Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920

Biography of Elizabeth Preston Anderson 1861-1954

By Shaylie Woodford, Undergraduate: University of North Dakota, Grand Forks, North Dakota

President of the Women's Christian Temperance Union, Advocate for women and children's rights, and journalist for local newspapers

Elizabeth Preston Anderson was born on April 27, 1861 in Decatur, Indiana to a middle-class family. Her father was the Reverend Elam S. Preston and her mother, Marie (Shepley) Preston, died when Preston was two years old. She attended DePauw University, Taylor University, and the University of Minnesota. At the age of fifteen, she began working as a teacher in rural North Dakota. Preston continued teaching after marriage and as a side job while focusing on suffrage and prohibition. Preston married the Reverend James Anderson December 11, 1901 in Town City North Dakota. Previously married, Rev. Anderson brought four children to the marriage. Preston had no children of her own.

Preston joined the Woman's Christian Temperance Union in 1889 and was active in the organization for forty years. She was president of the state chapter of the W.C.T.U. for eighteen years and also served as the recording secretary for the national organization for over six years. Preston was also active in the W.C.T.U.'s suffrage departments at both state and national levels and worked in tandem with the state's Votes for Women's League to provide information about suffrage around the state. In these capacities, she testified numerous times before the North Dakota State Legislature in support of temperance, school measures and women's right to vote. On January 23, 1915, she led a group of prominent suffrage advocates to the North Dakota Senate committee meeting on suffrage to urge that a measure be passed to put suffrage on the ballot for the next general election after it failed to pass in the 1914 general election. It took another two years before she was able to be present when a limited suffrage law was signed in North Dakota on January 13, 1917. She was given the yellow quill pen used by Lieutenant Governor Kraabel to sign the legislation in honor of her prominence and leadership in the suffrage movement in North Dakota. Preston hosted a jubilee suffrage celebration in North Dakota when the Nineteenth Amendment was ratified.


Anderson, Ryckman Kathie. "Elizabeth Preston Anderson, a Voice of Temperance."

Anderson, Preston Elizabeth. "Extracts from President's Annual Address." White Ribbon

Bulletin, Tower City, N.D., October 1899.Vol 1. No. 9.

Ellsworth, Vanessa. "North Dakota State WCTU Presidents" North Dakota Women's Christian Temperance Union. 26-27.

Ellsworth, Vanessa. "Elizabeth Preston Anderson" North Dakota Women's Christian Temperance Union. 20-22.

Gates, Flora. National Convention. White Ribbon Bulletin, Tower City, N.D., October 1899, Vol 1. No.9. Page 4.

Hays, Agnes D. Heritage of Dedication: One Hundred Years of the National Woman's Christian Temperance Union, 1874-1974. Evanston, IL: Signal Press, 1973.

Hocking, Emma. The Most Important Work of the W.C.T.U. "Western Womanhood" Fargo, N.D., August 1898 Vol V. No.2. Pages 4-6 and 10-11.

"How the Suffrage Bill Passed" The Nonpartisan Leader, Fargo, N.D. 1917, pg. 8.

Kuhl, Mary E., et al. Organization and Accomplishments of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union in Illinois, Massachusetts, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, and Virginia. Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 1908, vol. 32, 43-60.

North Dakota Diamond Jubilee. "Temperance Pioneer." June 30, 1964.

"Suffrage News" Golden Valley Chronicle, Beach, N.D. February 20, 1914, pg. 4

"Suffrage Party Held" The Devil's Lake World, Devil's Lake, N.D. March 12, 1920.

Willard, Frances Elizabeth. Address Before the Second Biennial Convention of the World's

Woman's Christian Temperance Union, and the Twentieth Annual Convention of the National

Woman's Christian Temperance Union. Chicago: Woman's Temperance Publishing Association, 1893.

Year: 1920; Census Place: Fargo Ward 1, Cass, North Dakota; Roll: T625_1332; Page: 13A; Enumeration District: 12

Year: 1940; Census Place: Fargo Ward 1, Cass, North Dakota; Roll; T625_1332; Page: 13A; Enumeration District: 12l

Woman's Who's Who of America (1914-1915). New York: American Commonwealth Co., 1914. pp 48.

Wooster, L.C. "Suffrage Right of Women." Western Womanhood, Fargo, N.D. June 1898. Vol V. No.12. Pages 10-11.

Vail, Emma. "Corresponding Secretary's Report." White Ribbon Bulletin, Tower City, N.D., October 1899. Vol 1. No. 9. Page 1.

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