Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Katherine Cook
By Caitlin Sharpe, Registrar, Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum
Katherine M. Cook of Colorado was a prominent educational reformer at the state and national level. Though Colorado granted women the right to vote in 1893, Cook and other women formed an active group that promoted women's suffrage at the national level. In 1904, she addressed the national convention of the National American Woman Suffrage Association. In her speech, "The Ideals We Cherish," Cook used the experiences of voting women in Colorado to argue against those who believed voting would make women too masculine by sharing the character of "home-living, intellectual, and refined womanhood" of politically involved women in the state. That same year, Cook, along with other women from Colorado, appeared in front of the House of Representatives to promote women's right to vote. In her statement, she spoke of the good work women could do to improve their homes and the lives of their children by voting.
Apart from voting, Cook was active in local politics, serving as an alternate delegate to the Democratic National Convention in 1908. Cook herself had a successful career outside of home. In fall 1908, she campaigned for and won the position of state superintendent of schools on the Democratic ticket. Once Cook began her term as state superintendent in 1909, she promoted other women to serve as her deputy as well as her chief clerk. In her career, she was the only woman elected to the role of vice president of the National Education Association (NEA) in 1909, an action which drew attention due to the lack of female representation in the NEA's leadership. In the 1920s, Cook began working for the Department of the Interior's Bureau of Education, first as an education specialist before being chosen as Chief of the Division of Rural Education in the mid-1920s. In this role, she conducted and published numerous studies about the state of rural education and sought ways to equalize education for all children. In 1923, Cook spoke in a session promoting the consolidation of rural schools at the League of Women Voters' 4th convention and again appeared at the 1924 convention. By 1931, she was the head of the Bureau of Education's Division of Special Problems. While working for the federal government, Cook attended national and even international conferences where she promoted education. In addition to her concern for women's rights and rural education, Cook also was an early member of Colorado's NAACP with her name appearing on the Denver's branch's membership list in 1932.
Although her birth and death dates are unclear, it is known that Cook and her husband were divorced in 1911.
"A List of Nominations." Routt County Courier. Vol. 13, no. 12 (October 29, 1908), p.4.
Committee on the Judiciary, House of Representatives of the United States, Fifty-Eighth Congress. Woman's Suffrage. 1904.
Harper, Ida Husted. The history of woman suffrage. Vol. VI. National American Woman Suffrage Association, 1922, pp. 64, 112. [LINK]
"Katherine Cook Gets Divorce." Rifle Telegram. Vol. 13, no. 14 (May 19, 1911), pp.1.
"Personals." Denver Post. Vol. 13, no. 12 (January 31 1915).
Program: Fifth Annual Convention of the National League of Women Voters. Buffalo, NY: National League of Women Voters, 1924.
"The Washington Convention." The Women's Journal and Suffrage News. No. 12 (March 19, 1904).