) is on display as well. Also, a ballot
that she appeared on is framed next to the downstairs bathroom, and
her father's cavalry sword and uniform from his duties as general
of the South Dakota Regiment (the precursor to the South Dakota
National Guard) are on display.
The upstairs bedrooms and bathroom (including Huron's first indoor
bathtub) has been converted into a small apartment for the live-in
caretaker and is not viewable to the public. It is located at 376
Idaho Ave SE in Huron (across from the local hospital) and is open
to visitors for a nominal fee from 1pm to 3:30pm daily.