Emma A. Cranmer

Emma Amelia Powers was born in Wisconsin in 1858 and attended Cornell College .  She married Delos N. Goodell in 1880, but he passed away in 1882.  In 1884, she married Simeon H. Cranmer, and they moved to Aberdeen, S.D. in 1889 [Frances E. Willard and Mary A. Livermore, ed., A Woman of the Century: Fourteen Hundred-Seventy Biographical Sketches (Buffalo NY: Charles Wells Moulton, 1893), 214].

Willard and Livermore, ed., A Woman of the Century… (Moulton, 1893), 214.

In 1890, the Cranmers started an industrial school for working girls, providing free instruction to fifty women in reading, writing, arithmetic, and literature [Nancy Koupal, Our Landlady (1996), 205].

Photograph of Simeon Cranmer with wife Emma and daughter Frances: [Daryl Webb, “’Just Principles Never Die’: Brown County Populists, 1890-1900,” South Dakota History 22(4) (1993), 381].

Portrait (charcoal drawing) by her daughter, artist, Frances Cranmer Greenman:

Cranmer was an orator and often wrote items for the newspapers.  An “ardent suffragist” who served as a national lecturer for twelve years, she was president for the state suffrage association in 1891-1893 as well as state lecturer/organizer [Turner County Herald (Hurley SD), December 24, 1891; Mitchell Capital (SD), December 25, 1891; The Herald-Advance (Milbank SD), January 1, 1892; Clara C. Chapin, ed., Thumb Nail Sketches of White Ribbon Women (Chicago: Woman’s Temperance Publishing Association, 1895), 30-31; Mitchell Capital (SD), September 17, 1897; Saturday News (Watertown SD), November 14, 1918; Willard and Livermore, A Woman of the Century, 214; “Emma Amelia Cranmer,” Wikipedia].

Cranmer was one of the principal speakers for Woman’s Day at the State Fair as vice-president of the S.D. W.C.T.U. [Daily News (Aberdeen SD), September 18, 1890, “Page 50 : Entire Page,” “Page 52 : Entire Page,” and The Dakota Ruralist, September 17, 1890, “Page 58 : Entire Page,” Emma Smith DeVoe: 1880-1890 (Scrapbook D), WSL Manuscripts, MS 171, Box 10]. She also lectured nearly every night in October 1890 and was later described as “an attractive speaker and drew large audiences” [Kingsbury, History of Dakota Territory, vol. 3 (1915), 786].  In January 1890, she made a speech to the Knights of Labor, convincing them to support the suffrage vote [The Woman’s Tribune (Boston), March 15, 1890 in “Page 27 : Beadle County Convention,” Emma Smith DeVoe: 1880-1890 (Scrapbook D), WSL Manuscripts, MS 171, Box 10; Wittmayer, “The 1889-1890 Woman Suffrage Campaign,” South Dakota History (1982), 205]. as a leader of the county W.C.T.U., she also hosted many meetings for temperance and suffrage at her home [Early History of Brown County, usgwarchives.net, p186]. 

In 1892, she presided over the state convention in Huron as state president, was a delegate to the National American Woman Suffrage Association in Washington D.C. where she presented the report for South Dakota, gave an address at a suffrage convention in Des Moines, Iowa, and served with Irene Adams as a delegate to the Woman’s Congress in Chicago [Columbus Journal (NE), December 30, 1891; Evening Star (D.C.), January 16, 1892; Sully County Watchman (Onida SD), October 8, 1892; Mitchell Capital (SD), December 9, 1892; Turner County Herald (Hurley SD), December 15, 1892; Madison Daily Leader (SD), December 9, 1892; Pierre Weekly Free Press (SD), December 1, 1892].

In 1893, Cranmer and Anna Simmons brought a successful bill to the state legislature to expand school suffrage from trustees to include state and county school superintendents as well, put the measure was defeated in the public election [Harriet Taylor Upton, Proceedings of the Twenty-fifth Annual Convention of NAWSA, held in Washington, D.C., January 16-19, 1893 (Washington DC) 1893), 148; Upton, ed., Proceedings of the Twenty-sixth Annual Convention of NAWSA, held in Washington, D.C., February 15-20, 1894 (Washington DC, 1894), 214; Robinson, History of South Dakota, vol. 1 (1904), 601; Ellis, History of Faulk County (1909), 243].

In July 1893, as president of the WCTU, she spoke at the Chautauqua at Lake Madison–“She predicted that the battles of the future in all kinds of reform would be settled by the ballot… She referred in strong terms to the disenfranchisement of women and moral support it would bring to the law and its enforcement, if women had the ballot” [Madison Daily Leader (SD), July 15, 1893].  In August 1893, she spoke at a Chautauqua event in Hot Springs and the report was that she “made a very schollary [sic] and exhaustive talk.  She is a pleasant, smooth talker…a clear thinker and a woman of great intellect” [Hot Springs Weekly Star (SD), August 4, 1893]. In July 1894, she gave the annual address as state W.C.T.U. president at the Lake Madison Chautauqua in which she “made an eloquent plea for woman suffrage” [Madison Daily Leader (SD), July 11, 1894].

