Timeline of South Dakota Suffrage, 1891-1896

Before 18891889-1890 — 1891-1896 — 1897-18981899-19081909-1910
1911-19121913-19141915-19161917-1918After 1918

Key Players

Philena Everett Johnson
Emma Cranmer
Sophia Harden
Elizabeth M. Wardall
Alice M.A. Pickler
John A. Pickler
Irene Adams
Alice Bower Gossage
Anna R. Simmons
Eva Myers
Helen M. Barker
Kate Uline Folger
Minnie Sheldon
Henrietta Lyman
Clara B. Colby (Beatrice NE)


January: S.D.E.S.A. president Philena Johnson rented a house in Pierre to stay in during the legislative session [Sully County Watchman (Onida SD), January 3, 1891].

February: Senator Crawford introduced S.B. 248 for suffrage in municipal elections [Pierre Weekly Free Press (SD), February 26, 1891].

Rosa Whitney and 37 others presented the state senate with petition about “uniformity in text books and the granting of full suffrage women in school matters” [Pierre Weekly Free Press (SD), February 5, 1891].

The 1891 National American Woman Suffrage convention heard from Anna Howard Shaw, Henry Blackwell, Carrie Chapman, Emma Smith DeVoe, and Alice and John Pickler about the results of the 1890 campaign. To the convention, “Representative J.A. Pickler was introduced by Miss Anthony as the candidate who, when told that if he expressed his views on woman suffrage he would lose votes, expressed them more freely than ever and ran ahead of his ticket; and his wife as the woman who bade her husband to speak even if it lost him the office, and who was herself the only Congressman’s wife that ever took the platform for the enfranchisement of women.” The convention program also included the song written by J.H. DeVoe: “O, Sing of Wyoming,” “A Soldier’s Tribute to Women,” “Columbia, Land of Liberty” (adapted from Dakota, Land…) [Anthony and Harper, History of Woman Suffrage, vol. 4 (1902), 182183; Alexandria Gazette (VA), February 28, 1891; Evening Star (DC), February 28, 1891; Hot Springs Star (SD), March 6, 1891; “Page 55 : Program: 1891 National American Woman Suffrage Convention (Page 5),” and “Page 63 : Songs Sung at the National-American Woman’s Suffrage Convention” (lyrics printed) Emma Smith DeVoe: 1880-1890 (Scrapbook D), WSL Manuscripts, MS 171, Box 10].

Campaign workers used racially/ethnically-charged language to explain their political defeat during the 1891 NAWSA Convention:

Emma Smith DeVoe: “…and we are told to stand aside the make way for the marauding savages, who are of more account than we women.  Our appeals are lost in the noise of the war whoop and our political wishes are lost in the confusion attending a ghost dance.”
Evening Star (Washington DC), February 28, 1891, Page 6, Image 6.

Henry Blackwell: “…in South Dakota one-third of the population could not read or speak English, and this was one of the causes of the defeat of woman suffrage.  He had visited Dakota, and described some portions of the country.  In many places the American settlers had been starved out, and left for other part of the country, but the degraded foreigners were used to hard times and stayed.”
The Washington Post (DC), March 1, 1891, “Page 59 : Entire Page,” Emma Smith DeVoe: 1880-1890 (Scrapbook D), WSL Manuscripts, MS 171, Box 10.

December 18: The state suffrage convention was held in Huron. Emma Cranmer was elected president, Sophia Harden vice-president, Elizabeth Wardall secretary-treasurer, Alice Pickler member of national executive committee, and Wardall delegate to the national convention. The convention made plans for the coming year and passed a resolution to ask political parties to name a woman for the office of Superintendent of Public Instruction [The Daily Plainsman (Huron SD), December 21, 1891; Turner County Herald (Hurley SD), December 24, 1891; Mitchell Capital (SD), December 25, 1891].


In June, Marietta Bones gave the Journal in Racine, Wisconsin an interview “in which she flops” on suffrage and “admits that she ‘never saw more political wirepulling among men that there is among the woman suffragists'”
The Herald-Advance (Milbank SD), June 24, 1892.

July: For ten days, Clara B. Colby of Beatrice, Nebraska and her secretary Rachael Brill camped at the Black Hills Chautauqua Assembly in Hot Springs. Colby gave a talk and they distributed copies of the Woman’s Tribune [Hot Springs Weekly Star (SD), August 5, 1892, August 12, 1892].

September: At the Prohibitionist party convention in Sioux Falls, resolutions were passed for equal suffrage and equal pay [Hot Springs Weekly Star (SD), September 23, 1892].

