Anne (Anna) Brancato Wood was a politician and a businesswoman whose life long commitment was to improve the lives of working-class Philadelphians.
Born January 17, 1903 in South Philadelphia, Brancato is described as the daughter of immigrants. It is reported that her father was born in Naples, Italy. I have not identified her mother’s birthplace. Her parents ran a grocery store in South Philly. Brancato went to the Academy of the Sisters of Mercy, Banks Business College and then Temple University.
In 1928, Brancato joined the Women’s Democratic Club of South Philadelphia. At that time, many in her working-class Italian American community were registered as Republicans. Brancato was part of a significant shift in the demographics of Democratic voters, as she and others in Philadelphia’s Italian community were attracted to the message and goals of Democratic Presidential Candidate, Alfred E. Smith, an Irish-American catholic raised on the Lower East Side of New York City.
Brancato made a name for herself among the Democratic leadership in Philly, recognized as a dynamic speaker, a responsible poll watcher and a successful recruiter. She rose to the position of Chair of her local club and continued as President of the citywide Young Women’s Democratic Club. In 1933, at the age of 29, she successfully ran for Pennsylvania State Legislature in the 5th District, becoming the first woman elected as a Democrat to the State Assembly. Brancato’s win was secured through hard work and dogged campaigning. She is said to have gone door to door in her district with a briefcase full of campaign literature and a convincing argument for much needed social reform.
Brancato went on to serve four consecutive terms in the Assembly, took two terms off and then returned for her fifth and final term in 1945-46. In the Assembly, Brancato was an advocate for women’s rights and for the improvement of the lives of working class residents. She sponsored legislation that protected the inheritance rights of widows, protected poor residents from inflated interest rates from the city’s pawnbrokers, restricted the workweek for women and minors to 44 hours per week, provided a minimum wage, pensions for elderly residents, restrictions on child’s labor, and a ban on beginning evictions of people unemployed and, therefore, unable to pay rent.
In 1946, she got married and started a telephone answering service and a real estate company. She stayed active in city issues starting an initiative in 1956 called “More Women on the Ballot” to increase political participation among women.