Edwina Benner was the first mayor to be elected in California, USA. Although, another town in the state called Sawtelle had already elected a woman named Mrs. Ellen French Aldrich as mayor in 1916. However Sawtelle was merged into Los Angeles in 1922 and as a result Mrs. Aldrich was no longer mayor, since Sawtelle was no longer a town. Hence, a lot of people believe Ms. Edwina Benner to be the first female mayor in California. She was elected as the Mayor of Sunnyvale in 1924 and a second time in 1938.
Her full name was Edwina Adaha Cochrane Benner.
Edwina was born on 1st August 1885 to Welford Irvin Cochrane and Mary Anne Johnson Cochrane on a vineyard in Santa Clara Valley.
She was a middle child in her family and had 2 sisters named Marilda and Elma.
Edwina married Carson Clinton Benner, a local business man in 1909. Edwina and Carson didn’t have any children together and remained married for 36 years until the death of Mr. Carson in 1945.
In 1920, Edwina won a seat as a Sunny Vale Town Trustee. Just a few years later, in 1924, she won the mayoral election and was appointed Mayor of Sunnyvale. She became Sunnyvale’s first mayor and also the first female mayor in California.
Apart from governing the city as mayor, Edwina also volunteered for many other leadership roles and also worked part-time at a local cannery.
She was re-elected as mayor of the city a second time in 1938. In total, she served on the Sunnyvale city council for 28 years.
Mrs. Benner also held other offices in the city including “Commissioner of Public Works” and the “City Commissioner for Finance and Revenue”.
In 1954, the city opened a new school and named it the Edwina Benner Intermediate School in her honor.
She was honored again in 2017 when a new housing project in the city was named after her and called the Edwina Benner Plaza.
Edwina Benner died on 14th May 1955 at the age of 69. She is buried at the Cypress Lawn Memorial Park in Colma, California.