Biographical Database of Montana Woman Suffragists

Biography of Eloise Knowles, 1872-1916

By Bridget Alzheimer, student researcher, University of Montana, Missoula

Educator, clubwoman, suffragist

Eloise Knowles was born in 1872 in Deer Lodge, Montana, to Hiram Knowles and Mary Hiram Knowles. Eloise Knowles never married and had no children. She had a strong family connection to woman suffrage: her mother was part of the first suffrage association in Montana. Eloise Knowles was one of the first two people to graduate from the University of Montana in 1898 with her undergraduate degree in philosophy. She later went to the University of Chicago from 1898-1900, where she earned a graduate degree in philosophy.

While Knowles was attending the University of Montana, she served as an assistant in the Preparatory Department of English during the 1896-97 term. She was also part of the As You Like it Club. During their meetings, club members discussed current events as well as literary and intellectual subjects. Knowles also participated in the Cosmos Club, a private social club for men and women distinguished in science, literature, the arts or public service.

Eloise Knowles was the first instructor of the arts department at the University of Montana; she worked there from 1900 to 1915. While she was a faculty member, she founded the Theta Pi chapter, which became the Kappa Alpha Theta chapter in 1909. In 1901, she founded Penetralia, which later became Mortar Board. This organization was founded to acknowledge college seniors for scholarship, leadership, and service and is still in existence. Knowles also founded the University of Montana Alumni Association in 1901.

In 1909, Eloise Knowles was elected Chairman of Literature for the Woman's Club of Missoula. Although the club was primarily concerned with promoting literature and the arts, it was affiliated with the General Federation of Women's Clubs, which supported suffrage. The Montana branch of the federation held its 1913 meeting in conjunction with the state's newly organized equal suffrage organization, the Central Committee. Knowles was elected chairman of literature for the Central Committee the following year. In this position, Knowles was responsible for producing “large quantities of literature” and coordinating a massive leafleting campaign in support of woman suffrage, which helped Montana suffragists achieve the right to vote in November 1914.

The year after the successful statewide suffrage campaign, Knowles moved to California for health reasons. She died there in 1916.


“Eloise Knowles diplomas, 1898-1900.” Archives West: Eloise Knowles diplomas, 1898-1900, 2009,

Harper, Ida Husted, ed., “Montana,” chapter XXV in History of Woman Suffrage, vol. 6: 1900-1920 (New York, NY: National American Woman Suffrage Association, 1922), pp. 360-367. [LINK]

Missoula Alumnae Chapter, Kappa Alpha Theta - Chapter History, last updated October 16, 2012,

Montana Woman Suffrage Association. Minutes of the First Convention of Montana Woman Suffrage Association, September 2-3, 1895. Bozeman, Montana: 1896. Montana Memory Project, Montana State Library.

Office of Alumni Relations, University of Montana. “The Office of Alumni Relations: History and Mission,” accessed August 1, 2018,

“Woman's Club of Missoula Outlines Work of Season,” Daily Missoulian (Missoula, Mont.), May 27, 1909, p. 3, Chronicling America,

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