Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920

Biography of Mary Jane Coggeshall, 1836-1911

Madison Abraham
Iowa State University

Faculty Sponsor: Sarah Chase Crosby
Subject Librarian: Susan A. Vega Garcia

Member and President of the National American Woman Suffrage Association, Editor for Women's Standard Newspaper, National Speaker in Washington D.C. and Chicago.

Mary Jane Coggeshall, known as the "Mother of Women Suffrage in Iowa," was born in Milton, Indiana on January 17, 1836, according to Lisa Mott in The Biographical Dictionary of Iowa, published in 2009. Cynde C. Fanter states in the "Plaza of Heroines" web page, published in 1994, that two writers from the Ohio Cultivator sparked Coggeshall's interest in becoming a "dedicated woman's rights advocate." Throughout Coggeshall's life, she held multiple positions at state and national levels, published newspaper articles, and was recognized by her actions through Iowa and the United States.

Coggeshall held multiple positions supporting Women's Suffrage in Iowa that led to state and national positions. The Iowa Department of Human Rights in 1990 states, "In 1870, Coggeshall became a charter member of the Iowa Woman Suffrage Association and continued as its president in 1890 and 1891 and again from 1903 to 1905." Extending beyond these dates, Lisa Mott's 2009 The Biographical Dictionary of Iowa reveals that Coggeshall "served as honorary president of the organization from 1905 to 1911." Mott also mentions that Coggeshall's membership to the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) brought her state of Iowa up to date with national struggles.

Through these multiple state and national positions, Coggeshall was introduced to the world of newspapers. According to the Iowa Department of Human Rights in 1990, Coggeshall began her run in 1885 when she was elected on the Board of the National Woman Suffrage Association, where she used her writing skills and beliefs to write newspaper articles. This publication also displays that the Women's Standard hired Coggeshall as their first editor for "the monthly newspaper of the Iowa Woman Suffrage Association." Coggeshall's newspaper articles rose in popularity and may have contributed to her election in 1895, as stated by Mott in 2009's The Biographical Dictionary of Iowa.

Based on her many newspaper articles throughout her career, Coggeshall's views and actions became widely recognized across the state and nation, earning her respect for the work she had done. Quoted in the The Annals of Iowa from 1924, Coggeshall was "noted for her fearless attitude, her persistent and consistent efforts, [and] her generous donation of funds, time, and energy." According to Jane E. Ward's 1988 publication in the Harvard University Library, "She was elected an auditor for the National American Woman Suffrage Association in 1902 and 1904, attended several National American Woman Suffrage Association conventions, and was a speaker at those held in Washington, D.C. (1904), and Chicago (1907)."

Coggeshall was thus active in the suffrage movement by holding multiple positions at the state and national level, writing articles for newspapers, and providing respectful and meaningful actions that became recognized nationally. "Coggeshall died on December 22, 1911, from pneumonia," stated Mott in 2009's The Biographical Dictionary of Iowa. According to the Iowa Department of Human Rights published in 1990, Coggeshall inspired other women suffragists and impacted the Women's Suffrage Movement. The same publication also revealed that Coggeshall made such an impact that in 1990 she was inducted to the Women's Hall of Fame, and today is still widely talked about in Women Studies classes all over the United States.


Fanter, Cynde C. "Mary Jane Whitely Coggeshall." Plaza of Heroines. Iowa State University. December 27, 1994. Accessed September 21, 2017 at

Iowa Department of Human Rights. "Mary Jane Coggeshall." Iowa Department of Human Rights. 1990. Accessed September 21, 2017.

"Iowa Suffrage Memorial Commission." The Annuals of Iowa 14, no. 5 (1924): 357-365. EBSCOhost.

Mott, Lisa. "Coggeshall, Mary Jane Whitely." The Biographical Dictionary of Iowa. The University of Iowa Press, 2009. Accessed online, September 10, 2017.

Ward, Jane E. "Coggeshall, Mary J., 1836-1911. Papers of Mary J. Coggeshall, 1880-1911: A Finding Aid." Harvard University Library. Harvard University. November 1988. Accessed September 10, 2017.

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