Suffrage Leader Elizabeth Thacher Kent

by Laurie Thompson

Elizabeth Thacher Kent, c.1912. Anne T. Kent California Room Collection.

2020 marks the centennial of the passage of the 19th Amendment which gave women the right to vote. Elizabeth Thacher Kent stands out among the Suffrage leaders with ties to Marin. Her entrance into the suffrage movement made local and national headlines. On April 10, 1911 the San Francisco Call announced: “Wife of Congressman Made Suffrage Leader,” and reported:

At the weekly meeting of clubwomen at Tamalpais Center, Mrs. William Kent, wife of the congressman, presided over a suffrage session held under the auspices of the Clubwomen’s franchise league of San Francisco. Many prominent members of the Ross and San Rafael smart set were present and men well known in business and social circles urged the right of women to vote.

She fought for Women’s Suffrage in California until it became law in October of 1911.

She then moved to Washington D. C. to join her husband William Kent who was serving his first term in Congress. There, Elizabeth became a leader in the national Women’s Suffrage movement. Due to her connections, important leaders addressed Congress on behalf of the cause including Jane Addams and Dr. Anna Howard Shaw.

Elizabeth T. Kent participating in a Women’s Suffrage picket, 1917.

In 1912, Elizabeth herself advocated for women’s suffrage at hearings before the House of Representatives and a transcript of her speech is recorded in the Congressional Record. In the speech, she makes reference to her activities in California:

In the California campaign we had an effective poster with the incontrovertible, yet suggestive statement, “Lincoln believed in government by the people. Women are people.” We want to be recognized as people; we want our share of responsibility in the government under which we live.

In 1917, while William Kent campaigned for the re-election of President Wilson, Elizabeth campaigned against Wilson and participated in National Woman’s Party pickets because President Wilson refused to support the Woman’s Suffrage amendment.

From 1912 to 1919, Elizabeth participated in suffrage campaigns in fifteen states. She continued to work hard for the passage of the Suffrage Amendment until it was passed by both houses of Congress in 1919 and was signed into law on August 26, 1920.

Elizabeth Thacher Kent (seated) with grand-daughter Elizabeth Arnold; Elizabeth Kent Arnold standing. Anne T. Kent California Room Collection.

We invite you to read my complete biography of Elizabeth Thacher Kent and explore other resources about her role in the Women’s Suffrage movement on our new online collection.

Originally published at https://annetkent.kontribune.com.

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Anne T. Kent California Room

Anne T. Kent California Room

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