Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890–1920

Biography of Sarah Magill Chiles Watts, 1863–1956

By Nancy Alexander Simmons, Fairfax Station, VA

Woman Suffrage Activist

Sarah Magill was born in January 1863 in Adams County, Mississippi, to James Magill and Minerva Ellis Magill. Her father died in 1866 and her mother remarried in 1869. In 1885, Sarah married William Terry Chiles, who was a railroad man. They had two children—a daughter and a son—both born in Mississippi; they lived in Jackson in 1900. Her husband died in the fall of 1902 after a long illness. In Jackson on April 18, 1906, Sarah married Samuel B. Watts, a member of the state legislature, a Confederate Army veteran, and a widower with a son and three daughters.

The Watts family initially made their home in Meridian, Mississippi. However, they moved to Indianapolis, Indiana, in 1908, and moved back to Mississippi in 1910. They moved several times, living in Jackson and Meridian.

In 1914, the Equity League of Jackson organized, for the first time in Mississippi, a suffrage section of the parade that preceded the opening of the state fair. Twelve women were enlisted to participate and each would carry a placard with the name of one of the states that allowed woman suffrage; however, only six women showed up to participate in the parade, one of which was Sarah Magill Watts. The women wore yellow sashes and walked with a banner that said "Women Vote in 12 States. Why Not in Mississippi?" Ella Pierce Biggs and Sadie Goeber carried the banner followed by Sarah Magill Watts, Lily Wilkinson Thompson, Avery Harrell Thompson, and Laura Divine Durfey. The women were frequently applauded along the route.

Samuel Watts died in Meridian on January 8, 1931, and is buried there in Rose Hill Cemetery. Sarah Magill Watts died May 9, 1956, in Jackson, and is buried there in Cedarlawn Cemetery. Her obituary says that she was a member of Galloway Memorial Methodist Church in Jackson.


1900 U.S. Census, Mississippi. Hinds County, p. 3, Enumeration District 0076. Digital images.

Equity League minutes 1914 – 1915, MWSA, Mississippi Woman Suffrage Association, University of Mississippi Libraries Digital Collections, Lily Thompson Collection

Harper, Ida Husted, et al., eds. The History of Woman Suffrage. Vol. VI (1900-1920). N.p.: National American Woman Suffrage Association, 1922, p. 332. [LINK]

Jackson Daily News (Jackson, Mississippi), October 2, 1902, p. 8. Available through

"Mrs. Watts' Rites This Afternoon." Clarion-Ledger (Jackson, Mississippi), May 12, 1956, p. 8. Available through

"State Mourns Passing of Brigadier General Watts; Burial Held at Meridian." Clarion-Ledger (Jackson, Mississippi), January 10, 1931, p. 2. Available through

"To Move to Meridian." Jackson Daily News (Jackson, Mississippi), December 21, 1918, p. 3. Available through

"Watts-Chiles Nuptial Event." Clarion-Ledger (Jackson, Mississippi), April 19, 1906, p. 2. Available through

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