December 6: The 1892 state suffrage convention was held in Huron with the business meeting at the G.A.R. Hall presided over by Emma Cranmer and the evening address by Mrs. M.L. Wells of Tennessee held at the Methodist Episcopal church. The officers elected were Irene Adams as president, vice presidents Mrs. L. Bradford and Alice Gossage, secretary-treasurer Elizabeth Wardall, state organizer Mrs. G.W. Hickman of Doland, national convention delegates Wardall and Alice Pickler, and Chicago woman’s congress delegates Adams and Cranmer [Pierre Weekly Free Press (SD), December 1, 1892; Mitchell Capital (SD), December 9, 1892; Madison Daily Leader (SD), December 9, 1892]. The convention passed resolutions including: asking for a change so that all school-related elections would be held in June “for the purpose of stripping the election of any political texture, and to give the women a chance to vote”; their opposition to the resubmission of prohibition; and a resolution supporting petitioning the legislature to raise the age of consent for girls from 15 to 18 [Madison Daily Leader (SD), December 9, 1892, December 12, 1892; Union County Courier (Elk Point SD), December 16, 1892; Pierre Weekly Free Press (SD), December 22, 1892].

Suffragists supported the candidacy of Susan Hassell for the state superintendent of public instruction on the Independent Party ticket [Harriet Taylor Upton, Proceedings of the Twenty-fifth Annual Convention of the National American Woman Suffrage Association, held in Washington, D.C., January 16, 17, 18, 19, 1893 (Washington DC) 1893), 148].

Irene Adams compiled a leaflet of twenty-five state laws unjust to women, which could be ordered from Wardall in Huron at one cent per copy if ordering at least fifty [Upton, Proceedings (1893), 148].

Alice M.A. Pickler:
“We said we would not have it written in the history of our State that any legislature had ever convened without our knocking at the door for suffrage.”
Upton, Proceedings (1893), 148.


Suffragists led by Emma Cranmer and Anna Simmons were active at the state legislature in 1893, working on measures for the right to vote for county and state school superintendents, and municipal suffrage. The legislature passed a law to require that all communities provide a separate box for school ballots so that women could vote on those questions. It also passed an amendment bill to go on the November 1894 ballot to expand school suffrage to include county and state superintendents. That amendment and one to eliminate term limits for county school superintendents passed the legislature with the support of the SD Educators Association [Madison Daily Leader (SD), March 2, 1893, April 3, 1893; Pierre Weekly Free Press (SD), March 2, 1893; Kingsbury, History of Dakota Territory, vol. 3 (1915), 789; Anthony and Harper, History of Woman Suffrage, vol. 4 (1902), 557; 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; Jones, “The Women Voted,” in Lahlum/Rozum, Equality at the Ballot Box (2019), 198].

July: Emma Cranmer spoke at the WCTU Day of the Lake Madison Chautauqua and “gave a short address of great power” on the need for the ballot to meet “the battles of the future in all kinds of reform.” “She referred in strong terms to the disenfranchisement of women and the moral support it would bring to the law and its enforcement, if women had the ballot.” Other WCTU Day speakers who touched on suffrage were Isabella Webb Parks of Atlanta GA on WCTU as World Movement and Joseph Cook on “No Sex, No Shirks, No Simpletons in Suffrage” [Madison Daily Leader (SD), July 15, 1893].

September: The South Dakota Equal Suffrage Association held its 1893 annual meeting at the Methodist Episcopal church in Aberdeen during the Grain Palace Exposition [Madison Daily Leader (SD), September 13, 1893; Kingsbury, History of Dakota Territory, vol. 3 (1915), 789; Anthony and Harper, History of Woman Suffrage, vol. 4 (1902), 558]. Mary A. Groesbeck as state president and Cranmer had charge of the program, and Clara Hoffman of Missouri was its keynote speaker [Upton, ed., Proceedings (1894), 214-216].

“I do not know that any estimate has ever been made of the amount of taxes paid by women throughout the state, but there are hundreds of single women who have taken homesteads and improved them, and live upon them now, making themselves valuable homes, with stock, machinery and good buildings, therefore, considering the number of married women who pay taxes, the number of tax paying women in South Dakota is largely augmented by the women homesteaders, above the number in some of the older states where no free land has been offered them.”
Adams and Pickler, state report in Upton, ed., Proceedings (1894), 215.


February: Alice Pickler was part of a delegation of suffragists who spoke before the judiciary committee of the U.S. House of Representatives [Alexandria Gazette (VA), February 21, 1894].

