Helen Kolb Herr made history as the first woman elected to the Nevada State Senate. She was also the second woman elected from Clark County to serve in the Nevada assembly. As a lawmaker, Herr sponsored legislation designed to protect the interests of women, reform Nevada's prisons, and expand medical care for the impoverished.
Born on August 3, 1907 in Fargo, North Dakota, Herr graduated from Plaza High School in Plaza, North Dakota. She attended the Valley City State Teachers College in Valley City, North Dakota, where she received her elementary teaching certificate in 1925.
By the late 1940s, Herr was running a real estate agency in Los Angeles when she followed her doctor's advice to relocate to Las Vegas, where the dry climate would be better for her health. She opened her own firm—Helen Herr Realty—on Las Vegas Boulevard, in 1949, and she became a community activist.
Herr was chairperson of the East Las Vegas Town Board when she opposed a state plan to turn the Boulder Highway—a seventeen-mile link between the town of Henderson, Nevada, and Las Vegas—into a freeway. She held the post of chairperson of the East Las Vegas Town Board for ten years before she won her first election to the Nevada assembly in 1957, where she served five consecutive terms. In 1966, Herr ran for the Nevada senate and won, making her the state's first female senator. After twenty years in the legislature, she lost her battle for reelection in 1976.
Herr's legislative agenda included the promotion of better mental health facilities in Southern Nevada, improvements to state welfare and Medicaid programs, and equal rights for women. One of her most important pieces of legislation was a 1973 bill that guaranteed equal pay for equal work for men and women. Nevertheless, she did not support the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), despite her identification as a feminist, arguing that the ERA would not help working women and that it would ultimately cause more problems. She believed her opposition to the ERA led to her defeat in the 1976 Democratic Party primary.
Following her service in the state legislature, Herr worked as a lobbyist for senior citizens. She was the first woman elected to the Senate Hall of Fame in 1993. Herr passed away on June 23, 1999, in California.