Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920

Biography of Frances Howe Richards, 1860-1938

By Heather Grevatt, Assistant Professor, Librarian: Boise State University, Boise, ID

Leader in the Idaho Suffrage movement

Frances "Fannie" Richards (née Howe) was born in Fredericktown, Ohio on October 29, 1860. Her father and mother were William Howe and Hannah C. Brown both of New Jersey. An 1870 census record from roughly three months before her birth, appears to place Richards as the youngest of eight children. There is very little record of her early life, however she did move with her mother and father to the home of her eldest sister Celia and her husband Mr. W.L Nevius in 1873. Mr. Nevius was a livery owner in Winona, Minnesota and Mr. and Mrs. Howe remained with their daughter and son-in-law in Minnesota, until their deaths in 1889 and 1901 respectively. On November 8, 1881, the former Miss Howe married James Heber Richards, also a native of Fredericktown, Ohio. Prior to their wedding Mr. Richards was studying law in Denver, Colorado and passed the bar in the same year they were married. After the wedding, the couple returned to Denver where they lived until moving to Breckenridge, Colorado. Sources disagree about the exact year, but the move took place sometime between 1883 and 1886. They remained in Breckenridge until approximately 1889, when they moved to Payette, Idaho as one publication states, "for the benefit of [Mrs. Richard's] health."

In 1894, Mr. and Mrs. Richards moved to Boise, Idaho as Mr. Richards was appointed Judge of the Third Judicial District. By all accounts, Judge Richards was a highly respected man and a suffrage supporter. On July 2, 1895 Judge Richards introduced speaker Emma Smith DeVoe at her much publicized speech at the Sonna Opera House.

November 20, 1895, Mrs. Richards was elected as the first President of the Equal Suffrage Association of Idaho, sometimes known as the Idaho Equal Suffrage Association (IESA). The Winona Daily Republican places Richards visiting her sister in Minnesota in September, 1895 and other sources corroborate that she was not in Boise at the time of her election. In addition, the Idaho Statesman in December, 1895 indicates that Richards was ill and receiving care in Grand Rapids, Michigan until her return April 24, 1896. The IESA Vice President-elect, Mell Woods, was also traveling in San Francisco at the time and contracted pneumonia. Both women resigned their duties without ever really taking office. Between these times, December, 1895 and May, 1896 the IESA minute book contains no entries. When the entries resume, it becomes clear that Richards continued membership, but in a more limited capacity. Meetings on July 2, 1896 and July 4, 1986 were held in Richards's home, but on July 3 she declined a nomination for Treasurer. She is also not mentioned making any motions or statements during the meetings.

Richards was one of several women at the depot to meet Carrie Chapman Catt when she visited Boise on August 14, 1896. Her participation in the Boise Equal Suffrage Club was also more robust than her work with the IESA. On September 8, 1896 she was elected Secretary and a number of meeting minute entries are written in her hand. After the suffrage vote in November 1896, there was some dispute about whether a majority had been achieved. Judge Richards provided assistance with the ultimately successful defense of the results, though he did not serve as an attorney or preside as judge.

Beyond her involvement in the suffrage movement, Richards regularly participated in committee work common with women of her social standing. For instance, the Committee of Household and Women's Exhibits for the Intermountain State Fair in 1899 and Book Committee for the Columbian Club in June 1902. In October 1902 she was elected Secretary of the newly appointed board of the Carnegie Library trustees and was an organizer of the library ball in December that year. She served as trustee until her resignation in November 1907. Her husband served as Mayor of Boise from 1899-1901 and later briefly served in the state legislature before retiring to his private law practice at the office of Richards & Haga.

For the remainder of their lives Judge and Mrs. Richards were active in the Christian Science church, Elks Lodge, and Freemasons. They regularly traveled to Portland, Oregon so that Mr. Richards could speak before the Chautauqua Society. Their home, built by prominent Idaho architects Wayland & Fennell in 1920, still stands on Harrison Boulevard. Judge Richards died January 20, 1936. Frances Richards died May 22, 1938. Her quiet, but valuable contributions to the Idaho suffrage movement are now mostly only remembered through newspaper reports of the time.


Anthony, Susan B. and Ida Husted Harper. History of Woman Suffrage. Vol IV (1883-1900). Rochester, N.Y., 1902. [LINK]

Beeton, B. (1986). Women Vote in the West: The Woman Suffrage Movement, 1869-1896. New York: Garland Pub.

Boise Equal Suffrage Club. (1895-1896). Minutes. Equal Suffrage Association of Idaho (Boise, Idaho) Records (MS2.0100). Idaho State Archives, Boise, United States.

"Boise is Invited to Join." The Idaho Daily Statesman, November 20, 1907. p.2. NewsBank (website).

"Columbian Club Long List of Committees is Announced, Careful Selections Made." Idaho Daily Statesman, June 8, 1902. p.7. NewsBank (website).

"Died." Winona Daily Republican, January 7, 1901, p.3.

Equal Suffrage Association of Idaho. (1895-1895). Constitution, Bylaws, and Minutes. Equal Suffrage Association of Idaho (Boise, Idaho) Records (MS2.0100). Idaho State Archives, Boise, United States.

"Former Judge Dies in Boise." The Idaho Daily Statesman, January 21, 1936, p.1. NewsBank (website).

Harrison Boulevard: Preserving the Past in Boise's North End. (1989). Boise, ID: School of Social Sciences and Public Affairs, Boise State University.

Hawley, J.H. (1920). History of Idaho: The Gem of the Mountains. Chicago: S.J. Clarke Publishing Company.

"Idaho Suffrage Fight." Rocky Mountain News, December 13, 1896, p.16.

Lewis Publishing Company. (1899). An illustrated history of the state of Idaho: Containing a history of the state of Idaho from the earliest period of its discovery to the present time, together with glimpses of its auspicious future ; illustrations ... and biographical mention of many pioneers and prominent citizens of to-day. Chicago: Lewis Pub. Co.

"Library Trustees Organize. Meeting in the Mayor's Office Mrs. Beatty Elected President and Mrs. Richards Secretary." Idaho Daily Statesman, October 15, 1902. NewsBank (website).

"Local Brevities." Idaho Daily Statesman, April 23, 1896, p.6. NewsBank (website)

MacGregor, C.L. (2006). Boise, Idaho, 1882-1910: Prosperity in Isolation. Missoula, Mont.: Mountain Press Pub.

May, K.W. (1996). "There are a Few Choice Spirits among Them": The Role of Local Women in the Idaho Woman Suffrage Campaign, 1896. (Master's Thesis). Retrieved from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Global. (Order No. 1385398).

"Minnesota, County Marriages, 1860-1949," database with images, FamilySearch ( : 16 March 2018), James H Richards and Fanny Howe, 08 Nov 1881, Winona, Minnesota, United States; citing p. 49, local historical societies and universities, Minnesota; FHL microfilm 1,377,820.

"Mrs. F.H. Richards Succumbs in Boise." The Idaho Daily Statesman, May 22, 1938 p.1. NewsBank (website).

"Personal and Social." Winona Daily Republican, Sept. 24, 1895, p.3.

Rockwell, I.E., and Boise Junior College. (1948). Sketch Portraits of Men who Made Idaho. (n.p.): Boise Junior College.

Ross-Nazzal, J.M. (2011). Winning the West for Women: The Life of Suffragist Emma Smith DeVoe. Seattle: University of Washington Press.

U.S. Bureau of the Census. United States Census, 1860. (website).

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