June: At the state Populist convention in Mitchell, a suffrage plank was adopted “almost unanimously” after a speech by Anna Simmons [Madison Daily Leader (SD), June 14, 1894, June 16, 1894, July 24, 1894; Mitchell Capital (SD), June 15, 1894; Topeka State Journal (KS), July 12, 1894]. There were later reports that suffrage was not bring printed consistently with the party platform in the newspapers, but was embraced by the Populist gubernatorial candidate who {with xenophobic language} “in his speech at Madison he recently declared it [suffrage] was the only hope of an intelligent, refined and virtuous womanhood, and then he asked the audience how they ‘would like to see their mothers, wives, sisters and daughters live as the wives mothers and daughters of these degraded, ignorant foreigners around us'” [The Herald-Advance (SD), July 6, 1894, August 3, 1894; Madison Daily Leader (SD), August 15, 1894].

July: At the Lake Madison Chautauqua, Emma Cranmer, Alice Pickler, Eva Myers, and Helen Barker spoke for suffrage and prohibition at a platform meeting and a School of Methods where they “discussed suffrage question today and mapped out more active and effective work in this line.  They are going to exercise all the rights they are now conceded besides learning how much more they are entitled to by law which they are not conceded” [Madison Daily Leader (SD), July 11, 1894, July 18, 1894, July 20, 1894].

September: The South Dakota ESA and WCTU held a joint convention in Aberdeen. Anna R. Simmons was elected president of the SDESA, a position in which she served for six years, vice-president Mary Groesbeck, secretary Kate Folger, and treasurer Mrs. E.J. Beach. The convention passed a resolution commending the Populist part for their support [Union County Courier (Elk Point SD), September 20, 1894; Dakota Farmers’ Leader (Canton SD), September 21, 1894; Anthony/Harper, History of Woman Suffrage, vol. 4 (1902), 558].

Simmons later reported that, when she started, she was “confronted by an empty treasury, a state membership of thirty-five and four local clubs.  One club has been organized since the convention in September.  I have given twenty addresses and held a number of parlor meetings, and am full of enthusiasm for the future.”
Harriet Taylor Upton, ed., Proceedings of the Twenty-seventh Annual Convention of the National American Woman Suffrage Association, held in Atlanta, Ga., January 31st to February 5th, 1895 (Washington DC, 1895), 89.

November: The state amendment to allow women to vote for county and state school superintendents failed at the public ballot by 5,672 votes [Anthony/Harper, History of Woman Suffrage, vol. 4 (1902), 557].


The suffrage amendment passed the state Senate “without a dissenting vote” but was tabled (indefinitely) in the House after a long discussion and “heated debate” [Madison Daily Leader (SD), February 5, 1895, March 12, 1895; The Herald-Advance (Milbank SD), February 15, 1895; Kimball Graphic (SD), February 23, 1895, Image 2, February 16, 1895, February 23, 1895, page 1; Mitchell Capital (SD), February 8, 1895, March 1, 1895, March 8, 1895; Black Hills Union (Rapid City SD), March 1, 1895; Kingsbury, History of Dakota Territory, vol. 3 (1915), 789-790]. Many of the women lobbying for suffrage at the legislature, led again by Cranmer and Simmons, were also temperance workers focused on fighting attempts to resubmit prohibition to the ballot by lobbyists for the liquor industry such as Sioux Falls’ Moses Kaufman [Kimball Graphic (SD), February 9, 1895; Madison Daily Leader (SD), February 5, 1895, March 23, 1895].

About the legislature:

“At this session there was present a powerful lobby in favor of woman suffrage.  In attendance were several of the most prominent women of the state to urge the measure in person.  They were assisted by able lawyers and had apparently abundant supply of ready money.”
Kingsbury, History of Dakota Territory, vol. 3 (1915), 230.

“The biggest fight of the session occurred today over the woman suffrage resolution.  All other work was laid aside, and for nearly three hours the debate was warm and at times acrimonious.  Most of the addresses were made in favor of the resolution, and the case was presented with great strength and eloquence.” Speaker Howard “made an able and forcible speech of great power, severely criticizing Mrs. Cranmer and Mrs. Simmons and the other ladies who have been pushing the bill, and pleading for its rejection on general and party principles.”
Mitchell Capital (SD), February 15, 1895.

“Big row in the house Wednesday over the women suffrage bill and much bad blood roiled to a fighting heat.  The question comes up today, at which time it will probably be settled for good.  It will be a very close vote.”
Kimball Graphic (SD), February 23, 1895, Image 4.

“The practical defeat of woman suffrage today has enraged the Black Hills members who were pushing the bill, and they now declare that they will revenge themselves by defeating the divorce bill, in which Sioux Falls and other towns are interested.  A strong fight is being made on the bill and petitions are pouring in daily remonstrating against it.”
Hot Springs Weekly Star (SD), February 22, 1895.

