Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920

Biography of Antoinette Funk, 1869-1941

By Andrew Daily, Eric Brooks, and Nathan Rees, M.A. students
Eastern Illinois University, Charleston, Illinois

Chair of the Chicago Vigilance Committee, Executive Secretary of Congressional Committee of the National American Woman Suffrage Association, served on the Board of the Illinois Association, and Chair of the NAWSA in 1914. Member of the Women's Committee of the National Council of Defense. Member of the Associate Progressive Campaign Committee of the Democratic National Committee, charged with leading the Chicago Progressive Headquarters. Vice Chair of the Woman's Liberty Loan Committee and member of the Woman's Committee of the Council of Defense. Assistant Commissioner of Public Lands 1933-1939.

Antoinette Leland was born in 1869 in Dwight, Illinois, to Cyrus Leland and Virginia Antoinette Bouverain Leland. Young Antoinette was raised by her grandfather after her parents died. In 1887 she married actor John Waltrus. Their only child, Anna Virginia, was born shortly after. Three years after John's death, Antoinette married Isaac Lincoln "Linc" Funk in 1896. In 1896, Antoinette gave birth to her second daughter, Rey Leland Funk. After a lifetime of legal work, activism for women's suffrage, and government service in the US Department of the Interior, Antoinette died in San Diego, California, on March 28, 1941.

Antoinette attended Law School at Illinois Wesleyan University, in Bloomington, Illinois. Upon graduation in 1898, she was admitted to the Illinois Bar Association. Antoinette practiced law in Pontiac, Illinois, at her uncle's law office, Illinois C.C. Strawn & Son from 1898 until 1902 when she relocated to Chicago. There she took on numerous high-profile cases including divorce and murder cases. Antoinette's legal skill and competitive nature was well known in Chicago and was reported in publications across the country. In 1913, Antoinette was appointed with Municipal Judge Gemmlli to a two-person committee to evaluate the Kavanagh Bill, which imposed new obstacles to divorce. The bill called for the State's Attorney's Office to investigate all divorce suits.  Antoinette was outspoken in her disagreement with the bill and proposed that the Illinois statute on cruelty should be structured to eliminate unnecessary blame in divorces. This event signaled a shift toward Antoinette's political activism for women's rights. As chair of the new vigilance committee in Chicago, Antoinette also gained notoriety through her efforts to bring about safer conditions in several of Chicago's most dilapidated police stations and jails. Additionally, she frequently spoke on other social issues ranging from teachers' pension rights, to the rights of married women.

Although she would become a national figure in the suffragist movement, in 1904 Antoinette told the Washington Post, "I do not believe that women should vote, whatever their rights in the matter may be." Her views soon transformed. In 1913 Antoinette received credit with other Illinois woman suffragists for their successful advocacy which led to passage the suffrage bill enabling Illinois women to vote in presidential elections. By 1914 she had risen to become chair of the National American Woman Suffrage Association. Her leadership, however, was not without difficulties. In a shift from the NAWSA-professed goal of immediate universal suffrage, Antoinette proposed a compromise that would allow individual states to ratify suffrage as Illinois had done the year before. In 1914, she traveled throughout the Midwest and western states campaigning for her proposal and women's suffrage. At one stop in Minot, North Dakota, she was halted from speaking, arrested, and fined $5.00 for disorderly conduct. Antoinette found a better reception at a South Dakota fair as reported in the book Bar None, where "Every prize-winning animal, every racing car, and motorcycle carried our pennants." In 1916 as a member of the Associate Progressive Campaign Committee, she was placed in charge of the progressive headquarters in Chicago by Vance McCormick, chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

As WWI, enveloped Europe, Antoinette turned her focus from suffrage to the US war effort. She traveled the country selling liberty bonds to help finance America's part in the war. Following the war and passage of the 19th amendment in 1920, Antoinette continued working in politics supporting progressive candidates like William Gibbs McAdoo. By 1925 Antoinette claimed the distinction of being the first woman to travel to every state in the union to speak on matters of women's suffrage, child advocacy, presidential campaigns, and support for the American war effort. In 1933 she was appointed Assistant Commissioner of Public Lands under the Department of the Interior, a post she held until her retirement in 1939.


"Central States," The American Lawyer, August 1898

Chicago Daily Tribune, ProQuest Historical Newspapers

Funk Prairie Home Museum, Funks Grove, IL,

Kathryn Funk, "A Woman's Place: Illinois Wesleyan: Suffragist Antoinette Funk Shattered Stereotypes She Once Espoused," Illinois Wesleyan University Magazine 21, no. 1 (2012)

Gwen Hoerr Jordan, Chicago Bar Association, and Alliance for Women, Bar None: 125 Years of Women Lawyers in Illinois (Chicago: Chicago Bar Association Alliance for Women, 1998),

"Judge and Woman Attorney Are Threatened in Letters: Antoinette Funk and Murray F. Tuley Warned Against Acting in Divorce Suit on Pain of Death," Chicago Daily Tribune, May 7, 1903

Albert Nelson, Marquis, and John W. Leonard, Who's Who in Chicago and Illinois (Chicago: A.N. Marquis, 1917)

"Mrs. Funk Fined $5 For Breaking Peace in Minot: Suffragist's Speech in North Dakota Called ‘Disorderly Conduct.' Statutes Locked Up," Chicago Daily Tribune, September 28, 1914

"Mrs. Funk to Be Leader," Chicago Daily Tribune, September 14, 1916

The Suffragist, November 15, 1913, p. 8

Jus Suffragii, March 1, 1914, p. 79

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