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Luna "Lou" Henshaw

First Woman City Commissioner

Luna “Lou” Henshaw (later Zwisler) holds the distinction of being the first woman elected to sit on the Kalamazoo City Commission. On November 14th, 1921, Henshaw took office alongside Cornelius Verburg (Mayor), Paul T. Butler, Ernest A. Balch, George E. Martin, Paul Todd, and Alfred Curtenius as part of the 4th City Commission. Henshaw tallied 1,889 votes, placing her fifth in a field of seven candidates. Though she was the first woman elected, there were two candidates who had made unsuccessful bids in 1920. Henshaw was the president and manager of the Michigan Photo Shutter Company (3605 S. Burdick St.), a family-run business that manufactured shutters for industrial cameras. Five years later, Henshaw married Arthur Zwisler. Henshaw-Zwisler died after an illness at Borgess Hospital in 1960 at the age of 86.

Kalamazoo Valley Museum, 2006.39.3

In a November 6th, 1921 article in the Kalamazoo Gazette, Henshaw outlined her vision for the city by summarizing her views on several issues that were at the core of her candidacy.

  • Supports lowering the tax rate

“The tax rate should be lowered, if possible, to do so consistently with present conditions. Unnecessary improvements which help to increase taxes should be eliminated at this critical time. I do believe, however, that employment should be furnished by the city to as many idle men as possible, even though the expense might be a little heavier during the year. The benefit to the idle men and their families would be maximum while the expense of the improvement work, spread as it would be over the entire community, would be minimum. The employment situation in Kalamazoo would at the same time be helped.”

  • Supports garbage disposal

“Garbage disposal is something which should come under the control of the city and the city should see to it that work is carried on in a clean, sanitary method.”

  • Supports the building of a new City Hall

“Everyone in Kalamazoo knows that a new city hall should be provided. I am in favor of the promotion of a new city hall and would be heart and soul behind any such move. I do not know, however, if it is the proper time to start a campaign for a new hall. There are many things of vital importance which the city commission will have to consider and which will have to take preference over the city hall agitation.”

  • Supports the continuation of the municipal coal yard

“Mrs. Henshaw expressed herself in favor of continuing the operation of the municipal coal yard on a commercial basis. She declared that the yard has provided fuel for many families in Kalamazoo at a minimum price and that persons who are not earning much more than enough to pay actual living costs should be given the advantages offered by the city yard.”

  • Opposes the ward plan

“I am opposed to ward representation for the reason that it would bring Kalamazoo back to the old system of caucuses and primaries. The commission form of government is conducted on a business like basis and the elections are open and above board in every respect.”

Kalamazoo would have to wait another twelve years before another woman was elected to the commission. In that case, it was Frieda Kleinstuck Blankenburg.


Written by Ryan Gage, Kalamazoo Public Library staff, March 2022

Sources
Local History Room Files

Name File: Zwisler, Lou B. Henshaw

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