Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Anna C. Wait, 1837-1916
By Sarah Boyle, Professor, Johnson County Community College
Founder and president, Lincoln County Equal Suffrage Association; Founder, president, and secretary, Kansas Equal Suffrage Association; editor and owner, The Beacon.
Woman of the Century/Anna C. Wait, Wikisource
Anna C. Wait (née Churchill) was born in Hinckley, Ohio on March 26, 1837. She was one of nine children. On December 13, 1857, she married Walter Scott Wait and moved to Missouri, where Mr. Wait secured a teaching position. But because of Mr. Wait's Union sympathies, they “found [in Missouri] only danger and hardship to such a degree that they were compelled to move to Illinois” in 1861. That year, Anna also gave birth to their only child, a son named Alfred. Mr. Wait served as a captain of the Fiftieth Regiment Illinois Volunteers during the Civil War. The Waits moved to Lincoln county, Kansas in 1871.
In Kansas, Anna taught school, first out of her home and then in 1877 from a normal school that she founded. It was the first normal school to open in Lincoln County, KS. In 1879, she organized a county-wide suffrage association that was affiliated with the National Equal Suffrage Association. The Lincoln county Equal Suffrage Association was one of the first suffrage associations in the state. Wait served as its president for five years. In 1884, she was one of the founding members of the Kansas Equal Suffrage Association. She served first as its secretary and then as its president from 1885 through 1886.
In 1887, she was involved in the successful campaign for municipal suffrage for women. She helped to write a petition that was circulated throughout the state to build support for the campaign. In this petition, Wait and other suffragists stated that they actually supported full political rights for women, but were backing municipal suffrage because they believed it had a better chance of passing and because it would allow women “the vote in municipal elections [which]creates and controls the institutions which surround the home,” including both positive entities such as schools and negative entities such as bowling allies or billiard halls. Waits traveled throughout the state to build support for the cause.
Beginning in 1880, Anna C. Wait was also a newspaper editor. That year, she and her husband purchased The Beacon, which they published for the next twenty years. Under their editorship, “prohibition, woman suffrage, and antimonopoly [were The Beacon's] watchwords.” It began as a Republican paper, but when it “could no longer adhere [both] to those three principles” and the Republican party, “it let go of the Republican part and for twelve years lived successfully.” The Beacon stopped publishing in 1901 when a fire destroyed its offices.
During the successful 1912 campaign to amend the Kansas constitution in favor of full political rights for women, some newspapers took to referring to Wait as “the old guard” or one of “the old standbys” of the movement, so long had she been involved in the fight for women's rights. During this time, Wait served as president of the sixth district chapter of KESA and worked to organize Lincoln county in support of the amendment. She, along with some other suffragists in the state, registered as a state legislative lobbyist for women's suffrage.
Anna C. Wait died in Lincoln County, Kansas on May 11, 1916.
Lincoln Republican, 1 April 1909, reprinted at “Anna Wait Honored among ‘A Hundred Kansas Women,'” Lincoln County Kansas History and Genealogy, http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~lincolncounty/waittributes3.htm. Last accessed 8/25/2017.
The Leavenworth Times, December 3, 1886, p. 1.
Topeka Daily Capital, September 30, 1912, p. 8.
The Salina Daily Union, March 15, 1911, p. 8.