Irene G. Adams

Irene G. Adams of Webster (Day County) held multiple offices in the South Dakota Equal Suffrage Association and the franchise department of the S.D. Women’s Christian Temperance Union [Wittmayer, “The 1889-1890 Woman Suffrage Campaign,” 212].

Herringshaw, ed., Local and National Poets of America , 291

Adams was born Irene Drake in Erie County, New York in 1841 (or 1839) [Thomas W. Herringshaw, ed., Local and National Poets of America with Biographical Sketches and Choice Selections from over One Thousand Living American Poets (Chicago: American Publishers’ Association, 1890), 291  — Book includes three poems and a photograph; “Irene Drake Adams,”].  Her first husband was Elias Galloway.  After his death, she married journalist Captain James C. Adams in 1887 and edited a woman’s column in her husband’s newspaper [Herringshaw, 291; “Irene Drake Adams,”].

Adams was also a poet, and songs were part of the early suffrage campaigns.  In 1888, Adams’ lyrics for “Woman and the Ballot” (to the tune of Mollie and the Baby), that she dedicated to “the E.S. clubs of S.D.,” were printed widely in the national press [Danny O. Crew, Suffragist Sheet Music: An Illustrated Catalogue of Published Music Associated with the Women’s Rights and Suffrage Movement in America, 1795-1921, with Complete Lyrics (Jefferson NC: McFarland & Co., 2002), 111; Iola Register (KS), July 11, 1890; Iowa Plain Dealer (New Oregon IA), July 17, 1890; Grenada Sentinel (MS), July 19, 1890; et al.]. She also presented one of her poems at the Mitchell convention in August 1890 as well [Mitchell Capital (SD), August 29, 1890].

“Woman and the Ballot” by Irene G. Adams
Verse 1
There are patient little woman here below
whose sons and husbands to the dram shop go;
They would like to gently drop a ballot that should stop
The wrecking of their loved ones by this foe. 
Chorus 1
Don’t you know, don’t you know where a mother ought to go
When she’s got a little family depending on her so? 
She should cast a righteous vote, and her loyalty denote
To God, and home, and babies, don’t you know. 
Verse 2
There are scores of toiling women, whom we know,
never get but half the wages that men do,
Though their work is done as well; and the reason none can tell,
Unless it is that voters make it so.
Chorus 2
Don’t you know, don’t you know what these women ought to do
To kill discrimination which is robbing of them so? 
They should yield a mighty vote which would strike a ringing note,
For equal pay for labor, don’t you know? 
Verse 3
Woman pay their share of taxes, don’t you know? 
And when they break the law to jail they go? 
Tried by a jury all of men, and a male judge to condemn,
Woman bears her burden bravely, don’t you know? 
Chorus 3
Don’t you know, don’t you know what all the honest men should do,
Since the penalties of government descend on women so?
They should grant her every good with which franchise is imbued,
And make her free and equal, don’t you know.”
[Crew, Suffragist Sheet Music, 111].

During the 1890 campaign, there were significant tensions between Susan B. Anthony as representing the national suffrage association, and state leaders who wanted to integrate the efforts of the suffrage and temperance movements.  Although Adams was involved in temperance, she apparently took a mediating position between state and national advocates, unlike fellow Webster resident Marietta Bones who became a harsh critic of the national association [Wittmayer, 212; Yvonne Johnson, ed., Feminist Frontiers: Women Who Shaped the Midwest (Kirksville MO: Truman State University Press, 2010), 79].  In the midst of controversy, Adams stood by the movement in the press:

IN HER OWN WORDS: “Irene G. Adams explained the reasons for the [Huron] convention: ‘The differences in the E.S. ranks grew out of the inharmony between the national and state executive committees, and the call for a representative convention to adjust these differences was urged by the national workers, and if not called such women as Miss Anthony, Mrs. Howells, Mrs. Wallace, Mrs. Gougar, and others could not and would not give time, money and their grand abilities to the equal suffrage campaign in South Dakota. There is need of such help as these can give and something had to be done to reconcile state and national workers.’”
Citing Irene G. Adams to the Editor, Aberdeen Daily News, 12 July 1890 [Wittmayer, 213]

In July 1890, when the leadership was restructured after the Huron convention, Adams was elected vice-president of the SD Equal Suffrage Association [Wessington Springs Herald (SD), July 11, 1890; Convention program cover, “Page 31,” Page 44 : The Convention, “Page 45 : Entire Page,” Emma Smith DeVoe: 1880-1890 (Scrapbook D), WSL Manuscripts, MS 171, Box 10, Primarily Washington; Page 004 : Letter addressed to “Women of South Dakota,” Emma Smith DeVoe: 1892-1894 (Scrapbook C), WSL Manuscripts, MS 171, Box 9]. Marietta Bones claimed in the press that the position was Adams’ reward for succeeding in kicking Bones out of the local W.C.T.U. [Minneapolis Tribune (MN), July 15, 1890]. At the August convention in Mitchell, Adams presented one of her poems as part of the program [“Page 31 : Entire Page,” and “Page 31 : Program from 1890 South Dakota Equal Suffrage Mass Convention,” Emma Smith DeVoe: 1880-1890 (Scrapbook D), WSL Manuscripts, MS 171, Box 10].

