Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920

Biography of Mildred Auten Spencer, 1884-1965

By Lori Osborne, Director Evanston Women's History Project, Evanston History Centre and Julia Flynn, Researcher, Evanston History Centre, Evanston, Illinois.

Woman Suffrage Association; Woman's Club of Evanston; Woman's Christian Temperance Union; Young Woman's Christian Temperance Union; Northwestern University Half Century Club; Evanston Political Equality League.

Mildred Garwin Auten was born in 1884 in Alton, Illinois to Aaron O Auten and Nellie H Auten. She married Frank E Spencer in 1911 and had two children, Frank A Spencer (1913) and Mildred Still Spencer (1915). She lived in Evanston all of her life except when she moved to Wisconsin in 1946 and returned to Evanston in 1963. She died in 1965 in Evanston, Illinois.

After attending Northwestern University Academy for four years in the college preparatory class, Mildred Auten Spencer attended Northwestern University from 1902-1906 gaining a Liberal Arts degree. During her time at Northwestern University she won prizes for her poetry and had poetry work featured in Northwestern University publications. She was a member of the Illinae and Eulixia Literary Societies.

Auten served as President of the Young Woman's Christian Temperance Union, which had been founded in 1902 in Evanston. The work of the YWCTU, a branch of the WCTU, was predominantly concerned with the Flower Mission, Press, Hospital and Literature affairs.

After graduation and before her marriage, Spencer started working as a journalist for the Woman's Christian Temperance Union in Evanston, Illinois and was Editor of Young Crusaders Monthly from 1908-1909. The Young Crusaders Monthly was a publication of the WCTU published from 1887 through to the 1930's and targeted children aged six to twelve with occasional articles of interest to teenagers and youth of early twenties. The monthly magazine aimed to instill WCTU values to a younger generation and contained serialized fiction that would change in content in response to social movements and pertinent issues of the time. It also contained poetry and non-fiction segments.

Spencer continued to be actively involved with the WCTU after her marriage and served as an Illinois delegate at the WCTU Annual Conventions. Long after the fight for suffrage, Spencer remained committed to the values of the WCTU and served as Director of Flower Mission and Child Welfare for many years.

After the founding of the Evanston Political Equality League in 1904, Spencer served as second President from 1910-1911, hosted League meetings in her home, and remained active through the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment. It affiliated with the Illinois Equal Suffrage Association (IESA), working on the community level to distribute pamphlets, host lectures and enroll individual members from Evanston to support the suffrage cause. During the many years between legislative victories in the fight for woman suffrage, the Evanston Political Equality League kept the issue of suffrage alive in the community and raised funds for the Illinois Political Equality League. After the passage of the 19th amendment, it appears the Evanston Political Equality League was supplanted by the Evanston League of Women Voters where Spencer maintained community involvement.

Spencer joined the Woman's Club of Evanston in 1909 and was primarily involved with the Art and Literature Department, dedicated to improving the lives of women and children.

Spencer maintained active participation with Northwestern University Alumni affairs and was instrumental in establishing the Half Century Club, which recognized and celebrated Alumni who graduated fifty plus years ago. Since then, Northwestern University has continued the tradition by celebrating Alumni every year at Reunion and Homecoming.


Evanston History Center Archives, Collection 422 - WCTU

Evanston History Center Archives, Collection 214 - Women Suffrage 1885-1936.

Evanston History Center Clipping File Subject- Evanston Political Equality League

Evanston History Center Clipping File Biographical - Spencer M-Z

Evanston History Center | 225 Greenwood Street | Evanston IL 60201 | (847) 475-3410

Report of ... Annual Convention of the National Woman ..., Volume 40, Part 1913
By Woman's Christian Temperance Union

History of Northwestern University and Evanston, edited by Robert Dickenson Sheppard, Harvey

Purifying America: Women, Cultural Reform, and Pro-Censorship Activism, 1873-1933 (Women in American History) By Alison M Parker

Chicago Tribune Archives

Willard Archives, 1730 Chicago Avenue | Evanston IL 60201 | (847) 328-7500

Northwestern University Archives, Deering Library |1970 Campus Drive| Evanston IL 60208 | (847) 491-7658

back to top