About Melissa E. Holden (1832–1915)
In 1887, Melissa E. Holden was among the first three women to run for a seat on the Grand Rapids Board of Education. Although she had been touted by the Grand Rapids Telegram-Herald as a likely winner, Holden lost her election, receiving 270 votes to her opponent Niram A. Fletcher’s majority of 565.
Holden was born in Marion, Wayne County, New York, in 1832. She studied teaching at a seminary in Elmira, New York, and in 1858 married Ebenezer G. D. Holden. The couple moved to Illinois to teach before settling in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where Melissa Holden taught at area schools in Grand Haven, Wyoming, and East Grand Rapids. Holden used her passion for education as an active proponent of the women’s club movement and as a founding member of the West Side Ladies’ Literary Club in 1875. She served the club as its secretary and later as its president, an office she held for seven years. Holden remained a club fixture long after her tenure as president and was beloved by her fellow clubwomen, who affectionately called her “Mother Holden” and held annual birthday anniversary meetings at her home when she became too feeble to attend meetings. Although she was not able to serve her community as a member of the Grand Rapids Board of Education, Holden contributed much to the intellectual culture of her community and was celebrated by the Grand Rapids Evening Press as a “woman of strong character and brilliant intellect.”
Political Office: Board of Education
Election Year: 1887
Party Affiliation: Nonpartisan race
Full Name: Melissa E. Smith Holden
Life Dates: 1832–September 23, 1915
Birthplace: Marion, Wayne County, New York
Marital Status: Married
Party Affiliation: Unknown
Social Reform Activism: Women’s Clubs, Education
“Pioneer Teacher is Victim of Accident.” Grand Rapids Press, September 23, 1915.
“School Elections.” Grand Rapids Telegram-Herald, September 6, 1887.
“The Social Side.” Grand Rapids Evening Press, December 9, 1907.
“The Social Side.” Grand Rapids Press, December 15, 1913.
“Will Meet in Home of Charter Member.” Grand Rapids Press, November 5, 1913.
“Woman’s Club That Suffered Baptism of Fire and Water.” Grand Rapids Press, November 29, 1913.