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Florence Donady Finney Papers Edit


Finding Aid Author
Originally processed by Jill Wistrand, 2002; finding aid edited by Amy Braitsch, 2006; finding aid transcribed into ArchivesSpace by Ashley Aberg, 2024
Finding Aid Date
February 14, 2024
Description Rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Finding Aid Note
Part of the Manuscript Collections, Greenwich Historical Society Contact: Christopher Shields, Curator of Library and Archives 47 Strickland Road Cos Cob, CT 06807 United Stated


  • 1939-1985 (Creation)


  • 7 Linear Feet (Whole)



  • Scope and Contents

    This collections contains the papers of Florence Donady Finney, a prominent Connecticut legislator from 1948-1976. Finney served as a State Representative from 1948 until her election to the State Senate in 1954. In 1973 she was elected the first woman President Pro Tempore of the Connecticut State Senate. The bulk of the papers concern her work on House and Senate committees (including the Legislative Council and the Committees on Public Welfare and Humane Institutions, Public Utilities, Rules, Judiciary, Federal and Intergovernmental Relations). She was also very active in Republican politics, both locally and nationally. Despite her commitment to state politics, she remained an active participant in local government, serving on the RTM (1941-1983). Papers relating to her work on town committes, including the Republican Town Committee and the Citizens of 1200, are also included in this collection.

  • General

    The term ‘retarded’ appears in these papers as 1950’s commonly accepted medical terminology. While today we would likely use the term ‘intellectual disability’ in 1955 the medical community used the term ‘mental retardation.’ Florence Finney was deeply involved in the Committee On Public Welfare and Humane Institutions, including institutions for the intellectually disabled.

  • Conditions Governing Access

    There are no conditions governing access to this material.

  • Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], The Florence Donady Finney Papers, Greenwich Historical Society

  • Arrangement

    This collection has been arranged into four series, with subseries. Series I: State Government Papers Series II: Local Government Papers Series III: News Clippings Series IV: Personal Papers

  • Biographical / Historical

    In a 1961 letter to Florence Finney, Greenwich resident Edward Greene quoted Wordsworth to compliment her. "'The reason firm, the temperate will. Endurance, foresight, strength and skill.' That's what Wordsworth wrote about a respected woman. I just add Amen." The effect of Finney's work ethic and belief in public service was a tangible one i nboth the Town of Greenwich and the State of Connecticut. Numerous schools were kept open about public health procedure and facilities improved because of her three-decade presence in the Connecticut General Assembly.

    Born in Long Island City, New York on March 19, 1903, Florence Finney was the daughter of William M. Finney, a steadfast Democrat, and Elizabeth Conroy Finney. She graduated from Bryant High School in Long Island City hoping to pursue a career in journalism but instead became a secretary at John W. Thomas Inc. She met James A. Finney of Greenwich on a blind date in 1922 and married him the following year. At the time, Mr. Finney was the proprietor of Finney's General Store, the family grovery store in Cos Cob. They moved to Cos Cob and their only son, James A. Finney Jr., was borin in 1926. In 1928, Florence Finney began working as a secretary to the Vice President and research director of Guggenheim Brothers, an import-export firm, where she stayed until 1935. In 1933 Mir. Finney left the grocery business and opened the Suburban Awning Co. on the Post Road in Cos Cob. In addition to her job at Guggenheim Brothers and caring for their son, Florence Finney would sew awnings in the evenings and on weekends.

    Taken by the participatory nature of Greenwich politics, Florence Finney became a members of the Representative Town Meeting (RTM) from District 8 and later District 12 in 1941. She also became involved with various local political organizations including the Republican Town Council, the Cos Cob Republican Club, and the Greenwich Women's Republican Club.

    In 1948 she ran for, and won, a seat in the 1949-1950 session of the State House of Representatives. That win kicked off a streak that would leave her undefeated in elections until her retirement in 1976. In 1954 she was elected to represent the 56th District in the 1955-1956 session of the State Senate where she remained for the next two decades. While a member of the State Senate, she served on the Committee on Public Utilities, Federal and Intergovernmental Relations, Rules, Judiciary and Incorporations as well as the Committee on Public Welfare and Humane Institutions. Of this appointment she said, "This committee is concerned with all the unhappy things that come to people. Old age, retarded children, mental illness, incompetence in all directions. Women do a better job on this committee because it's the nature of society for women to take care of the old and sick." Florence Finney sponsored related bills including the creation of the New England Board of Higher Education, the provision of privileged communication between psychiatrists and their patrons, and she also sponsored an act reorganizing the Department of Mental Health. In early 1973 she was named Deputy Majority Leader and in a special session in June of that year, she was elected President Pro Tempore of the State Senate, the first woman to ever hold that position in the State of Connecticut. In order to help her husband with the awning company, Florence Finney would commute daily back and forth to Hartford. Her attendance was perfect until she was hospitalized with pneumonia in 1974. Her devotion to her constituents was steadfast, as demonstrated through her inexhaustive correspondence with them. In 1976 she announced that she would not seek reelection for the 1977-1978 senate sessions - the outpouring of cards and letters from her constituents show their same devotion to her. The title of a 1976 editorial in the Greenwich Time read in bold letters "Florence Steps Down," no last name, no titled needed to identify whom they were referring to. 'Our loss is Jim's gain' was the theme of the article. Indeed, Greenwich was extremely grateful for Florence Finney's service.