A portrait of Washington Hunt, who lived in Lockport, hangs in his former law office in Niagara County. He went on to become governor of New York in the 1850s.

Also hanging in his office is a portrait of Belva Lockwood.

It was donated to the Niagara County Historical Society by her grandson in the 1980s. A state grant helped restore it.

"It depicts a national figure who came from Niagara County. She was ambitious and very practical," said Terry Abrams, curator of the Niagara County Historical Center.

What You Need To Know

  • Belva Lockwood was born in Niagara County

  • She is the first woman to mount a serious campaign for president

  • Belva is also the first woman to argue a case before the U.S. Supreme Court

​Born in Royalton, Lockwood moved to Washington, D.C. and became the first woman to argue a case before the U.S. Supreme Court, and in 1884, run a serious campaign for president under the National Equal Rights Party.

All of her 4,700 votes came from men, since women weren't yet allowed to cast a ballot, in an election she lost to another Western New Yorker Grover Cleveland.

"Her legacy is that, just because she was a woman that doesn't mean she couldn't achieve what she wanted to achieve," said Abrams.

"Belva Lockwood is a local hero, but she's also this internationally known dynamo in women's history," said Shannon M. Risk, associate professor of the  Department of History at Niagara University.

Belva, who ran again for president in 1888 and lost, was a strong advocate for women's rights and active in the suffrage movement.

Risk also heads the women's studies minor and discusses Lockwood’s accomplishments, with her classes, including the unsuccessful runs for president.

"She was never going to win. She understood that. But she was trying to make a point. She's just one of those political superstars that people should just know in U.S. history," said Risk.

She calls Lockwood an inspiration and wants her students to learn from her example of caring for the working class, the impoverished and people of color.

"Wherever we end up in our professional lives, we need to give a helping hand to those who don't have the advantages that we do. Belva was a voice for those people," said Risk.

Risk also helped Abrams put together a 2021 exhibit at the Center that included a number of artifacts, complete with an original cartoon depicting her run for president and the other minor candidates as a sideshow.

"She took it very seriously. She traveled around the country. She gave speeches. She had a political platform," said Abrams.

The center has Lockwood t-shirts and a number of books about her life.

Lockwood also made a name for herself globally, as she was an advocate for the International Peace Movement and traveled to Europe to speak in the earlier part of the 20th century.