Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920

Biography of Ota E. Stapleton Cummings, 1883-1935

By Jake Jarrett and Zach Johnson, student researchers, Montana State University, Bozeman, Montana

President, Billings Political Equity League; President, Billings YWCA; Child welfare officer, Deputy State Game Warden

Not much is known about Mrs. W. E. Cummings's early life. She was born Ota E. Stapleton in 1883 in Brown County, Kansas, the daughter of J. B. Stapleton and Sarah McKinney. She married William E. Cummings at Musselshell, Montana in 1901, when she was 18 years old. The couple lived in a number of places including Heppner, Oregon, and Billings, Montana. Mr. and Mrs. Cummings lived at 304 N 29th St. while they were living in Billings. According to the 1920 census, the family had six children. Mr. Cummings was a manager for C&S Mercantile Company in Billings, Montana. The family may also have owned Cummings Grocery in Salem, Oregon. In 1914, when Cummings began her suffrage activity, she also was president of both the Political Equity League and the Young Women's Christian Association. In 1914, Cummings participated in Montana's successful state suffrage campaign. Following the achievement of woman suffrage in the state, Cummings remained an active member of the Billings community. She served on a committee in 1920 that helped establish the Eleanor C. Walsh memorial building at the state hospital, a facility for treating women with tuberculosis. According to a newspaper article in April of 1921, she served on the Billings school board, presumably for a number of years, although the duration is unknown. Cummings also worked as a child welfare official in 1923, helping to run the orphanage in Billings. In 1924 she became the first female deputy state game warden in Montana.

Ota Cummings died in May 31, 1935 at the age of 52, in Ridgefield, Washington. Sources:

Billings, Montana, City Directory 1917, U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995,

Billings, Montana, City Directory, 1912, U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995,

"Many Contests Held in Montana Villages," The Big Timber Pioneer, April 10, 1924, Montana Newspapers, accessed February 18, 2018,

Montana, County Marriages, 1865-1987,

"Montana News Brieflets: A Budget of Interesting Short Items Collected in Various Parts of the State," The River Press, Fort Benton, Montana, April 18, 1921, Montana Newspapers, accessed February 24, 2018.

Montana News Brieflets: A Budget of Interesting Short Items Collected in Various Parts of the State," The River Press, Fort Benton, Montana, November 28, 1923, Montana Newpapers, accessed February 24, 2018.

Salem, Oregon, City Directory, 1913, U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995,

U.S. Census, Year: 1920; Census Place: Heppner, Morrow, Oregon"; Roll: T625_1498; Page: 8A; Enumeration District: 138.

"Walsh Memorial is Authorized," The Mineral Independent (Superior, Montana), April 29, 1920, Montana Newspapers, accessed February 24, 2018.

"Weekly Suffrage Letter," The Flathead Courier, September 24, 1914, Montana Newspapers, accessed February 24, 2018.

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