Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890–1920
Biography of Mattie Gaston Kirkpatrick 1861–1938
By Heather M. Kuzma, Independent Historian
Woman Suffrage Activist
Mattie Gaston Kirkpatrick was born in Canton, Mississippi, in February 1861. She was the daughter of Dr. James Gaston and Juliette Caroline (Stebbins) Kirkpatrick of Alabama. Kirkpatrick attended grammar and secondary school in her hometown of Canton, but travelled to Nashville, Tennessee, to continue her education at Ward's Seminary. Focusing on music, Kirkpatrick continued her studies with special courses at Vanderbilt University, Boston University, New England Conservatory, Sherwood Conservatory, and Chicago University. Kirkpatrick returned to Nashville, Tennessee, to teach at Dr. Price's School. In 1881, Kirkpatrick advertised for a position in her home state of Mississippi. She found such a place in 1887 as music teacher in Grenada, Mississippi. Kirkpatrick never married and lived with her widowed mother after returning to Mississippi.
Apart from her career in music, Kirkpatrick was an active member of her community. She was especially interested in giving her time to charitable causes. Kirkpatrick supported relief associations, free kindergartens and free homes. In 1903, Kirkpatrick served as state organizer for the creation of an "old ladies' home" in Jackson with the duty of collecting donations from throughout the state. Kirkpatrick also served in leadership roles for other charitable organizations including the Methodist Hospital Board.
Kirkpatrick was a member of social and political groups as well. She was a participant in the woman suffrage movement at both the state and local levels. Kirkpatrick's involvement with the state association eventually progressed to a leadership role. In 1910, Kirkpatrick served as recording secretary for the Mississippi Woman Suffrage Association (MWSA). As part of that role, she recorded the minutes at the annual meeting held in Greenville that year. Kirkpatrick's dedication to helping her community was exhibited at the meeting. Kirkpatrick requested that the MWSA take interest in civic improvements. She was particularly interested in having the MWSA support the installation of Carnegie Libraries throughout the state, but also back other educational and hygienic work. The association agreed that this was appropriate work for the organization. Nellie Nugent Somerville exhibited this mission in a pamphlet published by the MWSA when she wrote: "the Mississippi suffragists works for the ballot by taking an active interest in the upbuilding of their State, especially in education, in philanthropy and in the great work of sanitation and prevention of diseases." Kirkpatrick did not resume her leadership role after 1910, but she remained a member of the association and a supporter of woman suffrage. Kirkpatrick's involvement with local organizations ended when she left Mississippi in 1915.
Kirkpatrick moved to Birmingham, Alabama, before leaving the United States in December 1915 to work as a missionary in China. Kirkpatrick worked as a teacher in Shanghai for two years returning to the United States in July 1917. A photo of Kirkpatrick can be found on the passport application for her 1917 trip home. After returning to the United States, Kirkpatrick eventually settled in Asheville, North Carolina, where she passed away on November 2, 1938.
Ancestry.com. California Passenger and Crew Lists, 1882-1959 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2008.
Ancestry.com. North Carolina, Death Certificates, 1909-1976 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2007.
Ancestry.com. U.S., Consular Applications, 1916-1925 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2012.
Ancestry.com. US Passport Applications, 1795-1925[database on-line]. Lehi, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2007.
"Kirkpatrick, Mattie Gaston". Woman's Who's Who of America. Ed. John William Leonard. The American Commonwealth Company. New York. 1914
"Old Ladies Home". Hattiesburg Daily Progress. (Hattiesburg, Miss.), January 1, 1903. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Library of Congress. <http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn87065165/1903-01-01/ed-1/seq-3/>
"Situation Wanted". American Citizen. (Canton, Miss.), August 6, 1881. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Library of Congress. <http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn83016739/1881-08-06/ed-1/seq-3/>
Sixth Annual Report of the Mississippi Woman Suffrage Association 1910. Lily Thompson Collection, Special Collections, University of Mississippi Libraries
Somerville, Nellie Nugent. How Mississippi Women Work for the Vote. Lily Thompson Collection, Special Collections, University of Mississippi Libraries.
The Clarion. (Jackson, Miss.), July 27, 1887. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Library of Congress. <http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn83016925/1887-07-27/ed-1/seq-3/>
The Grenada Gazette. (Grenada, Miss.), September 24, 1887. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Library of Congress. <http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn88067090/1887-09-24/ed-1/seq-8/>
Year: 1870; Census Place: Canton, Madison, Mississippi; Roll: M593_739; Page: 250A; Family History Library Film: 552238
Year: 1880; Census Place: Canton, Madison, Mississippi; Roll: 656; Page: 16D; Enumeration District: 036
Year: 1900; Census Place: Jackson Ward 4, Hinds, Mississippi; Page: 8; Enumeration District: 0078; FHL microfilm: 1240810
John W. Leonard, Woman's Who's Who of America: A Biographical Dictionary of Contemporary Women of the United States and Canada, 1914-1915 (New York, NY: American Commonwealth Company, 1914). [LINK]