Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Linda Deziah Jennings, 1870-1932
By Daniel Li, undergraduate, University of California, Berkeley
Linda Deziah Jennings was born about 1870 to Isaac Jennings and Margaret James in New Jersey, prior to moving to LaConner, Washington. She participated in various suffrage organizations throughout her life as well as partaking in other activities that contributed to both the civil rights and suffrage movements, including writing short stories for magazines and speaking for organizations like Skagit Farmers' Institute. During the late 1800s, she attended the University of Washington. In the early 1900s, she was actively involved in the Washington Equal Suffrage Association, which met annually in Seattle for suffrage conventions. The famous suffragist Emma DeVoe established and led the association and triumphed when equal suffrage was achieved in Washington by a state referendum in 1910.
As her major contribution to the women's suffrage movement in Washington, she edited The Washington Women's Cook Book for the association. Outraged suffragists created the book in response to the argument that suffragists were incapable of housework or cooking. The association promoted and published the book during the 1909-1910 suffrage campaign and sold it throughout the West Coast, including in Alaska, as part of the strategy of the suffragists to win male voters' support through the women in their households. The association sold over 3000 copies of the cookbook. Her work contributed to the amending of the Washington State Constitution to include voting rights for women after the election of 1910, preceding the passage of the 19th amendment by a decade.
Although she contributed to the Washington Equal Suffrage Association, a major association promoting women's suffrage, she also proved herself to be a proponent of civil rights and equality with respect to minority groups aside from women. Prior to her editing of the association's cookbook, she wrote articles in various west coast publications. In 1902, she wrote a short story entitled "The Finding of a Prodigal" for The Coast magazine. She based her story largely upon facts and, in the words of the editor, "vividly [exposed] the social conditions existing among many of the early pioneer settlements, when it was no unusual occurrence for white men to take native Indian women." Her story speaks to her interest in social affairs and rights just as her suffrage work did.
In 1905, another magazine, this time The Pacific Monthly, published one of her short stories, entitled "The Rural Phone." In this tale, she writes of a rather sexist male who treats the women of the town insensitively, particularly because of their usage of the telephone. Her story comically mocks the man for his presumptuous attitude in thinking he has control over women and what they should be able to do. Her story reinforces her support for the suffrage movement in a comical, light-hearted story that mocks the men who opposed the suffrage movement that she so supported.
Beyond utilizing her education and her talent for writing, she also participated in many other events in her lifetime, including being a speaker for the Skagit Farmers' Institute in 1903 and even attending the World's Fair in Chicago in 1893, checking in at the booth for a local Washington newspaper while there and later being noted in that same newspaper afterwards.
Despite never reaping the social benefits of marriage, she nevertheless accomplished much in her lifetime through her writing before dying in 1932 in Washington, where she lived her whole life. Her life largely speaks to the movement she supported, a life independent of men, and fighting for equality with them.
Becker, Paula. "Washington Equal Suffrage Association publishes Washington's Women Cook Book in Seattle in late 1908." HistoryLink.org. http://www.historylink.org/File/8552 (accessed March 2017).
History of Woman Suffrage, vol. 6: 1900-1920, edited by Ida Husted Harper. New York: National American Woman Suffrage Association, 1922, pp. 673-86.
"Illustrated History of Skagit and Snohomish Counties, Chapter 1: Period of settlement From Part II, Skagit County Section," last modified Jan 31, 2008, http://www.skagitriverjournal.com/scounty/library/ih06/ih06sec2chap1-1.html
Jennings, Linda. "The Finding of a Prodigal." The Coast, 1902, 169-71.
Jennings, Linda. "The Rural Phone." The Pacific Monthly, 1905, 356-58.
The Seattle Post-Intelligencer. March, 1899. Accessed March, 2017. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn83045604/1899-03-05/ed-1/seq-12/
The Ranch. August, 1903. Accessed March, 2017. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn98047754/1903-08-15/ed-1/seq-1/
The Seattle Post-Intelligencer. December, 1893. Accessed March, 2017. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn83045604/1893-12-04/ed-1/seq-8/
Washington, Death Certificates, 1907-1960. Salt Lake City, Utah: FamilySearch, 2013. Accessed March 2017.
Washington Standard. October. 1907. Accessed March, 2017. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn84022770/1907-10-04/ed-1/seq-1/