UNION, NJ - Did you know that the Township of Union made history by electing the first female to serve in the New Jersey state senate?
According to the Rutgers Center of American Women in Politics, Mildred Barry Hughes was at the center of a major New Jersey political milestone when she was elected to represent Union County in the State Senate in 1965. Her election was notable for reasons extending beyond her gender though, as she was also the first Democrat from Union County elected to the State Senate in 75 years.
Hughes served one term in the senate, where she sponsored many successful bills including a revised version of New Jersey’s Food and Drug Act and the state’s first Good Samaritan Law, which protects those who aid accident victims from lawsuits. She also sponsored bills controlling billboards, aiding nursing schools and providing assistance to mental health organizations. In fact, the Eagleton Institute at Rutgers University noted that Hughes had sponsored the most passed bills of any one term New Jersey state senator.
Prior to being elected to the state senate, Hughes represented the Township of Union in the New Jersey Assembly for four terms starting in 1957. She was the assistant majority leader of the assembly in 1960 and 1961. According to her obituary in the New York Times, she was persuaded to run for state office after writing the handbook for the Elizabeth League of Women Voters. At the age of 80, she became president of the Organization of Women Legislators.
Hughes died of a heart attack on January 11, 1995 when she was 92 years old. While her husband, Peter Hughes, had already passed away in 1971, she left behind three sons: Peter L. Hughes of Annadale, New Jersey, W. Barry Hughes of Greenwood, South Carolina and David J. Hughes of Short Hills, NJ.