Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Annie Ellicott Kennedy Bidwell, 1839-1918
By Mariel Aquino, PhD Candidate, University of California, Santa Barbara
Member of the National Woman Suffrage Association, First Vice President of the California Equal Suffrage Association, member of the Women's Christian Temperance Union, Vice President of the National Women's Indian Association
Annie Ellicott Kennedy was born in June 1839 in Pennsylvania to Catherine Morrison and Joseph C. G. Kennedy, a Whig politician. The Kennedy family moved to Washington, D.C., in 1849 when Annie Kennedy was ten. At fifteen, she converted to Presbyterianism. On April 16, 1868, she married General John Bidwell, who was a congressman from California at the time. The couple moved to Bidwell's ranch near Chico, California. They did not have any children. The Bidwells were friends with conservationist, John Muir. Annie Bidwell channeled her energy into a number of social causes, namely temperance, woman's suffrage, and American Indian rights.
Annie Bidwell was concerned about the fate of the Mechoopda community, a Maidu people that lived in and around the Bidwell estate. Beginning in 1874, she was vice president of the National Women's Indian Association, later the National Indian Association. She and her husband provided protection for a large number of American Indians on their ranch, and she established a mission there in 1875.
A pioneering suffragist in California, Annie Bidwell was elected third vice president at the state's woman suffrage convention in 1900, and she offered resources to support the state's woman suffrage efforts. In 1905, she hosted Susan B. Anthony, Anna Howard Shaw, among other traveling suffragists, at her home in Chico. Bidwell donated approximately 2,200 acres of land to the city of Chico to form what became known as Bidwell Park, and Anthony spoke at the dedication during her visit. A 1911 article in the San Francisco Chronicle lauded Bidwell's suffrage work. Bidwell was a life member of the National Woman Suffrage Association and the first vice president of the California Equal Suffrage Association.
In addition to suffrage, Bidwell supported temperance. She was a member of the national, state, and local branches of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union. She served on the Prohibition State Central Committee of California, and she was a presidential elector of the Prohibition Party in 1912.
On March 9, 1918, Annie E.K. Bidwell died in her home in Chico, and she was buried in Chico Cemetery with her husband, who had died in 1900. The Bidwell Mansion, the house where Annie and John Bidwell lived, is preserved as a state historic park today.
“Bidwell Ranch Gives Hospitality to Orators for the Cause.” San Francisco Chronicle. September 24, 1911, p.25. Newspapers.com.
Brady, Victoria, Sarah Crone, and Lyn Reese. “Resist! Survival Tactics of Indian Women.” California History 63, no. 2 (Spring 1984): 140-51. JSTOR.
“Chico Pays Tribute to Mrs. Bidwell.” San Francisco Examiner. March 12, 1918, p.4. Newspapers.com.
“Famous Woman of California Passes Away.” San Francisco Chronicle. March 10, 1918, p.3. Newspapers.com.
Harper, Ida Husted, ed. “California.” Chapter IV in History of Woman Suffrage, vol. 6: 1900-1920. New York: National American Woman Suffrage Association, 1922, 35-66. [LINK]
“Indians Act As Her Pall Bearers.” Visalia Times-Delta (Visalia, Calif.). March 12, 1918, p.1. Newspapers.com.
“John and Annie.” Bidwell Mansion State Historic Park. State of California, 2019. Accessed April 2, 2019. http://bidwellmansionpark.com/history/john-annie/.
Mansfield, George C. “Mrs. Annie E.K. Bidwell.” Butte County Biographies. History of Butte County, Cal. Los Angeles: Historic Record Co., 1918, 426-28. Transcribed by Sande Beach, 2006. Golden Nugget Library. Accessed April 2, 2019. http://sites.rootsweb.com/~npmelton/btbidw2.htm.