Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Sarah Adele Johnson, 1888-1979
By Lisa Floryshak, Instructor of Art, Arkansas State University--Beebe
Sarah Adele Johnson, born October 3, 1888, spent most of her life in Hot Springs, Arkansas. She was the daughter of Ed Hoadley Johnson, an investment banker, and Leila T. (Morse) Johnson, who passed away when Adele was just four years old. She had two older sisters, Hattie and Suzanne. After her mother died, she spent a few years under the care of both her maternal grandmother and aunt, who operated a boarding home in the St. Louis area, where she attended school.
On June 1, 1904, Adele graduated from the Weltner Conservatory of Music in St. Louis, where she studied violin. After she returned to Hot Springs, she continued to practice her craft and was an active member of the Arkansas Federation of Music Clubs as well the Hot Springs Music Art Club, where she was elected Treasurer in 1915. In 1916, Adele traveled to both Philadelphia and New York City to further her music studies. She worked as a bookkeeper for Como Securities, where her father was President. She was an active member of the Business and Professional Women's Club; she was elected the organization's state corresponding secretary in 1923 and participated in their orchestra. Adele also was involved in the Hot Springs Hospitality Committee.
While it is not know what inspired Adele to become passionate about women's suffrage, she was a leading figure in the Hot Springs Women's Suffrage Association by the time she was twenty years old. Her contributions were notable; she hosted meetings, served on the executive board, and provided many of the press relations for the club. The club itself served the community by providing civic education, including discussions on public safety. Adele spearheaded the charge to connect with both women in her community as well other clubs in the area, specifically the Pulaski County Equal Suffrage Committee. Committee. In May of 1913, she presented a violin solo at the National Suffrage Day event held at the Old State House in Little Rock. This celebration was just one of many held nationally as a call for solidarity regarding women's suffrage. She was the first woman in the city of Hot Springs to register to pay her poll tax in March of 1917, though the Garland County tax collector would not issue an invoice until it was challenged in court. The delay created some confusion among those eligible to pay the tax; however, Adele helped to get the word out to assure those women who were registered paid their tax prior to the deadline. She was also among the first group of women to be selected as a juror in Garland County in 1921. In a 1974 interview with Michele Roussel, Adele spoke to the persistence of meetings, rather than actions, as being the most influential to the suffrage movement in Hot Springs. She said that often, the club members felt as if most in the community viewed the club and the suffrage cause itself as comical and unimportant. She felt that the club drew their energy and inspiration from the political happenings of the day and remained determined and organized in order to show their interest in the vote.
When her father passed away in 1925, Adele inherited all of his holdings in the Como Securities, as well as his real estate. The Como Hotel in downtown Hot Springs hosted gaming, which for religious reasons as well as her involvement in the Woman's Christian Temperance Union was something that she found troubling. The hotel closed its doors in 1965. It was eventually sold and razed in 1974. Adele frequently visited her sister Suzanne in St. Louis and the two took trips abroad with Suzanne's husband, Oliver Tovard. Later in life, Adele wintered with her maternal aunt, Sophie Morse King, first in Tucson and then in San Diego, where they took side trips, including visiting Mexico.
Adele Johnson passed away on July 14, 1979 and is buried in the Hollywood Cemetery in Hot Springs, Arkansas.
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For a more complete picture of Adele Johnson, a public access family tree was created.
Adele Johnson (Suffragist), Ancestry.com, accessed: https://ancstry.me/2Ksfg8m