With Simmons, she lobbied again for suffrage and temperance at the 1895 legislature. They were also supportive of a county dispensary bill “so as to do away with the back door business of the drug stores” and a bill that would raise the age of consent to 18 years [Madison Daily Leader (SD), February 5, 1895; Mitchell Capital (SD), February 8, 1895].  That year they faced particularly harsh opposition from the brewery lobby and were personally criticized by Speaker Howard during the three-hour debate on suffrage [Mitchell Capital (SD), February 15, 1895Madison Daily Leader (SD), March 23, 1895].

In 1895, she presented a paper “on the women of the twentieth century” at the Woman’s National Council in Washington D.C. and spoke at a temperance meeting at the First Congregational Church in D.C. while in town for the council [Evening Star (D.C.), March 1, 1895; The Daily Morning Journal and Courier (New Haven CT), March 2, 1895; Washington Times (D.C.), March 2, 1895].   In 1899, she was selected by Susan B. Anthony to be one of five women to represent suffrage to the National Council of Women in Washington D.C. [Obituary, “Emma A. Cranmer, Famed Suffrage, Dry Worker, Dies,” Minneapolis Journal (MN), January 12, 1937].

In 1896, Cranmer and Simmons led a “well conducted, concerted and effective” campaign to bring suffrage to the 1897 legislature again.  She and Jane Rooker Breeden were invited to speak from the Senate platform and were reportedly “listened to with much courtesy and attention” by the senators as well as others from the House, state offices, and clerks who came in to hear them [The Woman’s Column 10(12) (March 20, 1897), 3].  It passed the legislature “without speeches from the senators” and went up for a vote in 1898 [Dakota Farmers’ Leader (Canton SD), February 19, 1897; The Woman’s Column 10(9) (February 27, 1897), 1; Ellis, History of Faulk County (1909), 243; Kingsbury, History of Dakota Territory, vol. 3 (1915), 790-791; Anthony et al., History of Woman Suffrage v.4, 557].  Cranmer undertook initial organizing work in the northern part of the state, while Simmons toured the southern part [Avery, ed., Proceedings of the Thirtieth Annual Convention of NAWSA … Washington, D.C., February 13-19, 1898 (Washington DC, 1898), 111]. When suffrage was the day’s topic at the Chautauqua in Madison in July, Cranmer gave a featured evening address and even though she had been ill recently, it was reported that she “appeared in good form… as eloquent and earnest as ever.” She was quoted saying “South Dakota owes much to her pioneer women and should stand by them next November” [Madison Daily Leader (SD), June 30, 1897, July 1, 1897 (includes summary of her talk)].  After the Chautauqua, Cranmer and Simmons spoke in Sioux Falls at a local parlor meeting and an evening speech at a Unitarian church to organize a small equal suffrage club of twenty-four members [Argus-Leader (Sioux Falls, SD), July 2, 1897]. Cranmer traveled with Simmons and national speakers to county conventions and Cranmer spoke, sang, and gave a report at the state suffrage convention in Mitchell [The Woman’s Column 10(39) (September 25, 1897), 2; Mitchell Capital (SD), September 24, 1897; October 1, 1897].

“Remember the cranks of 50 years ago are the heroes of today. 
The cranks of today will be heroes 50 years hence.”
Madison Daily Leader (SD), July 1, 1897.

By 1898, she was lecturing nationally, including for campaigns in Iowa and Kansas, but continued to speak around South Dakota in Canton, Yankton County, Hurley, and Aberdeen as well [Omaha Daily Bee (NE), May 20, 1898; Hot Springs Weekly Star (SD), May 27, 1898 and August 26, 1898; Turner County Herald (Hurley SD), February 24, 1898 and September 22, 1898; Dakota Farmers’ Leader (Canton SD), March 11, 1898; The Herald-Advance (Milbank SD), September 23, 1898; Mitchell Capital (SD), September 30, 1898; The State Democrat (Aberdeen SD), October 7, 1898]. In Yankton County, she did a schoolhouse campaign, with thirteen planned appearances in fifteen days, determined to reach new audiences with the suffrage message. There were reportedly small crowds and poor collections because events were not well-advertised, but the county chairs had made otherwise adequate arrangements for the schedule. Many of the communities were of German ethnicity and support was not encouraging, but she reported “inroads among Scandinavians” [Egge in Lahlum/Rozum, Equality at the Ballot Box, 229-231].

