May P. Ghrist

See also: Kelly Kirk, “Biographical Sketch of May Ghrist,” Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920, Women and Social Movements.

May Putnam was born in 1867 in Michigan [“May Putnam Ghrist,”; census records,].  She married Samuel Vance Ghrist and they came to Dakota Territory in the early 1880s where her husband edited and published the Ree Valley Free Press before becoming an attorney. They had moved to Miller by 1913 [Resources of Dakota (Sioux Falls: Argus-Leader Co., 1887), 386; Kingsbury, History of Dakota Territory, vol. 2 (1915), 1839].

In July 1913, May Ghrist was elected president of the Hand County franchise league [Mobridge News (SD), July 4, 1913]. In 1915, she was elected vice-president of the South Dakota Universal Franchise League (U.F.L.) and re-elected through the final 1918 campaign [Forest City Press (SD), November 24, 1915; Mitchell Capital (SD), November 25, 1915].  At the same time, she served as president of Hand County’s Equal Franchise League [The Miller Press (SD), December 25, 2015; January 13, 2016]. 

Her activities with the U.F.L. included organizing the franchise league in Lake County in April 1916, coming to do work in Pierre with Mamie Pyle, speaking in Milbank with national campaigners Stella Crossley and Mary Elizabeth Pidgeon, speaking as part of the “flying squadron” of suffrage campaigners, and speaking on Amendment E as part of the suffrage School of Methods, distributed campaign posters around Hand County, published petition results ahead of the 1918 campaign, and campaigned in Turner County [Madison Daily Leader (SD), April 3, 1916, April 5, 1916; Pierre Weekly Free Press (SD), April 26, 1917, February 28, 1918; The Herald-Advance (Milbank SD), May 31, 1918July 5, 1918; Daily Deadwood Pioneer-Times (SD), June 5, 1918, June 12, 1918June 16, 1918; “South Dakota’s Citizenship Measure,” The Woman Citizen 3 (1918), 158; Pyle to Robinson, November 3, 1918, RA11649, and Ghrist to Pyle, November 5, 1918, RA11682-RA11683, Box 4, Correspondence, 1918, November 1-7, Pyle Papers USD; Effie McCollum Jones, “The South Dakota Campaign,” The Woman Voter 7(10) (October 1919), 15].

In 1916, Ghrist and Mamie Pyle were speakers on the program for the Mississippi Valley Conference held in Minneapolis; Ghrist spoke on “Distribution of Literature” [Minnesota Woman Suffrage Association, Manuscripts Collection, 308.B.15.9B, Box 3,  Conventions, 1913-1919, Mississippi Valley Conferences, Folder 1, Minnesota Historical Society].

In the fall of 1918, the influenza epidemic hit South Dakota. Ghrist wrote in early November to Mamie Pyle:

“No congregating is allowed any where… a perfect plague of the flue[sic], and of course any one who isn’t sick is afraid.  There have been several deaths in the county, only one or two in Miller.  They have turned the city hall into a hospital and it is full.”

Ghrist to Pyle, November 5, 1918, RA11682-RA11683, Box 4, Correspondence, 1918, November 1-7, Pyle Papers USD.

After the suffrage amendment, Ghrist continued on in her work as vice-president of the subsequent South Dakota League of Women Voters in attending the state Democratic Party convention to advocate for platforms for a Child Welfare Bureau and Equal Pay for Equal Work [The Woman Citizen 4 (December 20, 1919), 609; Argus-Leader (Sioux Falls, SD), September 17, 1919, February 18, 1922].  She was also a delegate to the Democratic national convention in San Francisco in 1920 [Madison Daily Leader (SD), June 29, 1920]. She was amid the group of state officers for the League of Women Voters doing legislative advocacy work at the 1923 session, and later that year, she introduced four policies supported by the League of Women Voters at the Democratic party proposal meeting [Daily Deadwood Pioneer-Times (SD), January 6, 1923; Argus-Leader (Sioux Falls, SD), December 6, 1923].

Ghrist was also involved with the General Federation of Woman’s Clubs and the wartime Women’s Committee of Council of Defense [The Citizen-Republican (SD), September 28, 1916; Daily Deadwood Pioneer-Times (SD), June 5, 1918; Sioux City Journal (IA), May 25, 1924].  During World War I, her son Bayard served in the armed forces [Daily Deadwood Pioneer-Times (SD), June 5, 1918The Citizen-Republican (SD), February 6, 1919].

Image of the Ghrist house in Miller:  Hand County Genealogy Trails,

Her husband was involved with Populist politics in 1902, mayor of Miller in the 1910s, and state’s attorney [Aberdeen Democrat (SD), October 24, 1902; Pierre Weekly Free Press (SD), December 12, 1912; The American Bar (1918), 615].

She and her husband eventually moved to California.  May Ghrist passed away in 1925 [“May Putnam Ghrist,”]