As we near the 2020 anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment, giving women the right to vote, it’s a good time to look back at how a couple of local women advocated for this basic right.
Fanny Crenshaw, whose portrait is held at the Springfield Art Museum, was known locally as a pioneer suffragist who advocated for “votes for women” since before the Civil War. One day Fanny, along with four other women, decided that as taxpayers they had the right to vote. They went to the polls to vote on a local tax levy, but were turned away. Undeterred, Fanny continued to advocate for suffrage until her death in January 1919.
Though there had been suffrage work in Missouri for decades, it wasn’t until 1914 that the Political Equality League of Southwest Missouri was formed. Mary Easley presided over the advent of the first such organization in this part of Missouri. Their first plan after formation was a petition for a constitutional amendment granting universal suffrage. Mary Easley circulated petitions and curated a newspaper column dedicated to suffrage news.
In early 1919, Missouri passed a presidential suffrage bill giving women the right to vote in presidential elections. Then, in June 1919, Congress finally passed a suffrage amendment, requiring ratification from thirty-six states before becoming law. Missouri ratified the amendment on July 3, 1919, becoming the eleventh state to do so. The tireless efforts of local women such as Fanny Crenshaw and Mary Easley helped make suffrage possible.
Connie Yen is a Springfield local writer and archivist with a passion for history and telling stories. She is the author of two published books, her most recent “ Sinner and Savior: Emma Molloy and the Graham Murder.” More at geneahistory.com