Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920

Biography of May Trumper, 1870-1968

By Ellen Watterson, student researcher, University of Montana, Missoula, Montana


May L. Trumper was born May 10, 1870 in Paint Township, Fayette County, Ohio. Her grandparents and her parents, Louisa and Samuel, all called Ohio their birthplace, as well. In the 1880 census, Samuel Trumper's occupation is listed as teacher. Perhaps Trumper was inspired by her father's occupation, for she pursued higher education throughout her life and became a highly accomplished, politically active educator herself.

In her twenties, Trumper graduated from Granville College in Ohio (today Denison University) with high honors and worked as a teacher and a principal in a number of Ohio schools. Her life would lead her west, however. By 1900, she was working as a schoolteacher in Kalispell, Montana. Ten years later, Trumper served as County Superintendent of Schools in Flathead County.

Montana's women (with the exception of the state's Native American residents) were granted the right to vote in 1914, which ushered in yet a new chapter in Trumper's career life. Montana suffragists made it a priority to elect women to office, especially to posts as school superintendents. With the help of the Good Government Clubs, successor organizations to suffrage societies, Trumper was elected Superintendent of Schools in Montana in 1916.

While it appears she was not personally involved in either the campaign for woman suffrage or in the women's club movement, Trumper had a mind for reform. As State Superintendent of Public Instruction, she enacted a number of reforms in Montana schools between 1916 and 1928. These included a longer (180 day) school term statewide; better teacher training and more rigorous certificate exams; more school nurses; better teacher pay; vocational training programs in high schools; and the first statewide equalization of district funding. Evidently, Trumper's concerns for better teacher pay were also feminist ones. A Montana bill that was passed in 1919 promised equal pay for equal work for men and women. When running as a candidate for State Superintendent in 1916, Trumper expressed her ideas of reform: she believed in equal educational opportunities for all children, in making the quality of education in rural schools better, and in separating "educational affairs, [of] both county and state, from politics."

Trumper believed in the importance of education for others and in her own education. By 1928, she had followed up her undergraduate education by pursuing advanced studies at Columbia University in New York, the University of California, and Harvard University.

Eventually, Trumper left Montana, spending at least a decade teaching in New York before making her way back to Ohio. As a lifelong educator, it seems she understood the importance of the written word to history and memory. Trumper completed May in Montana in 1954, a compilation of stories and reminisces mostly of her earlier experiences in Montana, which she wrote for her family.

On September 28, 1968, May Trumper died in London, Madison County, Ohio at the age of 98. She never married and had no children of her own. But her legacy is that of a highly accomplished educator and reformer.


Image of May Trumper from The Glasgow Courier, October 1920.


July 1928 portrait of May Trumper from The Montana Woman: Official Organ of the Montana Federation of Women's Clubs.


Birth, Death, and Census Records:

Find A Grave, [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2012. Original Data: Find A Grave.,%20USA&msypn=38&msbdy_x=1&msbdp=5&msbdy=1870&catbucket=rstp&MSAV=0&uidh=du4&pcat=ROOT_CATEGORY&h=89853743&dbid=60525&indiv=1&ml_rpos=11

Ohio, Births and Christenings Index, 1774-1973 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA:

Ohio Department of Health, Ohio, Death Records, 1908-1932, 1938-2007 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA:

U.S. Federal Census, Year: 1880; Census Place: Range, Madison, Ohio; Roll: 1044; Page: 291D; Enumeration District: 064. HeritageQuest

U.S. Federal Census, Year: 1900; Census Place: Kalispell, Flathead, Montana; Roll: 911; Page: 5; Enumeration District: 0035; FHL microfilm: 1240911, HeritageQuest.

U.S. Federal Census, Year: 1910; Census Place: Kalispell, Flathead, Montana; Roll: T624_832; Page: 13A; Enumeration District: 0029; FHL microfilm: 1374845, HeritageQuest.

U.S. Federal Census, Year: 1920; Census Place: Helena Ward 5, Lewis and Clark, Montana; Roll: T625_972; Page: 5B; Enumeration District: 102, HeritageQuest.

U.S. Federal Census, Year: 1930; Census Place: Geneseo, Livingston, New York; Roll: 1445; Page: 23A; Enumeration District: 0006; FHL microfilm: 2341180, HeritageQuest.

U.S. Federal Census, Year: 1940; Census Place: Geneseo, Livingston, New York; Roll: m-t0627-02623; Page: 61A; Enumeration District: 26-6A, HeritageQuest.

Newspaper Articles:

"Appoint Wendt to State Body: Local Man Becomes Member of Advisory Committee to State Educational Board," Great Falls Daily Tribune, 26 Aug. 1920, p. 6, Chronicling America.

"Candidature of Montana Women," The Enterprise (Harlem, Montana), 5 Oct. 1916, p. 10, Chronicling America.

"Child Welfare Work Consumes Attention of Women at Their Conference Monday," Great Falls Daily Tribune, 22 June 1920, p. 7, Chronicling America.

Hall, Mabel K., "Interest Growing in Vocational Congress," The Daily Missoulian, 31 Mar. 1917, p. 5, Chronicling America.

King, Mrs. Dean, "FCHS Produces Fine Teachers," The Daily Inter Lake (Kalispell, Montana), 28 Feb. 1954, p. 59,

"May Trumper Candidate for State Superintendent," The Big Timber Pioneer, 17 Aug. 1916, p. 8, Montana Newspapers,

"Montana's Schools First; Miss Trumper Responsible," The Glasgow Courier, 29 Oct. 1920, p. 2, Chronicling America.

"Noted Educator Will Speak in This City: Dr. Winship will Speak in Glasgow September 17th -- Miss May Trumper Also Speaks," The Glasgow Courier, 10 Sept. 1920, p. 1, Chronicling America


"May Trumper Republican Candidate for Superintendent of Public Instruction," The Montana Woman: Official Organ of the Montana Federation of Women's Clubs, July 1928, p. 13, Montana Memory Project,


Evenden, Edward Samuel, Teacher's Salaries and Salary Schedules in the United States 1918-19 (Washington, D.C.: The National Education Association, 1919), p. 95-96,,

Harper, Ida Husted, The History of Woman Suffrage, Vol. 6 (New York: J. J. Little & Ives Co., 1922), p. 367 [LINK]

Inter-Mountain Educator, Volumes 17-19 (Missoula: The Inter-Mountain Educator Co., 1921), p. 35, Google Books.

Inter-Mountain Educator, Volumes 17-19 (Missoula: The Inter-Mountain Educator Co., 1921), p. 68, Google Books.

Ohio Educational Monthly and The National Teacher: A Journal of Education, Vol. 47 (Columbus: O. T. Corson, 1898), p. 39, Google Books.

Smith, Norma, Jeannette Rankin, America's Conscience (Helena: Montana Historical Society Press, 2002), p. 14, Google Books.

Trumper, May, May in Montana (1954) Preface - p. 1, WorldCat FirstSearch,

The Ohio Educational Monthly and The National Teacher: A Journal of Education, Vol. 47 (Columbus: O. T. Corson, 1898), p. 415, Google Books.


"Expanding Their Sphere: Montana Women in Education Administration and Public Health," Women's History Matters (Helena), 20 Nov. 2014,

"The Long Campaign: The Fight for Women's Suffrage," Women's History Matters (Helena), 3 Jan. 2014,

"Suffrage: The Montana Suffrage Story," Women's History Matters (Helena), n.d.,

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