Inside Spencer: The KSRL Blog

Votes for Women!: The Suffrage Movement at the University of Kansas

The credit for the success of the women’s suffrage movement in the United States seems to always go to women like Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and other well-known women who fill the history books. While they most certainly deserve all of the accolades given to them, much of the groundwork for equal suffrage was done at the local level. These well-organized suffrage leagues and associations were part of a national network of volunteers, all working for one common purpose. The women, and often men, in these types of small, grass-roots groups were no less passionate about suffrage for women as their more famous counterparts.

The College Equal Suffrage League was a national organization begun in 1900. The mission of the League was to get college students involved in the women’s suffrage movement. The League fostered branches on college campuses around the country. The University of Kansas chapter of the College Equal Suffrage League was organized in January 1909.

Information about KU's chapter of the College Equal Suffrage League in the Jayhawker yearbook, 1909
Information about KU’s chapter of the College Equal Suffrage League in the Jayhawker yearbook, 1909. University Archives. Call Number: LD 2697 .J3 1929. Click image to enlarge.

Membership consisted of students, faculty, and staff. The first administrative sponsors of the KU league were Dr. William H. Carruth, Professor of Germanic Languages and Literature; Dr. Arvin S. Olin, Professor of Education; and Carrie Watson, Librarian. Student leaders were chosen from among the members. The women shown here were the officers of the KU chapter of the College Equal Suffrage League for 1909. Also shown is the often patronizing write-up that accompanied their senior class pictures in the yearbooks.

Senior photograph of Jessie Baldridge in the Jayhawker yearbook, 1909
Senior photograph of Jessie Baldridge in the Jayhawker yearbook, 1909. University Archives. Call Number: LD 2697 .J3 1929. Click image to enlarge.

Jessie Baldridge, A. B.
La Junta, Colo.

Kappa Alpha Theta, Sophomore Prom Committee, Junior Prom Committee, Junior Farce, President of College Equal Suffrage League, Senior Play.

Susan B. the Second, princess of the Suffragettes, and yet has as many friends among the boys as the next one. Last year it was feared that she would join the army but we notice this year that she has laid her “arms by” and joined the Suffragettes instead. She would have voted for Carruth in the spring election if she hadn’t forgot to register. Colorado had an evil effect upon her.
Senior photograph of Laurenia Mervine Shaw in the Jayhawker yearbook, 1910
Senior photograph of Laurenia Mervine Shaw in the Jayhawker yearbook, 1910. University Archives. Call Number: LD 2697 .J3 1929. Click image to enlarge.

Laurenia Mervine Shaw, A.B.
Lawrence.

Decorating Committee for Chancellor’s Inaugural, Vice-President K.U. Branch of College League of National Equal Suffrage Association.

Laurenia has Miss Corbin and the Woman’s Collegiate Suffragettes Association backed clear off the boards when it comes to the strenuous upholding of the rights of downtrodden woman. She is chief suffragette and general agitator, and she has a falling for tall, good-looking men for escorts to dances. Is thinking of going to England as soon as school is out, to kidnap the prime minister. Born in the shadow of the capital, and is still old fashioned enough to have faith in the practical application of the motto: “Honesty is the best policy.”
Senior photograph of Mary Elizabeth Parker in the Jayhawker yearbook, 1909
Senior photograph of Mary Elizabeth Parker in the Jayhawker yearbook, 1909. University Archives. Call Number: LD 2697 .J3 1929. Click image to enlarge.

Mary Elizabeth Parker, A.B.
Lawrence. “Maybeth”

Y.W.C.A., Chairman of Student Government Committee.

Her one great sorrow is that she could not persuade “Lummie” to join the Woman’s Suffrage movement. In addition to many other duties, social and intellectual, Maybeth cheerfully espoused the cause of the suffragettes. Owing to her ardent support, that band of martyrs has made a stir in feminine circles this year.
Senior photograph of Florence Hackbusch in the Jayhawker yearbook, 1910
Senior photograph of Florence Hackbusch in the Jayhawker yearbook, 1910. University Archives. Call Number: LD 2697 .J3 1929. Click image to enlarge.

Florence Hackbusch, A.B.
Leavenworth.

Phi Beta Kappa, Y.W.C.A., W.S.G.A. [Women’s Student Government Association]

Florentine never hesitates to demonstrate with a flourish the ascendancy of noble woman. She possesses a great strength of her own convictions, and has even had the temerity to take a crack at Professor Boynton’s courses. As a suffragette Florentine is a winner, and bids fair to languish in bastiles [sic] right along with the rest of them.

Evidence suggests that the KU League only existed until 1912, and disbanded after women in Kansas had been granted the right to vote in national elections. An article in the December 12, 1912, issue of the University Daily Kansan reports that the League met to “decide whether or not to disband, now that suffrage has carried in Kansas.” There is no mention of the KU League in the university yearbook or newspaper after this date, and, unfortunately, there are no known archival records for the student organization.

Kathy Lafferty
Public Services

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