Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920

Biography of Dr. Sarah Ann Kendall, 1851-1930

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

Teacher and Suffrage Activist/Fundraiser

Dr. Sarah Ann Kendall was born in Bath, Maine to a Revolutionary War family. Her grandfather William had served as a drummer in Washington's army from 1777 to 1780, and named his son Benjamin Franklin Kendall, though Dr. Kendall's father called himself "Frank." Her mother, Ann Paine, bore six children before dying in 1866.

After the death of Ann Paine, Frank Kendall moved his family across the country to Olympia, Washington, where he died in 1898. By that time, Dr. Kendall had been practicing homeopathic medicine in Seattle for ten years.

Hers was one of 10,000 signatures on a petition submitted to the Washington Legislature in 1909 and Dr. Kendall was one of several well-known Suffragists who spent the year lobbying legislators to get the bill for woman's suffrage passed in 1910.

In 1909, she was active in the Washington Suffrage Association putting together a reception for noted suffragists at the Lincoln Hotel in Seattle. The reception was well publicized in the Washington papers because many male voters were sympathetic to the cause and the state had actually had suffrage for women twice in their history and due to changing politics, lost it (the previous loss occurred after Washington became a state in the Union).

Guests at the June 30 reception included speakers Rev. Anna Howard Shaw (a medical doctor and Methodist minister) who was president of the National American Woman Suffrage Association; Rachel Foster Avery, first vice-president; Harriet Taylor Upton, Alice Stone Blackwell, Kate Gordon, and Lucy Anthony, niece of the famous Susan B. Anthony. Also attending were the presidents of the state suffrage associations.

At the time, the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition was happening at the University of Washington and Dr. Kendall took advantage of tradition by the fairgrounds to provide passes to speakers, delegates, and officers attending a convention in the city, and passes were obtained for July 4th and July 7th. The suffragists hoped to speak to male voters and possibly secure their votes if the bill should be placed on the November ballot. Dr. Kendall organized a Sunday meeting at the fairground with 600 suffragists from the convention meeting under "Votes for Women" banners.

She also made the most of the attendance at the convention of Rev. Dr. Shaw by placing her and other suffragist speakers in the pulpits or synagogues of local places of worship.

In the August 1909 edition of Progress, Harriet Taylor Upton described the convention, including the Sunday Services:

"The Sunday Services were in charge of the National Committee of Church Work, but the chairman, Mrs. Craigie, could not preside, owing to loss of voice from cold. Mrs. Miller, local Chairman of Committee on Church Work, together with Dr. Kendall and Dr. Eaton, had arranged this meeting. Dr. Kendall also had charge of the meetings held in different churches in the city. Her first intention was to have a meeting on the Fair Grounds, but the authorities did not seem to care for it. Later the Fair officials changed their minds, and rather insisted upon a meeting being held in the auditorium, and so it was. This meeting was opened by Mrs. Buckley, Director of Ceremonies. Miss Shaw was introduced and presided. Several ministers spoke, although some who had accepted for the meeting when it was in town could not keep the engagement. Miss Janet Richards of Washington talked on the English situation, and Prof. Potter was among the speakers. The audience was large and, unlike most exposition audiences, quiet and attentive" ("The Seattle Convention").

Dr. Kendall also traveled to Olympia with other suffragists to lobby the House legislators. While they may have voted for the bill, expecting the Senate to defeat it, that did not occur and the Senate also passed the bill and it was placed on the November ballot. In the referendum the amendment to the state constitution enfranchising women voters was passed on November 8, 1910.

The total cost of the 20-month campaign was later estimated by the state and national suffragists at around $17,000 (or about $450,000 in 2014 dollars). Dr. Kendall singlehandedly brought in the most donations by a single person at $5,000 (or about $120,500 in 2014 dollars).

When the History of Woman's Suffrage was written, Dr. Kendall was tapped to assist in writing the chapter on the struggle in the state of Washington. This history has been an invaluable reference since it was produced.

Dr. Kendall continued to practice in Seattle and was elected President of the Medical Women's Club of Seattle in 1918. She also raised subscriptions for publications such as The Woman Citizen, a national political weekly magazine.

She died in 1930, was cremated and her remains interred at Wright Crematory and Columbarium in Seattle, Washington.


Paula Becker, "Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition (1909): Woman Suffrage," accessible online at History Link:
Oregon, Washington, and Alaska Gazetteer and Business Directory, 1901-02
U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995
Physicians and Nurses Directory, 1905
U.S. Federal Census 1900
Washington Select Death Certificates 1907-1960

Descendants of John Kendall, 14th Generation (The New England Kendalls) accessible online at:

Seattle Times, June 30, 1909, page 1, available at History Link:

History of Woman Suffrage, Vol. 6 (1922)- LINK

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

The Woman Citizen, Volume 3, June 1, 1918, page iv and page 59, accessible online at:

Woman's Medical Journal, Volume 7, July 1918, page 167, accessible online at:

Paula Becker, "Woman Suffrage leaders speak from Seattle pulpits and The Reverend Dr. Anna Howard Shaw speaks at the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition on July 4, 1909," accessible online at History Link:

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