Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of May Arkwright Hutton, 1860-?
By Cheryl Oestreicher, Head of Special Collections and Archives/Associate Professor, Boise State University, Boise, ID
May Arkwright Hutton was born (illegitimately) in Washingtonville, Ohio in July 1860 to Mary Bittenbender and Asa Arkwright, an itinerant preacher and snake-oil salesman. Arkwright married Frank Day at age eighteen, then Bert Munn on June 6, 1882, and lastly Levi “Al” W. Hutton on November 17, 1887. Hutton died on October 6, 1915.
Arkwright's interest in political activism started when she attended rallies with her grandfather, including one for William McKinley (later the 25th U.S. President) who said, “I believe when this lassie grows up she will be a voter.” At the 1905 National American Woman Suffrage Association Convention in Portland, Hutton shared this memory in her remarks, hosted a dinner at the Portland Hotel, and wrote an ode to suffrage which was sung by Alice Mason Barnett. Hutton hosted dinners and/or gave speeches at at least three other conventions: 1906 National American Convention in Baltimore; the 1909 convention in Seattle, when she was President of the Spokane Equal Suffrage Club; and the 1911 convention in Louisville.
With anti-corporate and pro-labor views, she later became involved with miners' unions.
Hutton moved to Coeur d'Alene, Idaho in 1883 to seek a fortune in mining. She ran a boardinghouse and café in Wardner Junction, Idaho, and moved to Wallace after she married Al Hutton.
Idaho women received the right to vote in 1896, and Hutton was moderately involved. Hutton was a member of the National American Woman Suffrage Association, and campaigned throughout the West. As a Democrat, she ran for the Idaho State Legislature in 1904 and lost by 80 votes.
Hutton and her husband Al moved to Spokane, Washington, in 1907, where women did not have voting rights. She made suffrage her cause, and eventually became vice president of the Washington Equal Suffrage Association. Due to personality and political differences, the organization alienated her, so she founded the Washington Political Equality League on October 7, 1909. Disenfranchised by the upper-class WESA suffragists, she focused on the “working woman.” Washington received the vote in 1910.
Hutton continued her activism by advocating for women prisoners to have a separate juvenile court, jail matrons, and facilities; helped with the Ladies' Benevolent Society orphanage; and was one of the first women to serve on a Spokane County jury.
For the 1912 Democratic convention in Baltimore, Hutton was one of the first two women elected delegates.
More than Petticoats: Remarkable Idaho Women by L.E. Bragg (Guilford, Conn.: Globe Pequot Press, 2001)
The Hutton Settlement: A Home for One Man's Family by Doris H. Pieroth (Spokane, Washington: The Hutton Settlement, 2003)
History of Woman Suffrage, Volume 5, 1900-1920 by Ida Husted Harper (Salem, New Hampshire: Ayer Company, 1985)