Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Jane Eliza Lathrop Stanford, 1825-1905
By Rebecca Kohn, Senior Librarian
Palo Alto City Library
Jane Eliza Lathrop Stanford was born in 1825 in Albany, New York, to Dyer Lathrop and Jane Anne Shields. She married Leland Stanford in 1850. They had one child, Leland Stanford, Jr., who was born in 1868 and died in 1884 at the age of 15. Jane also outlived her husband, who died in 1893. She died in 1905 and is buried on the campus that bears the name of the family, the Leland Stanford Junior University in Palo Alto, California.
Stanford's work as a supporter of women's suffrage is evident in her friendship with and support of Susan B. Anthony. According to Gunther Nagel, "The California campaign for the state women's suffrage amendment in 1896 was well organized, with nationally-known speakers and wide newspaper support. Mrs. Stanford was among the many prominent persons who contributed to the cause" (3). Stanford was able to supply Susan B. Anthony and other suffragists traveling West with railroad passes on some occasions, and her frustration in not always being able to do so at will is captured in their correspondence. In a letter dated September 8, 1896, Stanford wrote to Anthony, "You do not wonder that I am for Woman's Suffrage, do you? Were I Mr. Stanford I would not be obliged to ask and would make out as many passes as I pleased"(7).
Stanford is remembered for her work as a supporter of education for men and women. She was the founder of six free kindergartens in San Francisco, which were open to boys and girls, as well as kindergartens in Menlo Park and Mayfield, towns near the Stanford Campus. In the immediate years following her husband's death when their personal finances were frozen due to a lawsuit involving the railroad company and the federal government, Stanford took it upon herself to make sure the recently founded University named for their son remained open. This private university was a co-educational institute from its founding, with female students being part of the initial class.
Gullett, Gayle. Becoming Citizens: The Emergence and Development of the California Women's Movement, 1880-1911. Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2000.
Jane Stanford Papers https://library.stanford.edu/collections/jane-stanford-papers
Nagel, Gunther W. Iron Will: The Life and Letters of Jane Stanford. Stanford, Ca: Stanford Alumni Association, 1985.