At 90; Charlotte Smallwood-Cook, 1st woman elected DA in N.Y. State

NEW YORK — Charlotte Smallwood-Cook, 90, who is believed to have been the first woman elected as a district attorney in New York State, died last Saturday in Batavia, N.Y.

The cause was lung cancer.

Mrs. Smallwood, as she was then known, was 26 in November 1949 when, running as a Republican, she won a landslide victory (with 65 percent of more than 12,000 votes cast), earning a three-year term as district attorney in Wyoming County, southeast of Buffalo.


Albert M. Rosenblatt, a former judge on the state’s Court of Appeals who has written a history of New York’s District Attorneys Association, said she was almost certainly the first to have achieved the post by any means.

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Of the 62 current district attorneys in the state, 13 are women, including one acting district attorney.

During her tenure, Mrs. Smallwood successfully prosecuted the county’s first capital murder case in 40 years and argued the case before the Court of Appeals, which affirmed the verdict, all during a period of personal turmoil.

She had a 5-year-old son when she took office, and in 1951 her daughter was born on the day before a manslaughter trial was to open.

Her husband and law partner, Edward Smallwood, died in 1952. She did not seek reelection but returned to private practice, from which she retired only last year.