Biographical Sketch of Sarah Annette Bowman

Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920

Biography of Sarah Annette Bowman, 1855-1931

By Patricia Lyn Scott, Independent Historian, Jefferson County Historical Society (Idaho) Board of Directors.

Member, Advisory Planning Board, Idaho Equal Suffrage Association.

Sarah Annette Bowman was born on January 17, 1855 to Edward Hale Bowman and Elizabeth Ann Byles Bowman in Edington, Illinois. Her father was a noted Civil War surgeon and a prominent Rock Island County physician. She graduated from the State Normal University of Illinois in Bloomington in 1879 and attended the School of Design in Davenport, Iowa. She also took private lessons from noted Danish sculptor, Johannes Gelert in his Chicago studio.

Sarah Annette Bowman remained an independent, single woman. She was a teacher and an artist. She first taught at Rock Island High School, later becoming its assistant principal, then an instructor at the Normal University of Illinois in Bloomington. She left Illinois and became the supervisor of drawing in the Tacoma Washington School System. On October 10, 1892, the University of Idaho opened its doors with four faculty members. She was one of its first two women instructors. She was first listed as an instructor in free hand and industrial drawing, later her title changed to acting professor of art and design. She taught all aspects of art including sketching, pencil, ink, water color, free hand, landscapes, and clay sculpture. She taught eight years at the University. Her summers were spent painting and drawing outside Moscow and in the Lake Pend Oreille area. Her watercolors reveal both a "talented illustrator" and "a careful observer of details of delicate wildflowers." In 1901, She left the University of Idaho.

For more than 30 years she taught and made her home in the Silver Valley of Northern Idaho in the mining communities of Wardner and Kellogg. Her home was "filled with works of art and classic literature." Family inheritances allowed her to teach in small, remote mountain schools in Eastern Washington and Northern Idaho "where she thought her services would [have a] far-reaching effect on the lives of her children and community." In 1918, she launched an unsuccessful campaign as a Republican candidate for Shoshone County School Superintendent in a very Democratic year. She died in a Wallace hospital after an extended illness on 25 July 1931. Her extensive book collection was purchased for the University of Idaho library.

There are few mentions of Sarah Annette Bowman's involvement in Idaho's suffrage movement. While it is unclear when it began, a Suffrage Club was organized in Moscow in the summer of 1895. She was chosen to represent Latah county at the organizational meeting of the Idaho Equal Suffrage Association in Boise on November 20, 1895. While only eight counties were represented, bylaws were adopted, officers elected, and an initial plan developed. She was chosen to work with the Association's elected officers on a preliminary advisory board. A well-attended second state convention was held in Boise on July 2, 1896. While thirty counties were represented it is unclear whether she attended. She was not chosen as one of the new officers to manage the campaign's final phase. Undoubtedly, she worked in her community in gaining support with Latah County voters who voted overwhelmingly for women's suffrage. Idaho women gained the right to vote statewide with the 1896 referendum.


"Death Takes Miss S. Bowman," Kellogg-Wardner News (24 July 1931), 1.

French, Hiram T. "Women of Idaho – Equal Suffrage," in Idaho History. Chicago and New York: Lewis Publishing, 1914, 515.

Harthorn, Sandy and Kathleen Bettis. One Hundred Years of Idaho Art, 1850-1950. A Centennial Exhibition and Catalog – Boise Art Museum, June 23-August 19, 1990. Boise, Idaho: Boise Art Museum, 1990, 77.

"Idaho Death Certificates, 1911-1937," database with images, FamilySearch Accessed: 5 August 2017).

Larson, T.A. "Woman's Rights in Idaho," Idaho Yesterdays 16 (Spring 1972), 2-19.

Petersen, Keith C. This Crested Hill: An Illustrated History of the University of Idaho. Moscow: University of Idaho Press, 1987.

University of Idaho. University of Idaho General Catalogs, 1893-1901.

Susan B. Anthony and Ida Husted Harper, eds., History of Woman Suffrage, vol. 4, 1883-1900 [LINK]

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