Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920

Biography of Kate Ames, 1866 - 1944

Written by Mona Xu, Undergraduate student at University of California, Santa Barbara

Director of College Equal Suffrage League of Northern California, Chairman of College Equal Suffrage League's Literature Committee, Superintendent of Napa County, Secretary and Vice President of the California Teachers Association

Kate Ames was born in 1866 and spent most of her life in California. There are no records of her ever being married. She attended San Jose Normal School and became a teacher. Ames was elected as county superintendent in Napa in 1894. She continued her education at Stanford University and graduated in 1902 and as school superintendent in Napa. In 1906, Ames ran for state superintendent of public instruction but lost to Edward Hyatt. Ames was also in a leadership position in the College Equal Suffrage League and the California Teachers Association (CTA) during this time. She was elected as vice president of the CTA in 1904, and supported equality between female and male teachers. She spent the end of her life in Napa, California as a writer while advocating for woman suffrage and labor rights.

Kate Ames became well known for her belief in equal treatment and recognition of the skills between women and men. She took the lead in organizing teachers, a predominantly female labor force, to fight the injustices of the pay structure and male hierarchy. As the first chairman of the College Equal Suffrage League's Literature Committee, Ames visited printing houses in San Francisco to print large quantities of leaflets about suffrage literature. The committee printed intelligent arguments to increase favorability among the educated public as well as eye-catching flyers for the masses. Ames also created a teacher's reading course that decided what teachers should read and study.

As a woman in a leadership position, Ames attempted to influence change in a male-dominated education system. During her time, she staged a protest at the annual meeting of the CTA in Santa Cruz demanding women's right to equal wages and opportunities. Although the CTA had publicly announced that they supported women's suffrage, the organization was still a male monopoly. They decided to omit the event from the official account of the meeting in the Western Journal of Education. Thus, Ames decide to publish her own narrative of the Santa Cruz protest in the magazine, Overland Monthly, titled, "Some Vital School Questions; The Woman Movement and Woman's Positions in the School System." She discusses "Not all women have the qualities that make the good administrator; neither are all men thus endowed...we must, ...realize that the sex fallacy is not placing in many cases the best administrators at the head of the schools." In the context of California education in the 1910s, Ames's argument for women teachers is comparable to today's contemporary view of feminism. Although, not many agreed with her and she lost her leadership positions in both the CTA and the superintendency in Napa county. After this period, little of her activism was recorded. Kate Ames dies in 1944 at the age of 78 and buried in Tulocay Cemetery in Napa, California.


Alumni Directory and Ten Year Book. Stanford University, 1891-1920, p. 68. Google Books. Accessed April 21, 2018.

Ames, K. (1908). The woman movement and woman's position in the school system. Overland Monthly, 52, 243–246.;view=1up;seq=255 . Accessed April 21, 2018.

Annual Register. Stanford University, 1897-1898, p. 135. Google Books. Accessed April 21, 2018. Cowen, Robert, Andreas M. Kazamias, and Elaine Unterhalter. International Handbook of Comparative Education. Dordrecht ; London: Springer, 2009, p.994.

Find A Grave Index, 1600s-Current [database on-line]. Provo, UT. Accessed April 21, 2018.

Historical Records, 1800-Current [database on-line]. Accessed April 21, 2018.

Oakland Tribune, Oakland Tribune, July 1, 1906, p.5.

Report of the Superintendent of Public Instruction for the School Year 1905-1906, California Department of Education, 1905-1906, p.17. Google Books. Accessed April 21, 2018.

The Proceedings of the California Teachers Association and Report of Council of Education, California Teachers Association, p.171, Google Books. Accessed April 21, 2018.

Weiler, Kathleen. Country Schoolwomen: Teaching in Rural California, 1850-1950. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1998.

"Winning Equal Suffrage in California: Reports of Committees of the College." College Equal Suffrage League of Northern California, 1911, p. 44.

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