Cranmer reported that she had “spent considerable time in the Russian settlements in Turner county and met with a surprisingly cordial reception.  One of the Russian women who took part in an entertainment to raise money for suffrage work had stacked fifty stacks of grain this year.  Surely she is entitled to the ballot.  The Scandinavian vote is ours in a very large measure, and they are giving us aid and co-operation which is effective and encouraging.  Bishop O’Gorman of Sioux Falls, is an ardent suffragist, and his outspoken utterances will carry great weight in the coming election with the Roman Catholics of the state.”
The Springfield Herald (CO), November 11, 1898.

Cranmer was again active in legislative advocacy in 1905 and 1909 [Pierre Weekly Free Press (SD), January 26, 1905; The Citizen-Republican (Scotland SD), January 28, 1909, October 28, 1909].

Emma Cranmer was also a key leader of the temperance movement, serving as vice-president and president of the SD Women’s Christian Temperance Union and speaking at the national W.C.T.U. convention in Cleveland [St. Paul Daily Globe (MN), December 22, 1888; Mitchell Capital (SD), September 20, 1889 and March 4, 1892; Black Hills Union (SD), November 1, 1889; Herald-Advance (Milbank SD), March 11, 1892 and September 14, 1894; Chapin, Thumb Nail Sketches, 30-31; Jamestown weekly alert (Jamestown ND), July 25, 1889; Saturday News (Watertown SD), November 14, 1918; Willard and Livermore, A Woman of the Century, 214; “Cranmer,” Wikipedia].  In her lobbying work for temperance, one newspaper described her by saying “[t]he lady is said to be a most convincing and effective worker at a task of this nature” and another said Cranmer and Simmons were “two of the most brilliant and indefatigable workers in the west…. Mrs. Cranmer deliver[ed] the address of the evening, making a strong, eloquent, and impressive plea against resubmission… The house was crowded and all seemed to enjoy the eloquent words of this gifted lady” [Sully County Watchman (SD), January 13, 1893; Hot Springs Weekly Star (SD), February 1, 1895].  Reportedly, when the proposed resubmission of prohibition (which would have made liquor legal again) failed, Cranmer rubbed it in to brewery lobbyist Moses Kaufmann on the stairs of the capitol, saying “Is there anything more we can do for you, Mr. Kaufmann?” [(quote) Pierre Weekly Free Press (SD), March 2, 1893].  In 1895, they were at the legislature again, but that year the resubmission bill passed to go to a vote, and they began an intense public campaign to retain prohibition [Mitchell Capital (SD), January 11, 1895, January 25, 1895, and March 8, 1895; Madison Daily Leader (SD), February 2, 1895; Hot Springs Weekly Star (SD), February 22, 1895].  In 1895, Cranmer also worked as W.C.T.U. president with Bishop Hare and Reverend Thrall against the proposed divorce bill [Turner County Herald (SD), February 21, 1895].

In her many speeches on temperance, she was described as the “finest lady speaker in the west” and “a quite engaging speaker, is earnest and persuasive” [Madison Daily Leader (SD), July 15, 1893, March 24, 1894, April 2, 1894, and April 4, 1896; Hot Springs Weekly Star (SD), July 28, 1893; Mitchell Capital (SD), December 8, 1893 and December 21, 1894; Turner County Herald (Hurley SD), May 24, 1894, March 10, 1898, and July 21, 1898; Webb, “’Just Principles,” 377].

Her report to the World Temperance Congress in 1893: J.N. Stearns, ed., Temperance in All Nations: Papers, Essays, Discussions, Addresses, and Histories of the World’s Temperance Congress, Chicago, Ill., June, 1893, vol. 2 (New York: National Temperance Society and Publication House, 1893), 113.

“She is a woman of strong convictions, and a cause must appeal to her judgment and sense of right in order to enlist her sympathy”
[Willard and Livermore, A Woman of the Century, 214].

“womanly in all her work and utterances and a strength to the cause of equality and temperance wherever she goes.  She has written prose and poetry and is especially at home upon the platform, having lectured in various states with great success.”
[Chapin, Thumb Nail Sketches, 30-31].

She was active in the Methodist Church but later became a Christian Scientist [Wessington Springs Herald (SD), October 30, 1891; Madison Daily Leader (SD), July 13, 1895].

She was appointed to serve on the board of lady managers of the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo NY [The State Democrat (Aberdeen SD), April 27, 1900].

In 1905, Cranmer was again working on suffrage for the W.C.T.U. at the state legislature in Pierre, with Alice Pickler and Luella Ramsey [Pierre Weekly Free Press (SD), January 26, 1905].  She was included on a list of “noted leaders” on suffrage in 1909 [The Citizen-Republican (Scotland SD), October 28, 1909].

She died in 1937 while living at 2431 Hennepin Ave. in Minneapolis, Minnesota and is buried in Minneapolis [Obituary, Minneapolis Journal (MN), January 12, 1937; “Emma Amelia Cranmer,” Find-a-Grave.com].

I haven’t read this written by their daughter but saw it referenced: Frances Cranmer Greenman, Higher Than the Sky.  New York: Harper & Bros., 1954.