Gertrude McKee was born in Dillsboro, North Carolina in 1885. She was the daughter of a well-known farmer, businessman, and former state representative, William Allen. She later graduate from Peace Institute (now Peace College) in 1905, and later the Woman’s College of The University of North Carolina (now UNC-Greensboro) awarded her an honorary doctorate.
Back in Jackson County, she married Enrnest Lyndon McKee. Already the daughter of a prominent Jacksonian countian and now the wife of a successful Sylva businessman, Gertrude McKee operated in area’s most prestigious social circles. She served on various local committees and soon became an officer in various organizations at the local and state level. During World War I, she was a community leader in such programs as Liberty Loans, the Salvation Army, and War Savings Stamps. She became president of the North Carolina Federation of Women’s Circle (1925-27) and then the North Carolina chapter of the Daughters of the Confederacy (1928-30). In 1926, Governor Angus McLean appointed her to the North Carolina Educational Commission. She was a Trustee for various North Carolina schools, including Brevard College and Western Carolina Teachers College (now Western Carolina).
The Democratic Party nominated Gertrude McKee for the North Carolina Senate in 1930. She served in this capacity for three terms (1931-33, 1935-37, and 1943-44). In Raleigh she earned a reputation for being an advocate of welfare programs and for children’s education. Her legislative decisions reflected her ongoing work back in Jackson County. She believed that all children should receive at least a 6th-grade education, and she wanted to end child labor laws. She advocated for Social Security for the needy and also wanted to regulate beer and wine sales.
McKee was elected for one more term in 1948. But the Jackson County native died before assuming public office once again.