By Abagael Shrader, Graduate, University of Iowa
Faculty sponsor: Landon Storrs
Anna Norris Kendall, known when younger as Annie, was born in October of 1844 in Ohio. She lived most of her younger life in LaMoille, Illinois, in Bureau County with her father, Thomas, mother, Susan, and six siblings, Mary (16), Sarah (13), Rachel (10), Amanda (7), Helen (4), George (2) according to the 1860 Federal census. Very little is known of her early years other than what can be garnered from census data. On June 16, 1867 Anna married James Lyman Kendall, known by friends as Lyman, and exactly one year later their first and only child, Isaac Norris Kendall (known as Norris), was born. Lyman was born August 30, 1840 in Passumpsic, Vermont and in his very short life made quite a ripple in the legal field in the Midwest. He was raised by and studied with his uncle, Milo Kendall, another well-known lawyer in the Midwest. His death was regarded as a tragedy, “leaving an aching void, not only in his own family, but in a wide and numerous circle of devoted friends and admirers.” Upon his death at 29, Anna and her son Norris moved in with her parents to take care of them as they grew old.
Census data implies that after her husband's death she worked alongside her father in the fields, as her listed occupation is farmer. Letters to her husband’s uncle Milo tell of struggles with finances once her parents died. Anna writes about being unable to sell her father’s property, losing money over almost a decade on house repairs.
At age fifty, Anna appeared in the Kindergarten Review as a lecturer on child culture and “Art at the World’s Fair.” The money raised at this lecture was donated to the maintenance of a kindergarten school. Several years later, her name appeared in the same journal for funding and starting a kindergarten in LaMoille that had had a successful first year in operation. Not long after, as a supporter of education and innovation, Kendall donated her land for an experimental agricultural field.
Lamenting the loss of her husband and father in several letters to her husband’s uncle Milo, she emphasized the wish to “someday become independent” and her goal to raise her son into a “useful citizen.” Although a citizen of the United States, Anna did not have a right to political representation for most of her life. At the ripe age of 72, Anna picketed at the White House with suffragists from around the country with the National Woman’s Party on March 4, 1917. This protest brought hundreds of women to Washington to fight for their voting rights, picketing the White House. The March 4 picket was one day in a year-long NWP picketing campaign, which eventually resulted in many women's arrest and imprisonment. But the protests were effective. Thanks to the work of these women and other efforts, just over two years later, the 19th amendment passed in Congress and was ratified in 1920, granting women across the country the right to vote.
Unextraordinary women like Anna Norris Kendall-- a widow, a mother, a farmer, a benefactor, a supporter of education and innovation, and later in her life, a woman road supervisor (the “grandma of good roads”)--had a vital role in lobbying for the 19th amendment. She strove to better the citizens of the country, through motherhood, education, innovation, and political representation, and she finally found her independence as a suffragist in the National Woman’s Party.
Henry C. Brasby. ed., History of Bureau County, Illinois (Chicago: World Pub. Co., 1978; originally published, 1885), p. 607. Inez Haynes Gilmore, The Story of the Woman's Party (New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1920). Kindergarten Review, 4 (1894): 24; 13 (1902): 254.
Additional biographical information can be found on Ancestry.com and in the 1860, 1880, 1910, and 1920 United States Census for LaMoille, IL, The Rock Island Argus and Daily Union, May 9, 1922, and Annual Report of the Illinois Farmer’s Institute, 16 (1910).
Letters between Ms. Kendall and family can be found in the Milo Kendall Papers, Box 3, folder 76, Newberry Library, Chicago, Ill.