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; Member, Committee on Constitution.

Sarah Annette Bowman was born on January 17, 1855, in Edington, Illinois to Edward Hale Bowman and Elizabeth Ann Byles Bowman. Sarah’s father was a noted Civil War surgeon and a prominent Rock Island County physician. Sarah 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 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. When she left Illinois, she 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, and Sarah 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. Bowman 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 were said to “reveal not only a talented illustrator but a careful observer of details of delicate wildflowers.” In 1901, She left the University of Idaho.

For more than 30 years Sarah Bowman made her home in the Silver Valley of Northern Idaho in the mining communities of Wardner and Kellogg, teaching in their schools. Her home was described as being “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.”

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 on June 20, 1895 and she was elected secretary. Sarah Bowman 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. Bowman was chosen to work with the Association’s elected officers on a preliminary advisory board to “to perfect county organization” and she also served as a member of the committee writing the Association’s constitution. A well-attended second state convention was held in Boise on July 2, 1896; thirty counties were represented. Bowman participated in discussions, reported her activities, but declined holding any further state office. She continued working locally to gain support as Latah County voted overwhelmingly for women’s suffrage.

In 1918, Sarah Bowman launched an unsuccessful campaign as a Republican candidate for Shoshone County School Superintendent. 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.


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

“Equal Suffrage Association of Idaho Minute Book,” Boise: Idaho Research Center, Idaho Historical Society, MS 2 .0100

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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