Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920

Biography of Helen Ann Kangley, 1885-?

By Robyn McIntyre, software project manager (retired), Santa Cruz, California

Teacher and Suffrage Activist

Helen Ann Kangley was one of eight siblings in a fairly well-to-do family of Irish Catholics. Her father, John Kangley, an Irish immigrant, was a coal dealer, and her mother, Mary Jane Lummey, was the daughter of another middle-class Irish family in Streator, Illinois.

Helen was the fourth child and the second oldest girl, born in Streator, Illinois in 1885. She was three when her sister Zita died and four when her father died in 1889, leaving her mother with seven children under the age of ten. John Kangley left his widow property worth approximately $100,000 (currently equivalent to about $2.5 million), including land in the state of Washington.

Mary Jane Lummey Kangley's father died in 1900. Between then and the 1910 census, she decided to move Helen and the rest of the family to Seattle, Washington, which had already enfranchised its women twice, though each time a change in the political climate had caused suffrage to be rescinded.

In Seattle, Helen and her siblings attended the University of Washington, where Helen became an active member of the Athena Debating Club, comprised of all female students. The first time her name is mentioned in connection with the Suffragist movement is during the state convention for the Washington Equal Suffrage Association in 1908, when Helen was 23. In the next year, she and her sister travelled to London, England, for a Suffragist campaign, returning to New York and then traveling first to Florida and then back to Seattle.

She and her sisters Louisa, Gertrude, and Lucy formed a Catholic Junior Suffrage League for the suffrage campaign of 1910. The four of them also journeyed to Olympia, the state capital, with Emma Smith DeVoe, the president of the Washington Suffrage Association, to lobby for the amendment, taking turns with other Suffragettes to buttonhole politicians. The amendment for state suffrage was passed in Olympia, Washington on November 8, 1910.

Helen became a teacher and she and her unmarried sisters as well as one brother and his wife, lived with their mother Mary Jane until her death in 1926. From 1927 through 1931 Helen taught part of the year at Liliokalani Jr. High School or McKinley School in Honolulu, Hawaii, crossing the Pacific each year in the fall and returning to Seattle at the end of each school term. About 1931 Helen stopped traveling to Hawaii and lived with her sister Louisa (a stenographer) and a lodger in her own home in Seattle. US City Directories strongly suggest she may have been a resident of Jacksonville, Florida in the 1940s, but unimpeachable documentation for her is not available.

U.S. Census records for 1890
U.S. Census records for 1910
U.S. Census records for 1930
Illinois Wills and Probate Records, 1772-1999 for John Kangley
Washington Wills and Probate Records, 1851-1970 for John Kangley
U.S. School Yearbooks, 1880-2013
U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995, Seattle, Washington; Honolulu, Hawaii; Jacksonville, Florida
Honolulu, Hawaii Passenger and Crew Lists, 1900-1959
New York Passenger and Crew Lists

Washington state report, History of Woman Suffrage, Vol. 6 (1922)

"How Washington Women Regained the Ballot "- accessible online at

The Kennewick (WA) Courier, September 24, 1909, p. 3, accessible at

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