Nana E. Gilbert

Mitchell Capital (SD), January 24, 1908.

Nana E. Gilbert (1867-1918) of Salem was supportive of suffrage in her newspaper in 1909 and became chair of the state press committee in the first half of 1910 before illness prevented her from continuing the work [Page 3 and Page 5, Bulletin – votes for women, c1910, RA08427, Pyle Papers USD; Gilbert to Breeden, Aug 1910, RD06748, correspondence 1910-07 to 1910-08, Breeden papers USD; Pierre Weekly Free Press (SD), June 16, 1910; Turner County Herald (Hurley SD), May 13, 1909; October 14, 1909June 16, 1910]. 

Upon her appointment, the Pierre editor noted “that if the suffragists do not win it will not be the fault of their press bureau” [Pierre Weekly Free Press (SD), March 17, 1910].  In 1910, “one of the most encouraging signs of our campaign” was increasing support by news editors, and it was attributed to having “secured as press chairman an experienced newspaper woman of the highest standing among the newspaper fraternity” [42nd Annual Report of the NAWSA Convention (New York: NAWSA, 1910), 142].  It was reported that Gilbert “is doing good work and most substantial results are confidently expected from her administration” [42nd Annual Report145]. 

IN HER OWN WORDS: “Whether or not the world would be made one whit better through woman’s suffrage, whether or not she or the most or any of her wants the ballot, as a matter of mere right suffrage should be extended to woman….Man’s chivalry, while we love it when it is called for, need not be called into play in extending suffrage to woman.  Rather, a sense of broadminded fairness on the part of the man voter should decide the matter.”
— “Sister Gilbert” quoted in Turner County Herald (Hurley SD), October 14, 1909.

“In the words of the press chairman, ‘Women cannot dig down in their pockets as men do to raise funds—they haven’t any pockets, and if they had they wouldn’t find much campaign money rattling around in them. It is going to be ‘hard sledding’ for the women to finance a campaign as effectively as they are capable of planning it.’ To date we have spent about eleven hundred dollars, but our treasury is empty, and our needs are great.  The price of liberty is costly, we are paying it hopefully, cheerfully and courageously.”
42nd Annual Report of the NAWSA Convention (New York: NAWSA, 1910), 144.

In June 1910, she fell ill and was hospitalized in Sioux Falls — “This is unfortunate for the cause, as Mrs. Gilbert is a spicy writer and is herself an example of femine[sic] fitness for suffrage” [The Citizen-Republican (Scotland SD), June 16, 1910]. She resigned her chairmanship with the state suffrage campaign that month [Pierre Weekly Free Press (SD), June 16, 1910; Letter Gilbert to Breeden, Aug 1910, RD06748, correspondence 1910-07 to 1910-08, Breeden papers USD].

In 1918, she was willing to serve on the county suffrage campaign committee, but she became ill again and passed away on October 31, 1918, only days before the suffrage vote carried in South Dakota [McMahon to Pyle, February 21, 1918, RD07943, correspondence 1918-02-19 to 1918-02-28, Pyle papers USD; Madison Daily Leader (SD), November 2, 1918; “Nancy E Gilbert,” Find-a-grave.com].


Nana Gilbert and her husband Samuel M. had started editing/publishing the Salem Pioneer-Register in 1905, and she continued through to her death [Mitchell Capital (SD), September 1, 1905; “History of Salem, South Dakota”; Letter to Jane Breeden, Mar. 6, 1910, RD06594, correspondence 1910, Breeden papers USD; O.W. Coursey, Literature of South Dakota (Mitchell: Educator Supply Company, 1916), 260].  She was active with the State Press Association, and though there was a movement to make her president in 1908, she instead was named second vice-president and later served on its executive committee [Mitchell Capital (SD), January 10, 1908; February 12, 1914; Freeman Courier (SD), January 30, 1908; The Citizen-Republican (Scotland SD), January 25, 1912]. 

She was also appointed by the governor to serve, unpaid, on the Women’s Board of Investigation of Charitable and Penal Institutions. In 1913, she was a state delegate to American Prison association convention in Indianapolis [Turner County Herald (Hurley SD), April 4, 1912; Pierre Weekly Free Press (SD), August 21, 1913, April 16, 1914; Mitchell Capital (SD), December 28, 1916; South Dakota Legislative Manual (Pierre: State Publishing Co., 1917), 144].

Letter to Jane Breeden, Mar. 6, 1910, RD06594, correspondence 1910, Breeden papers USD.