Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920

Biography of Glenna Smith Tinnin, 1877-1945

By Maria Christina C. Mairena, PhD: Thomas Balch Library, Library-Archives Associate, Leesburg, Va

Drama Teacher, Playwright, and activist in the Suffrage Movement

Glenna Smith Tinnin was born in Illinois on 27 February 1877 and died in Massachusetts on 24 March 1945. She graduated from the Columbia School of Oratory in Chicago, Illinois in 1897. After graduating, she taught drama and interpretation of poetry, both dramatic and lyric at the Columbia College of Expression in Chicago, and later at the Eleanor Muller School of St. Paul, Minnesota. Smith continued her teaching career at the State Normal School of Minnesota, the Iowa College in Grinnell, Iowa, Miss Porter's School for Girls in Farmington, Connecticut, and also at several private schools in Washington, D.C.. She also continued her work as an interpretive reader for several literary societies, including the Shakespeare and Browning Clubs and for several universities and colleges in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Nebraska, and California. Smith was also a playwright and producer of various plays, including: "The Pageant of the Muses," "Endymion," "Fairyland of Shakespeare," and "Orpheus and Eurydice." In 1905 Glenna Smith married David Solomon Tinnin of North Carolina and by 1910 the Tinnins were residing in Washington, D.C.. There Tinnin was a member of the Washington Center of the Drama League of America, and continued her career as an interpretive dramatist by reading for various literary and drama societies.

While living in Washington, D.C., Tinnin became very active in the D.C. State Equal Suffrage Association and the Political Study Club founded in 1899 by Mrs. Helen Rand Tindall. Tinnin's largest work for the suffrage movement in D.C. came on 3 March 1913, the day prior to the inauguration of Woodrow Wilson. The Woman Suffrage Procession was the first parade advocating for women's suffrage to be held in the nation's capital and Tinnin was its Director and Designer. The procession had seven sections which included multiple floats and marchers. The parade started with an "Amendment Float" and the first section included floats representing those countries which already had universal suffrage, including Norway, Finland, New Zealand, Australia, and Belgium. The sections following included the grand panorama of the history of the suffrage movement in the United States with floats showing the early "Pioneers" from the 1840s to the present, and the great societal reach of women by having floats depicting all the ways in which women contributed to society: as farmers, homemakers, nurses, teachers, "college women," lawyers, doctors, government workers, social workers, librarians, writers, musicians, actresses, artists, all in patriotic service to the nation. The parade had approximately eight thousand participants spread across the twenty-six floats, nine marching bands, and five horse-mounted brigades. Tinnin wrote the pageant, "Allegory," which ended the parade and was held on the steps of the Treasury Building in Washington, D.C..

After the parade, Tinnin continued her involvement in the D.C. suffrage movement and became the first chairwoman of the Equal Franchise League in 1914 with the purpose of agitating for the suffrage of women in the District of Columbia. The EFL was originally called the Woman Suffrage Council which was formed from D.C. State Equal Suffrage League, the Junior Club, and the Political Study Club. These previous clubs worked to place women on boards of charities, foundations, and schools, along with working for woman's suffrage through aid to NAWSA's D.C. committee.

Along with her suffrage activism, Tinnin continued her theater work. She directed and wrote plays, worked with the Drama League of America, and was the chairman of the pageant committee of the American Federation of Arts. In later years, Tinnin was particularly well known in Washington, D.C. for her work with children. She ran the House of Plays for two years and the Holton Arms Theater, both of which specialized in performing plays and pageants for children.

An image of Glenna Smith Tinnin can be found at:;_ylt=AwrE190cTrFb1UcAQRJXNyoA;_ylu=X3oDMTByMjB0aG5zBGNvbG8DYmYxBHBvcwMxBHZ0aWQDBHNlYwNzYw--?p=glenna+smith+tinnin&fr=yset_widemail_chr_win#id=0&


National Women's History Museum,

Political Study Club Collection, 1914-1968, Finding Aid, Collection No. 95 (.25 Linear Feet)

D.C. Community Archives,

Woman Suffrage Procession, Washington, D.C. Official program woman suffrage procession. Washington, D. C. March 3. Washington, 1913. Pdf.

Stanton, Elizabeth Cady and Susan B. Anthony, eds, History of woman suffrage. v. 5 (1900-1920), p. 105 [LINK],_1913.jpg

"Marching for the Vote: Remembering the Woman Suffrage Parade of 1913," by Sheridan Harvey

Woman Suffrage Procession, Washington, D.C. Official Program Woman Suffrage Procession. Washington, D. C. March 3. Washington, 1913. Pdf.

"Parading for Progress," National Women's History Museum, Online Exhibit,

Photograph, "Tableaux, Treasury Building," Washington, D.C. 3 March 1913. Library of Congress

"Women Await Order to Fall into Line," New York Times, 3 March 1913, p.7.

"5000 Women March, Beset by Crowds," New York Times, 4 March 1913, p. 5.

"New Suffrage Host: Women Organize Council to Aid National Association," Washington Post, 12 April 1914, p.16.

"Artistic Treat Awaits," Washington Post, 11 May 1915.

"A New Little Theater," Washington Post, 21 May 1916, MT2.

U.S. Bureau of Census, Thirteenth Census of the United States, 1910-Population

"Obituary, Glenna Smith Tinnin," New York Times, 25 March 1945, p. 37.

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