About Phila L. Hamilton (1850–1925)
Phila L. Hamilton, Grand Rapids Herald, February 28, 1915.
On April 5, 1915, Phila Hamilton ran an unsuccessful campaign for the Grand Rapids Board of Education. Despite her experience as a teacher, her stature within the community, and endorsements from the Federation of School Associations and Grand Rapids Ladies’ Literary Club made her a strong candidate, Hamilton did not win the seat. In 1917, she threw her hat in the ring for the school board once more, but was once again unsuccessful.
Phila L. Hamilton was born in Grand Rapids, Michigan, on September 16, 1850. In 1871, she married Hiram T. Hamilton. He died just two years later in 1873, leaving Hamilton a widow with a five-month-old son. She started teaching in Grand Rapids public schools by at least 1879 and retired after a reported thirty years of teaching. Then she dedicated her time to travel. Not interested in traveling simply for leisure, Hamilton used her time abroad to study educational methods, an experience which she highlighted in her 1915 and 1917 school board races.
Like so many Grand Rapids women of her time, Hamilton played an active role in the women’s club movement. Her numerous memberships and affiliations varied widely and included memberships with the Grand Rapids Ladies’ Literary Club, the Grand Rapids Art Association, and the Eastern Star. She was a skilled leader and served at various points as president of both the Fountain Street Church Women’s Working Society and Kent Garden Club. Hamilton also served her local Daughters of the American Revolution chapter for nine years as chair of its historical research and preservation committee. Additionally, she sat on the Woman’s Council of Kalamazoo College and the Woman’s Board of Butterworth Hospital, where she acted as corresponding secretary.
Chosen as the Republican elector for the 1924 election, Hamilton traveled to Washington D.C. to deliver her vote just three weeks before her death. While there she enjoyed a personal interview with President Calvin Coolidge. Even though she did not serve on the Grand Rapids Board of Education, her biography reflects a life of service to her community.