Antoinette Funk and Lida Munson Hume: Trailblazing feminists and protectors of public lands
The below story is part of a Women's History Month series, which tells the stories of some of the women who have helped shape the Bureau of Land Management's mission, vision and values for more than a century. This story profiles Antoinette Funk, Assistant Commissioner of Public Lands, General Land Office (GLO), from 1933-1939. She was the first woman to serve in a GLO Washington leadership position. This story also profiles Lida Munson Hume, Register (i.e., Manager) of the GLO’s San Francisco Office, the first woman to hold that position. Hume was also a prominent, nationally recognized figure in the women’s suffrage movement.
As a key participant in the women’s suffrage movement, Antoinette Funk’s experiences with public speaking varied widely. She went from delivering a formal address on women’s suffrage at Bryn Mawr College to being arrested, jailed and fined $5.00 for disorderly conduct while making an unauthorized street speech in Minot, North Dakota, about women’s right to vote.
Antoinette was also the first woman to hold a leadership position in the Washington Office of the General Land Office (GLO), serving as the Assistant Commissioner of Public Lands from 1933 to 1939. In that role, she helped to manage the GLO’s budget and oversee the agency’s entire scope of work, including its Cadastral Survey program, minerals and leasing, decisions concerning rights-of-way, reclamation and irrigation projects, and many other facets of the mission.
Born Marie Antoinette Leland, Antoinette earned her J.D. from Illinois Wesleyan University Law School in 1902. She began advocating for women’s rights early in her career. In 1913, Antoinette was tapped to evaluate the Kavanagh Bill, which imposed new obstacles to divorce—with particularly deleterious consequences for women. Openly criticizing the bill, Antoinette became a vocal supporter of the rights of married women.
Prior to working for the GLO, she served as the Executive Secretary of the Congressional Committee of the National American Woman Suffrage Association, traveling throughout the country to express support for extending the franchise to women.
Like Antoinette Funk—and like other women who held groundbreaking positions in the GLO, such as Minnie Bray—Lida Munson Hume was a prominent, nationally recognized figure in the women’s suffrage movement. The history of GLO-era women thus reveals a significant pattern: there is substantial overlap between the qualities of an effective advocate for women’s rights, on the one hand, and those of an effective manager and protector of public lands, on the other.
Appointed by President Warren G. Harding, Lida served as the Register (i.e., Manager) of the San Francisco General Land Office from 1921 to 1928. She was the first woman to serve in that position.
In her role as president of the California Federation of Women’s Clubs, Lida took up the cause of enfranchising women after the California legislature, in 1911, called for a special election allowing voters to decide the issue of women’s suffrage. She traveled throughout the state to make the case for suffrage at a multitude of women’s clubs, prompting the headline for a story in a local newspaper about her activism: “Mrs. Hume Calls on 27,000 Women to Join Suffragists.”
Later, Lida made public presentations concerning the work of Senator Hiram W. Johnson, who as governor had supported women’s right to vote. Teaming up with other California women to campaign for his re-election, Lida remained active in state and national politics as well as the California League of Women Voters until her death on May 6, 1928, in Berkeley, California.