Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists

Biography of Grace Rankin Kinney, 1891-1954

By Rosemary Buffington, student researcher, University of Montana, Missoula


Grace Rankin Kinney was born on November 25, 1891, in Missoula, Montana, the daughter of John and Olive M. Rankin. John was born in 1841 in Ontario, Canada, to Scottish immigrants. He and his ten siblings grew up on their father's frontier farm. John arrived in Missoula in fall 1870, where he became a landowner, lumberman, and politician. In 1879, he married Olive, a schoolteacher. The Rankins raised six children together, with Grace being their fifth born. John died on May 3, 1904, from tick fever, leaving Olive as the head of the household.

Many of the Rankins became notable figures during the suffrage era. Jeannette Rankin was the firstborn Rankin child, born on June 15, 1880. She went on to become the first woman in the U.S. Congress as well as a prominent suffragist. Wellington was the only son, born on September 16, 1884. He was also a notable politician and served as a U.S. district attorney, appointed by President Calvin Coolidge. The youngest of the Rankin siblings, Edna, was known for her advocacy of birth control.

Grace Rankin studied at the University of Montana, where she received her bachelor's degree in history and economics in 1912. During her college years, she advocated for women's suffrage, just like her siblings. In March 1912, she became president of the university's Equal Suffrage Club.

Grace Rankin also was elected temporary chairman of the State Central Committee. The women in this Committee held meetings across the state to promote woman suffrage. She travelled across the state to recruit women to the cause. She also helped her siblings run for office. In September 1912, she spoke in favor of equal suffrage on behalf of her sister, Jeannette, at the Republican State Convention in Great Falls. In October 1912, she handed out suffrage flags and buttons at her sister's campaign in Helena. In January 1913, she became the chairman of the State Central Committee. The committee pressured the governor to support woman suffrage. The initiative passed in the state house 74-2 on January 25 and made its way on the ballot for the November 1914 election. The measure passed, receiving over 41,000 votes in favor and approximately 37,000 opposed.

On August 27, 1913, Grace Rankin married Thomas Edward Kinney of New York. The couple eventually moved to Clearwater, Idaho, where Thomas worked as a logging superintendent in the lumber industry. The two had three children together: Janet, John, and Thomas.

The exact date or reason of Grace Rankin Kinney's death is unknown, but she died around 1954 and was buried in Missoula.


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U.S. Federal Census, Year: 1910; Census Place: Missoula Ward 1, Missoula, Montana; Roll: T624_834; Page: 1B; Enumeration District: 0065; FHL microfilm: 1374847.

U.S. Federal Census, 1930; Headquarters, Clearwater, Idaho; Page: 1A; Enumeration District: 0018.

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"The University's Senior Class," The Daily Missoulian (Missoula, MT), May 05, 1912, p. 6, Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress.

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