Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Frances Fidelia Falwell Threadgill, 1867-1941
By James P. Gregory Jr.,
Undergraduate Student, University of Central Oklahoma, Edmond, Oklahoma
Frances Fidelia Falwell Threadgill also known as Mrs. John Threadgill, was born on September 22, 1867 in Memphis, Tennessee, the daughter of Samuel and Zarsko Zelo Messick Falwell. She graduated from the Peabody Normal School in Nashville in 1881. She then taught school in Memphis until 1891 when she moved to Taylor, Texas where she met Dr. John Threadgill. She married Dr. Threadgill on January 16, 1892 and had two children, Mary Frances and John Falwell. The family moved to Norman, Oklahoma in 1901, then they moved into Oklahoma City.
Threadgill quickly became involved in the Oklahoma and Indian Territory Federation of Women's Clubs where she helped lead a campaign to include kindergartens in the public schools of Oklahoma City in 1902. From 1904 to 1906, she served as chair of the federation's legislative committee. In 1906, she succeeded Lola Scott as federation president and as such she wrote a letter to the Oklahoma Constitutional Convention meeting in Guthrie. She urged for constitutional clauses that regulated child labor, provided compulsory education, established juvenile courts and a reform school, and provided protection for Oklahoma's forests. Though not fully successful in her efforts, the new Oklahoma Constitution did include many provisions that addressed the needs and rights of children and women.
Threadgill was also very active in library programs for children. She joined the Philomathea Club in which wives of leading businessmen sought to improve culture and education in Oklahoma City. In addition, she was one of the nineteen charter members of the Oklahoma Library Association on May 17, 1907, even though she was not a librarian herself.
Threadgill then became the first president of the Oklahoma State Federation of Women's Clubs in 1908 after a merger of the territorial federations. She traveled the state organizing districts for the Federation in towns such as Ada, Bartlesville, and Chickasha. In 1910, she attended the biennial meeting of the General Federation of Women's Clubs in Cincinnati, Ohio as the only representative from Oklahoma. While in attendance, she was elected to the office of treasurer of the General Federation, which was an unusual honor as she was not a member of the group's directorate. In May of 1912, she was appointed by Governor Lee Cruce as the delegate to represent Oklahoma at the Illinois Women's State Good Roads Association's first annual convention in Chicago on April 4. On November 26, of that same year, she resigned her position as treasurer of the General Federation of Women's Clubs.
However, Threadgill continued to be active in the Women's Clubs organizations after her resignation. In May of 1917, she submitted a report to the ninth annual convention of the Fourth District of the Oklahoma State Federation of Women's club as chairman of the state educational loan fund. Her report states that contributions by the clubs have brought substantial growth in funds to bring girls and young women educational advantages. Continuing her successful initiatives for women, she became involved in the woman's suffrage movement.
Threadgill is mentioned on October 12, 1917 as being a vice-president of the Oklahoma Woman's Suffrage Association, a NAWSA chapter, which condemned the members of the woman suffrage Congressional Union for harassing President Woodrow Wilson by picketing the White House. On May 26, 1918, she fought for women's suffrage as chairman of the State Equal Suffrage Association when she gave a speech urging Oklahoma lawmakers to bring suffrage to Oklahoma women. In this speech, she states that due to the lack of voters from the men off fighting the war, "Woman suffrage is a war issue and a vital one. If we are not careful, we will be like the man who ran to the fire and left his home to be looted and pillaged. At this time the whole world is on fire." Finally, she appears in the Oklahoma Library Commission's survey of Oklahoma Libraries in 1923-1924 as working as a librarian in Henryetta, Oklahoma.
Frances Threadgill was inducted into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame in 1934 as a "pioneer clubwoman." Her life was dedicated to improving the lives of those around her. As a teacher, clubwoman, and suffragist, she not only advocated for women's education and the right to vote, but actively practiced her message. In a true testament to her character, she left a letter in a century chest that was sealed in April 21, 1913 and opened the same day in 2013. The final quote being "The one word "service," taught by Christ when he was on earth, holds the key of happiness for all who will listen. So I plead with you…to remember that salvation comes because of what you find it in your heart to do for others, instead of seeking out ways and means to save yourself." Frances Threadgill lived in Henryetta, Oklahoma for a time until her death in Oklahoma City in 1941.
Ada Weekly News (Ada, Oklahoma), 6 June 1918. "The Century Chest Collection." Century Chest 1913-2013. www.okhistory.org. Checotah Times (Checotah, Oklahoma), 12 October 1917. Daily Ardmoreite (Ardmore, Oklahoma), 4 May 1917. Daily Ardmoreite (Ardmore, Oklahoma), 25 May 1910. Evening News (Ada, Oklahoma), 26 November 1912. Evening News (Ada, Oklahoma), 12 May 1909. Oklahoma Library Commission, Report of the Oklahoma Library Commission: July 1, 1922- June 30, 1923, (Guthrie, Oklahoma: Co-Operative Publishing Co., 1925), 2. "Our History," Metropolitan Library System, www.metrolibrary.org/our-history. Star-Gazette (Sallisaw, Oklahoma), 5 April 1912. Carol Sue Humphrey, "Frances Falwell Threadgill." The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture. www.okhistory.org/publications/enc/entry.php?entry=TH017. Sarah Haney, "The Origin and Development of the Oklahoma Library Association: 1907-1956." http://search.proquest.com.vortex3.uco.edu/docview/304328328/FABA7699D9864DA3PQ/5?accountid=14516.
Frances Falwell Threadgill, Beard Collection,
Oklahoma Historical Society