“Rumors are afloat that tomorrow may be the most exciting day of the session, from the determination of the woman suffragists to force the divorce bill advocates to aid in the passage of the suffrage resolution or suffer defeat of the divorce measure.”
Kimball Graphic (SD), March 9, 1895.

May: Anna Simmons went to the Black Hills to organize, including speaking at the chapel at Black Hills College “on equal suffrage from the standpoint of a business woman” [Black Hills Union (Rapid City SD), May 3, 1895; Notes in Binder 138: Black Hills College, p8, Hot Springs Public Library]. The Madison newspaper reprinted a report from the Sioux Falls Press (an ‘Anti’ paper) that “the audiences were painfully limited in size” [Madison Daily Leader (SD), May 10, 1895].

July 16: Equal Suffrage Day at the Lake Madison Chautauqua [Turner County Herald (Hurley SD), June 20, 1895]. The Picklers were tenting at the Chautauqua, and for Suffrage Day, Alice Pickler presided over the platform meeting, and speakers included John Pickler and Dr. E.L. Parks of Atlanta GA — “Mrs. Pickler told of the part equal suffrage played in the great women’s council at Washington last winter, the Major gave some very potent reasons why he thought women entitled to the ballot and Dr. Parks told of the hold the question was beginning to take on the leading ladies of the south” [Madison Daily Leader (SD), July 16, 1895, July 17, 1895].

September 16-17: SD Women’s Christian Temperance Union and the Equal Suffrage Association held their annual conventions back-to-back in Pierre, with the goal of saving travel expenses for attendees going to both. The SDESA encouraged each political equality club to send two delegates, and delegates were invited from W.C.T.U. and Women’s Relief Corps locals as well. The suffrage convention featured an address by legislator Joseph Donahue of Stanley County, who had “nobly defended the woman suffrage movement last winter,” and Carrie Chapman Catt of New York gave both a keynote address and a parliament of methods. The SDESA elected Anna Simmons (Huron) president, Eva C. Myers (Canistota) vice-president, Kate Folger (Watertown) corresponding secretary, Minnie Sheldon (Sioux Falls) recording secretary, Henrietta Lyman (Pierre) treasurer, and Jane Rooker Breeden (Pierre) auditor [Mitchell Capital (SD), August 30, 1895, September 20, 1895; Pierre Weekly Free Press (SD), August 22, 1895, September 19, 1895; Sioux City Journal (IA), September 6, 1895; Kingsbury, History of Dakota Territory, vol. 3 (1915), 770-771].

Anna R. Simmons reported South Dakota having fifty political equality clubs with 700 members, but having spent all the money raised over 1895 and in need of funds to carry on future work [Rachel Foster Avery, ed., Proceedings of the Twenty-eighth Annual Convention of the National American Woman Suffrage Association, held in Washington, D.C., January 23d to 28th, 1896 (Washington DC, 1896), 158].


In early 1896, Anna Simmons’ state report to NAWSA included a story of her eighteen years working for the WCTU —
“It took two winters of legislative work to convince me of the need of the ballot… I went to Pierre with another woman to work against certain legislation proposed in the interest of the liquor business.  I found that we might as well go out, we two women, and try to dam the Mississippi or the Missouri River with our bare hands.  Another thing I found out was that it does not pay to go to the Legislature and ask for suffrage as W.C.T.U. women, because they think you only want it as an anti-liquor measure; whereas, every true women[sic] wants it for many other things.”
Avery, ed., Proceedings (1896), 56.

July: SDESA secretary Kate Folger passed away of heart disease in Watertown [Turner County Herald (Hurley SD), July 30, 1896; The Herald-Advance (Milbank SD), July 31, 1896; et al.]. Later, Anna Simmons commented: “In the death of our Corresponding Secretary we lost much that cannot be told in words” [Rachel Foster Avery, ed., Proceedings of the Twenty-Ninth Annual Convention of the National American Woman Suffrage Association at Des Moines, Iowa, January 26-29, 1897 (Philadelphia: Alfred J. Ferris, 1897), 93].

November: A ballot measure to repeal prohibition passed.

December 3-4:  SD Equal Suffrage Association held its 7th annual convention in Salem, with entertainment arranged by Mrs. M.P. Irwin.  The Women’s Relief Corps, the W.C.T.U., Eastern Star, Rebekahs, Degrees of Honor, and Royal Neighbors were invited to attend. Efforts were focused on preparing for the 1897 legislature [Madison Daily Leader (SD), November 28, 1896; Hot Springs Weekly Star (SD), December 4, 1896; Kingsbury, History of Dakota Territory, vol. 3 (1915), 790-791].

Before 18891889-1890 — 1891-1896 — 1897-18981899-19081909-1910
1911-19121913-19141915-19161917-1918After 1918