“My guiding principle will be ‘equal opportunities for all with special privileges to none.’”
Hannah Kempfer, from a letter written during her first legislative campaign, 1922
Johannah (Hannah) Jensen was adopted as an infant by a family in Stavanger, Norway, and moved to Minnesota with her family around 1885. The Jensens eventually settled on a farm near Erhard, in Otter Tail County.
Jensen became a teacher in a one-room schoolhouse and married Charles Kempfer, who farmed in Otter Tail County. She ran church socials and quilting bees, formed a farm improvement club and was a correspondent for the local newspaper. In 1922, she was elected to the Minnesota House of Representatives. One of four women elected that year, she was the only one from a rural district.
During her nine non-consecutive terms in office, Kempfer served on every House committee except for taxation. Her record was strong on natural resource issues and bills protecting the rights of children. She and Mabeth Hurd Paige introduced legislation in 1925 that protected the Showy Lady’s Slipper, Minnesota’s state flower. During Kempfer’s single session as chair of the Game and Fish Committee in 1927, Minnesota’s first annual fishing-license fee (of 50 cents) was imposed. This move cost her some support in Otter Tail County, and may have led to her loss in the 1930 election. She was re-elected in 1932.