Secretary of State

Sara W. Mahan

Term of OfficeJanuary 1, 1932 - January 1, 1936
PartyDemocrat
Significant AccomplishmentsOne of six women who organized the Democratic Women's Club of Kentucky.
Governor during her term of OfficeGov. Ruby Lafoon; Gov. A. B. Chandler*
ParentsGeorge D. & Katherine Cain (White) Mahan
ResidenceKentucky (Danville, Boyle County)
OccupationLibrarian; Career Politician
Birth Date2/26/1871
Birth PlaceKentucky (Clay County)
Date of Death11/1/1966
Place of DeathKentucky (Danville, Boyle County)
Other State Offices HeldAssistant State Librarian
County Offices HeldCircuit Court Clerk
NoteExact Date of Birth unknown.
Historical FirstsSecond woman to serve as Acting Governor.
One of the first women to become a member of the Democratic State Central & Executive Committee.
Quote

W. P. Walter wrote in "The Frankfort Journal": “Miss Mahan displayed remarkable executive ability and was the first woman to have charge of the successful management of a campaign for the nomination for the chief office of this Commonwealth.”

During her term as Secretary of State, she served for six hours as Kentucky’s Governor while Governor Ruby Laffoon and Lieutenant Governor A. B. Chandler were absent from the state. “I wasn’t much of a Governor,” she later said, “but I expect I was the closest Kentucky will come to having a woman Governor for many a day.”

Sara W. Mahan, Secretary of State for the Commonwealth of Kentucky, 1932-1936, was born in Clay County, Kentucky, ca. 1870, the daughter of George D. and Katherine Cain (White) Mahan. She never married.

Mahan entered political life in 1907 when she managed the campaign headquarters of Judge S. W. Hagar, the Democratic gubernatorial candidate. W. P. Walter wrote in "The Frankfort Journal": “Miss Mahan displayed remarkable exec. ability and was the first woman to have charge of the successful management of a campaign for the nomination for the chief office of this Commonwealth.”

In 1908, Mahan became assistant state librarian, a position she held until 1920. From 1920 to 1921, she served as Centre College librarian. During the period 1921-29, she was Boyle County Circuit Court Clerk. She was one of six women who organized the Democratic Women’s Club of Kentucky. In recognition of her skills as an organizer, in 1921 she was one of the first women to become a member of the Democratic State Central and Executive Committee.

Mahan was elected Secretary of State in 1931 in her only statewide race. During her term she served for six hours as Kentucky’s Governor while Governor Ruby Laffoon and Lieutenant Governor A. B. Chandler were absent from the state. “I wasn’t much of a Governor,” she later said, “but I expect I was the closest Kentucky will come to having a woman Governor for many a day.”

Mahan was a member of many organizations, including the Democratic Women’s Club of Kentucky, Woman’s Club of Frankfort, and the Business and Professional Women’s Club. She died in Danville, Kentucky, on November 1, 1966, at age 96.

References:

Kentucky Death Index, Office of Vital Statistics.

"Louisville Courier-Journal", November 2, 1966.

Southard, Mary Young, and Miller, Ernest C. "Who’s Who in Kentucky: A Biographical Assembly of Notable Kentuckians", Louisville, 1936.