Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890–1920
Biography of Frances Green Cater Swift, 1834-1908
By Hallie Borstel, independent historian
Frances "Fannie" Green was born in Conecuh County, Alabama to John and Nancy Green in 1834. John Green was an early settler of the area, and his accomplishments and legacy are memorialized on several historic markers in and around the town of Burnt Corn, Alabama. Frances was the eleventh of fourteen children born over a period of thirty years.
Frances was married by the time she was sixteen years old, which followed a pattern set by her mother and several of her older sisters. She married Edwin Lawrence Cater, a local merchant who was nine years her senior. Frances and Lawrence quickly had a son, William Edwin. Two years later, they had a daughter, Iola. By 1860 the couple was living in Milton, Florida, on the panhandle near Pensacola. Iola died there in 1863 at the age of 10.
It is not clear what happended to Edwin Lawrence Cater, but In June 1879 Frances married merchant Thomas Swift in Fulton County, Georgia. While living in Atlanta, she became involved with the local Unitarian church, the Church of Our Father. She was one of the first women elected to the church's board of trustees and served on several committees.
Female members of the Church of Our Father, including Frances, were an integral part of the Atlanta Equal Suffrage Association, formed in February 1892. The church also served as a meeting space for the organization. Frances served as the first president of the Equal Suffrage Association. She was elected president of the association again in 1895 and 1900.
In 1894 and 1895, Frances served as president of the local chapter of the National American Women's Suffrage Association. During those same years, Frances was a delegate from Georgia to the national woman's suffrage convention. Her involvement in the suffrage movement in Georgia continued through the 1890s; she gave the "Address of Welcome for Atlanta" at the Georgia Women's Suffrage convention in November 1899.
In the early 1900s, Frances moved to Pensacola, Florida, where her son William was living. She initially stayed involved with the Georgia suffrage movement from her new residence. A 1901 article about the Georgia Women's Suffrage Association lists Frances as the organization's recording secretary but gives her address as Pensacola. After this date, her activity in the movement seems to have waned.
Aside from the Unitarian Church and the suffrage movement, Frances's social activities also included serving on the Library Committee for the Cotton States and International Exposition Company and the "Fortnightly Club" in Atlanta.
Frances died on February 8, 1908 in Pensacola, Florida. Her brief obituary states that she was visiting her son and resided in Alabama. She was buried in Burnt Corn, Alabama with her parents and first husband.
1850 U.S. Federal Census
1870 U.S. Federal Census
1880 U.S. Federal Census
The Atlanta Constitution
Fulton County Marriage Records [database, FamilySearch.org]
The Pensacola Journal
Unitarian Universalist Digital Archive [https://nwuuc.org/archive/]