Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920

Biography of Dr. Emma O. Gantz, 1878-1973

By Julia Carstens, undergraduate student.
Harvard College, Cambridge, Mass.

Suffragist, president and founder of the Progressive Woman Suffrage Society (1909).

Emma Ora Gantz was born on August 8, 1878, in Belmont, Ohio to Reverend Edwin John Gantz and Frances L. St. Clair. She had two sisters-- Ethel St. Clair (1881), and Esther, who appears to have died in infancy She likely grew up in the Midwest.

She later went on to study medicine at the Woman's Medical College in Missouri. In 1897, after having graduated from the the medical college, she had the top score in "a competitive examination for a position as house surgeon at the German hospital" but turned it down in order to continue her studies ("About Women" 31). She was only nineteen at the time. An active subscription to the American Journal of Surgery and Gynecology in 1898 denotes that Emma was living in St. Louis during her education (xxii).

Emma moved to Iola, Kansas, in approximately 1901 to practice medicine in the office space of a Northrup building ("Diamond Ring Case Settled" 1). Some of her actions in this time were published in local newspapers. In 1901, for instance, she went camping at Flat Rock with some friends and her sister, Ethel ("The Passing Show" 5). In 1902, she became secretary of Protected Home Circle, which was most likely an organization designed to provide families with insurance benefits at a reasonable rate ("Protected Home Circle" 7). At some point in these years, however, Emma was declared unstable, and her mental health became a public topic. This was more widely known as in 1903 she was sued by Dr. J. W. Allison for a diamond ring which he had given her. He claimed to have given it to her as an engagement ring, while she claimed that it had simply been a gift, devoid of a marital promise ("Diamond Ring Case Settled" 1). Newspapers state that it then became apparent that Emma had lost her mind. She was from then on looked after in the home of Sadie Travis, before being sent to Osawatamie, a psychiatric hospital in Kansas ("Diamond Ring Case Settled" 1). In 1904, an article in the Iola Daily Register featured a public thanks from Emma's parents and sister for "kindly ministrations of word and deed during the sickness and suffering of Dr. Emma Gantz" ("Local News" 5). And by 1905, it was said that she had recuperated and was living with her mother in St. Louis. It was in this same year that the case was settled and the diamond ring returned to Dr. Allison, but he was also held responsible for legal costs adding up to more than the actual value of the ring ("Diamond Ring Case Settled" 1).

In 1906, Emma's father, Reverend Edwin Gantz, returned to the Harmony Christian Church in Cambridge, Ohio where he had preached 28 years earlier About 700 people were in attendance for his morning and afternoon sermons. Ethel Gantz sang a solo with Emma's accompaniment at the event ("Dr. E.J. Gantz Greets Members" 5). This was shortly before Emma moved with her parents to East Orange, New Jersey ("1910 United States Federal Census" 1).

In 1909, Emma was heavily involved with the suffrage movement and formed the Progressive Woman Suffrage Society with Martha Klatschken. This organization was the site of New Jersey's first "open-air meetings" on the topic, with one at the intersection of Main and Day streets in Orange, and a second in Newark. Copious literature was handed out on these occasions to what is described as a respectful and attentive crowd (Stanton et. al 416).

On April 28, amidst a hat trimmer strike, Emma was featured in the New York Times for convincing 500 of these strikers to join the suffrage movement. She was quoted for having said that many of the female strikers were dissatisfied with their work environment and felt that they might be able to actually enact reform if they could vote ("Miller NAWSA Suffrage Scrapbooks" 1). A few days later, someone in Riverdale, New York wrote to the editor questioning how Dr. Gantz was able to convince these women of their political power, given that the strike included many male employees who already had the right to vote and were yet also dissatisfied ("Men and Women Strikers and the Ballot" 1). It should be noted that in the initial article it specifies that these female strikers felt they were victims of abuse and injustice against working women in particular ("Miller NAWSA Suffrage Scrapbooks" 1). Thus, although there were bigger overall complaints which extended to both men and women, there was likely further discontent among the women. And these gender-specific issues were more likely to be addressed if women could also vote.

Emma Gantz was concurrently involved in the medical world, as she was mentioned in 1911 in an edition of the Journal of the Medical Society of New Jersey as a county chairwoman of the Public Health Education committee. Included was the purpose of the committee-- to assemble volunteer physicians to give public lectures on "the nature and prevention of disease and the general hygienic welfare of the people" (319). In 1917, she was listed in the Medical and Surgical Register of the United States, indicating that she was also practicing medicine of some sort at that time (986). And in 1918, she was either a chief medical inspector or a school health officer for the city of East Orange along with Dr. W. L. Harrington (U.S. Office of Education 94).

Dr. Emma O. Gantz died at the age of 95 in December 1973. Her obituary states that she had retired 30 years previously (in 1943), but had been employed as a physician at Bell Telephone Laboratories in Newark ("Asbury Park Press" 23). Her struggles with her mental health may have resurfaced, as she passed away at the Marlboro Psychiatric Hospital in Monmouth County ("US Social Security Death Index" 1).

Emma Ora Gantz's contributions not only to the suffrage movement but also to other charitable causes make her an inspiring and noteworthy figure. She also serves as an example of academic and career success in a period when women were often overlooked in these sectors.


Stanton, Elizabeth Cady, Susan B. Anthony, Matilda Joslyn. Gage, and Ida Husted. Harper, eds. History of Woman Suffrage, vol. 6: 1900-1920. Washington: National American Woman Suffrage Association, 1922.

Weatherford, Doris. Women in American Politics: History and Milestones. N.p.: CQ Press, 2012.

"Moose Roots by Graphiq." 1920 Census Record. N.p., n.d. Web. 01 Mar. 2017.

"Asbury Park Press from Asbury Park, New Jersey on December 12, 1973 - Page 23." Asbury Park Press, n.d. Web. 01 Mar. 2017.

"Men and Women Strikers and the Ballot." New York Times, 04 May 1909.

"Miller NAWSA Suffrage Scrapbooks, 1897-1911." Accessed online at

Medical and Surgical Register of the United States Comprising ... Index of All the Physicians in the United States. Detroit: R.L. Polk & Co., 1917.

Journal of the Medical Society of New Jersey. Vol. 8 (1911), 319.

"About Women," Northwestern Christian Advocate. Vol. 45 (1897): 31.

American Journal of Surgery and Gynecology 11-12 (1898): Xxii.

"Former Pastor, Family Guests of Glossners." Lockhaven (PA) Express, 2 Aug. 1935, p. 1. 

"The Passing Show." Iola Register [Iola, Kansas] 11 July 1901: 5.

"Local News." Iola Register [Iola, Kansas] 16 Feb. 1904: 5.

"Protected Home Circle." Iola Register [Iola, Kansas] 4 Jan. 1902: 7.

"Diamond Ring Case Settled." Iola Register [Iola, Kansas] 3 Feb. 1905, 6.

"Dr. E. J. Gantz Greets Members of His Former Congregation at Harmony Christian Church, Sunday." Cambridge Jeffersonian [Cambridge, Ohio] 30 Aug. 1906: 5.

United States, Office of Education. Statistics of Land Grant College and Universities 3.31-51 (1918-19): 94.

"Emma Ora Gantz." Geni Family Tree. N.p., 06 Dec. 2015. Web. 01 Mar. 2017.

"Mennonite Vital Records." Ancestry. N.p., n.d. Web. 01 Mar. 2017.

"US City Directories, 1822-1995." Ancestry.

"US Social Security Death Index, 1935-2014."

"1910 United States Federal Census."

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