Biographical Sketch of Elizabeth Palmer Spinning

Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920

Biography of Elizabeth Palmer Spinning, 1829-1916

By Elin K. Johansson, Student: Saint Martin's University

Treasurer, and honorary vice president of the Equal Suffrage Association

Elizabeth Palmer Spinning is the daughter of Ezekiel Palmer and Everett Rice. The Washington Death Index shows that Elizabeth Palmer Spinning died in Seattle on August 21, 1916 in Seattle. Find a Grave lists her birth as November 7, 1829, her early life is not well documented.

Palmer Spinning came to Sumner, Washington in 1872 to teach school, and was the Postmaster from 1876 - 1878. Many years of Elizabeth Palmer Spinning are not recorded; however, the Tacoma Daily News (personal communication, Oct. 12, 2017) found Palmer Spinning buying lots in Puyallup, showing that she in her early 60's was resident in this area.

While in Puyallup, Palmer Spinning was part of the women's movement including the Woman's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU). The WCTU became the largest and most influential women's group of the 19th century by expanding its platform to campaign for labor laws, prison reform and suffrage. Spinning worked with the WCTU and tried to implement the temperance reform throughout Washington. She opened the suffrage symposium at the 7th WCTU Convention of Pierce County in 1892. Later that year, Spinning was a delegate from Puyallup for the State Prohibition Party (personal communication, Oct. 12, 2017).

Elizabeth Palmer Spinning worked for societal change within women's rights. She invested many hours as a part of the Equal Suffrage Association, and was the treasurer of the state suffrage association from 1889-1907.

Her spirit is best captured by different newspapers. One article in particular from the Tacoma Daily News, November 18, 1892, noted that her dedicated work was acknowledged by being “presented a pearl handled gold pen by the WCTU ‘as being appropriate as she is always writing either for the WCTU or suffrage.'” (personal communication, Oct. 12, 2017). In 1908 she was made honorary vice president of the national organization, due to her tremendous hard work in affiliation with the organization.

Mrs Palmer Spinning was married late, and divorced without any offspring. Furthermore, the record of her personal life is according to Andersen not clear (2013).

References

Advocates equal suffrage. (1906, Sep. 14). Puyallup Republican. Emma Smith DeVoe's correspondence and scrapbooks, 1880-1920, Washington State Library, Olympia, WA. Retrieved from http://wsldocs.sos.wa.gov/library/docs/ILL/EPS/SL_devoesbEi_000475.pdf

Andersen, R. (2013). Legendary Locals of the Puyallup Valley. Charleston, SC: Arcadia Publishing.

Equal suffrage meeting. (n.d.). [Newspaper article with hand written note: Puyallup Republican by Mrs. Spinning]. Emma Smith DeVoe's correspondence and scrapbooks, 1880-1920, Washington State Library, Olympia, WA. Retrieved from http://wsldocs.sos.wa.gov/library/docs/ILL/EPS/SL_devoesbEi_000599.pdf

Equal suffrage is discussed by women. (1908, June 5). [Newspaper article from unnamed newspaper]. Emma Smith DeVoe's correspondence and scrapbooks, 1880-1920, Washington State Library, Olympia, WA. Retrieved from http://wsldocs.sos.wa.gov/library/docs/ILL/EPS/SL_devoesbEi_000646.pdf

Group of officers of Washington Equal Suffragist Association. (1907, Sep. 27). [Newspaper photograph from unnamed newspaper]. Emma Smith DeVoe's correspondence and scrapbooks, 1880-1920, Washington State Library, Olympia, WA. Retrieved from http://wsldocs.sos.wa.gov/library/docs/ILL/EPS/SL_devoesbEp_000137.pdf

History.com Staff. (2010). Woman's Christian Temperance Movement. Retrieved from http://www.history.com/topics/womens-history/womans-christian-temperance-union

Sapp, B. (1942). Emma Smith DeVoe's correspondence and scrapbooks, 1880-1920. Retrieved October 15, from http://wsldocs.sos.wa.gov/library/docs/ILL/EPS/EPS_home.aspx

Veteran in ranks of the equal suffragists. (n.d.). Mrs. Elizabeth Palmer Spinning [Newspaper photograph from unnamed newspaper]. Emma Smith DeVoe's correspondence and scrapbooks, 1880-1920, Washington State Library, Olympia, WA. Retrieved from http://wsldocs.sos.wa.gov/library/docs/ILL/EPS/SL_devoesbEp_000141.pdf

 

Mrs. Elizabeth Palmer Spinning, no date. Accessed online at: http://wsldocs.sos.wa.gov/library/docs/ILL/EPS/SL_devoesbEp_000141.pdf

Appendix A

Personal communication, Oct. 12, 2017

Thank you for using the Washington State Library's Ask a Librarian service. Our digital collections librarian, Judy, has put together a list of references to Elizabeth Palmer Spinning that she found in our Emma Smith DeVoe scrapbooks. You can access it here: http://wsldocs.sos.wa.gov/library/docs/ILL/EPS/EPS_home.aspx

I also took a look through our digital newspaper subscription through Newsbank. Our subscription covers the Tacoma Daily News from that time period and I found the following mentions of Elizabeth there:

December 4, 1890: sold a lot in Puyallup at the end of Church Street to Will McKinnie and sold two lots on Pioneer Avenue to A.I. Spencer for $750. Purchased four lots in A.I. Spencer's addition in Puyallup for the same price.

December 5, 1890: Attended the third quarterly convention of the WCTU of Pierce County. “Mrs. E.P. Spinning, of Puyallup, read a paper on ‘Equal Suffrage.' Mrs Spinning answered the question often asked as to ‘who will attend to the baby when the mother's gone to vote?' by saying that the same person would attend to it who looked out for the young American while the mother had gone to pay her taxes.”

May 13, 1892: opened the suffrage symposium at the 7th WCTU Convention of Pierce County.

August 22, 1892: was a delegate from Puyallup for the State Prohibition Party

October 19, 1892: attended the 8th Annual WCTU Pierce County convention in Sumner.

November 18, 1892: presented a pearl handled gold pen by the WCTU “as being appropriate as she is always writing either for the WCTU or suffrage.”

August 24, 1893: participated in the praise service at the WCTU Convention by presenting “one hour on franchise.”

February 27, 1894: hosted meetings on alternate Mondays for the YWCTU.

October 30, 1894: attended a Puyallup City Counsel meeting in order to protest the issuing of a liquor license

November 9, 1895: hosted a “franchise tea” at her home for the WCTU after their regular weekly meeting.

March 16, 1897: Presented a paper at the evening suffrage program of the WCTU Pierce County convention.

The Washington Death Index shows that Elizabeth Palmer Spinning died in Seattle on August 21, 1916 in Seattle. Find a Grave lists her birth as November 7, 1829. Let me know if you'd like me to hunt down any obituaries that might have appeared for her.

Mary Schaff
Washington State Library
Office of the Secretary of State

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