Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920

Biography of Anna C.M. Tillinghast, 1874-1951

By Elaine Dai, undergraduate student

Harvard College, Cambridge, Massachusetts

Anna Churchill Moulton was born in 1874 in Cicero, NY. She attended Tufts College and Emerson College of Oratory in Boston, and Brown University in Providence. When she was 19 years old, she married James Dannals Tillinghast and changed her name to Anna C.M. Tillinghast. She was the mother of Ruth Moulton Tillinghast and James Churchill Tillinghast.

Tillinghast was an active prohibitionist, suffragist, political activist, and an ordained minister. In 1911, she orated every day for 10 weeks in a successful campaign to retain the prohibition amendment in Maine's state constitution. At the end of the campaign she became the state lecturer for the Woman's Christian Temperance Union. Tillinghast was a leader in her community and frequently spoke up for her beliefs. In 1912, she organized the Massachusetts Federation of Progressive Women in Boston and led the group as President. As a result of her dedicated efforts, she was one of three women selected to serve on the MA State Committee of the Progressive Party and served as Secretary of the Organization during the 1914 State Convention. Women's enfranchisement was an important issue to Tillinghast as well, and she advocated for women's suffrage as a member of the Equal Suffrage Association.

Tillinghast also gave lectures on a variety of topics. She lectured throughout Massachusetts and became the first woman to give the Memorial Day oration in Beverly in 1913. When she returned to her home state of New York, she gave speeches on topics ranging from the minimum wage, 8-hour workdays, child labor, and women's suffrage.

In 1927, Tillinghast became the first female District Commissioner of Immigration in the Department of Labor's Bureau of Immigration under President Calvin Coolidge. She served two four-year terms as the commissioner for the port of Boston. She also served as the Commissioner of Immigration for New England from 1927 to 1933.

Little else is chronicled of her activities after her service as District Commissioner of Immigration in Boston. Tillinghast died on New Year's Eve 1951 at the age seventy-seven.


Blackwell, Alice Stone. The Woman Citizen. Vol. 3. Leslie Woman Suffrage Commission, 1918.

"Did You Know... In 1927, the First Female District Immigration Commissioner Was Appointed?" U.S. Customs and Border Protection, 8 Mar. 2014. Web. 27 Feb. 2017.

"Harry E. Hull." USCIS. U.S. Department of Homeland Security, 4 Feb. 2016. Web. 26 Feb. 2017.

Leonard, John W. Woman's Who's Who of America: A Biographical Dictionary of Contemporary Women of the United States and Canada, 1914-1915. American Commonwealth Company, 1914. [LINK] to Tillinghast sketch in this volume

NEWS OF THE DAY IN PICTURES. (1927, Jan 15). The Washington Post (1923-1954) Retrieved from

Stanton, Elizabeth Cady, et al., eds. History of Woman Suffrage: 1900-1920. Vol. 5. [LINK]

"Unitarian Universalist Association. Minister Files, 1825-2010: A Finding Aid." Unitarian Universalist Association. Minister Files, 1825-2010: A Finding Aid. Andover-Harvard Theological Library, n.d. Web. 01 Mar. 2017.

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