After the election, Adams was quoted reflecting: “It has got to come to a matter of you must [vote for woman suffrage] in the majority of homes before we shall win the ballot” and “Women must feel the need of it an hundred fold more than they do now before we shall win equality.” The histories by Anthony et al. say that in 1891, Adams was elected president at the state meeting in Huron, but news articles of the time said that Emma Cranmer was elected that year. [Susan B., Anthony, Ida Hustad Harper, et al. History of Woman Suffrage, vol. 4 (Indianapolis: The Hollenbeck Press, 1902), 558; The Daily Plainsman (Huron SD), December 21, 1891; Turner County Herald (Hurley SD), December 24, 1891; Nelson, “Defending Separate Spheres,” in Lahlum and Rozum, Equality at the Ballot Box, 132, n11]. 

IN HER OWN WORDS: Irene G. Adams sent a letter to Elizabeth Wardall to be read at Equal Suffrage Association in Huron.  It was printed in The Dakota Ruralist, December 31, 1891: Page 047: news clipping, Emma Smith DeVoe: 1892-1894 (Scrapbook C), WSL Manuscripts, MS 171, Box 9, Primarily Washington.

Historian Paula Nelson wrote that Adams left the campaign because her daughter’s family was experiencing illness and needed help [Paula M. Nelson, “Home and Family First: Women and Political Culture,” in Jon K. Lauck et al. eds. The Plains Political Tradition: Essays on South Dakota Political Culture, vol. 1 (Pierre: South Dakota Historical Society Press, 2011), 137].

In 1892, she was elected president of the State E.S.A. With Cranmer, she was selected as a delegate to the national woman’s congress held in Chicago during the World’s Fair in May 1893 [Mitchell Capital (SD), December 9, 1892; Madison Daily Leader (SD), December 9, 1892, et al.].

In 1893, as president, she presided at the state meeting in Aberdeen in September and, with Alice Pickler, she prepared the state report for the SD campaign to the National American Woman Suffrage Association Convention [Daily Plainsman (Huron, SD), September 16, 1893; Proceedings of the Twenty-fifth Annual Convention (1893), 148]. 

It included the note: “the State president, Mrs. Irene G. Adams, has compiled a leaflet showing the laws of South Dakota which are unjust to women. There are twenty-five such laws, some of them very bad, although the legislation of South Dakota is better than that of most States. No better missionary work can be done than to acquaint both men and women with the laws that actually exist.”
Proceedings of the Twenty-fifth Annual Convention (1893), 148.

The February 1894 national convention included a state report by Adams, who was listed as the “ex-president,” and Alice Pickler [Harriet Taylor Upton, ed., Proceedings of the Twenty-sixth Annual Convention of the National American Woman Suffrage Association, held in Washington, D.C., February 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, and 20, 1894 (Washington DC, 1894), 214-216].

Adams was also active with the Women’s Relief Corps and the temperance movement [Women’s Relief Corps, Journal of the National Convention 9 (Boston: E.B. Stillings & Co., 1891), 100; Mitchell Capital (SD), December 16, 1892].

James and Irene moved to Cresco, Howard County, Iowa in 1893 to edit the Howard County Times [Daily Plainsman (Huron, SD), May 5, 1893; 1900 census for Vernon Springs, Iowa, Enumeration District 110, June 6, 1900, sheet 8].  In Cresco, she was involved with the Howard County equal suffrage society, Iowa state suffrage association as well as the G.A.R. and the Mother’s Congress [Ottumwa Semi-Weekly Courier (IA), October 29, 1901; Evening Times-Republican (Marshalltown IA), November 15, 1901, October 27, 1902; Twice-a-Week Plain Dealer (Cresco IA), August 19, 1898, December 9, 1898; Denison Review (IA), February 21, 1902]. After her husband’s death in 1903, she ran the Times for two years then moved to Lake Helen, Florida where she edited the “Lake Helen News” segment of the Deland Weekly News [DeLand Weekly News (FL), November 16, 1906; Bio of James’ son William S.D. Adams in Kingsbury, History of Dakota Territory, vol. 5 (1915), 1029-1030]. There, she was involved with the Florida suffrage association, and the W.C.T.U. [Pensacola Journal (FL), November 9, 1917, November 17, 1918; Ocala Banner (FL), November 20, 1908; Lakeland Evening Telegram (FL), November 17, 1911, November 8, 1917, November 7, 1919].

Irene Adams passed away in 1931 and was buried in Cresco, Iowa [Irene Drake Adams 1839-1931,].