Biographical Sketch of Sarah Latimer Finley

Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920

Biography of Sarah Latimer Finley, 1848-1937

By Leasa Graves, Assistant Director of the National Women's History Alliance

Alliance County Press Chair, College Equal Suffrage League of Northern California

Mrs. W. A. Finley was born Sarah Elizabeth Latimer on March 22, 1848, in Clarksville, Arkansas, to Reverend Robert Atwell and Malinda Latimer. After Sarah Latimer graduated from Pacific Methodist College (Vacaville), she wed William A. Finley in Vacaville, California. They remained married until his death on June 19, 1912.

Sarah and William Finley moved to Corvallis, Oregon, when William became the first president of the Oregon State Agricultural College (today, Oregon State University). As the “First Lady” of the college, she taught music from 1866 to 1872 and French in 1872. The Finleys had three children: Ernest L., Willie C., and Lulu May, who died “after a short illness” on July 27, 1869. After seven years, the Finley family moved to Santa Rosa, California, because the Oregon climate was believed to have made Sarah Finley ill.

Sarah Finley was a writer and an educator prior to her efforts with the California suffrage campaign. Her first public writing on suffrage appears after Finley was appointed county press chair by the College Equal Suffrage League of Northern California on June 21, 1911. The League sought women with means to distribute the organization's copyright materials. Finley worked with Mabel Craft Deering as part of the California press campaign. As demonstrated with Finley, the county chairs also contributed original work on suffrage. Finley wrote ten editorials that were printed in the Press Democrat between June 1911 to October 1911, including “How Is It That the Men of the Present Generation Are Not to Blame for the Belated Political Recognition of Women Citizens?” and “The Progressive Citizen Speaks.” Her editorials focused on educating the reader about how granting women the right to vote would sustain American democracy.

Finley's approach was aligned with the College Equal Suffrage League's emphasis: “In all of the work, it should be borne in mind that a suffrage campaign is an educational campaign and must be kept clear-cut, clean and open.” In addition to her contributions as a writer, Finley attended suffrage meetings, including those at the Starr King Club and the Saturday Afternoon Club.

In 1913, the College Equal Suffrage League of Northern California recognized Sarah Latimer Finley's work in Sonoma County. After California established state-wide woman suffrage, Finley remained active in her community and wrote “upon request.” She contributed a four-article series in the Oregon State University Monthly, where she retold her time as First Lady of Corvallis College. She lived in Santa Rosa until the 1930s when she moved to Alameda County.

Sarah Elizabeth Latimer Finley died on November 14, 1937, at 3798 Harrison Street in Oakland. Finley was buried in the family plot at the Odd Fellows section of the Santa Rosa Memorial Park in Santa Rosa. She was buried alongside her father, her mother, and her husband.

 

CAPTION: Sarah Latimer Finley, ca. 1874. Photographer: Thomas Houseworth and Co.
CREDIT: Sarah Latimer Finley. Photograph, Corvallis, Oregon, ca. 1874. HC0225. Harriet's Photograph Collection, 1868-1996 (P HC). Oregon Digital. Digital Scholarship Center. University of Oregon Libraries and Oregon State University Libraries.

SOURCES:

Deering, Mabel Craft. “Press Work in the California Campaign.” In Winning Equal Suffrage in California: Reports of Committees of the College Equal Suffrage League of Northern California in the Campaign of 1911, pp.17-24. San Francisco: College Equal Suffrage League of Northern California, 1913. HathiTrust.

Died. Lulu May. Corvallis Gazette-Times (Corvallis, OR). August 7, 1869, p.3. Newspapers.com.

Fifth Annual Catalogue of Officers and Students of Corvallis College, Corvallis, Oregon, 1869-1870. Corvallis: Willamette Valley Mercury Book and Job Office, 1870. Oregon State University General Catalogs. Oregon Digital. Digital Scholarship Center. University of Oregon Libraries and Oregon State University Libraries.

Finley, Sarah Elizabeth. “David and Jonathan.” Oregon State Monthly. May 1930, pp.9-10. Oregon State University Alumni Magazine collection (PUB 003-11a). Oregon Digital. Digital Scholarship Center. University of Oregon Libraries and Oregon State University Libraries.

Finley, Sarah Elizabeth. “David and Jonathan: The Romance of a College President's Wooing.” Oregon State Monthly. April 1930, pp.7-8, 28. Oregon State University Alumni Magazine collection (PUB 003-11a). Oregon Digital. Digital Scholarship Center. University of Oregon Libraries and Oregon State University Libraries.

Finley, Sarah Elizabeth. “First Lady of O.S.C. in 1868 Writes.” Oregon State Monthly. December 1929, p.122. Oregon State University Alumni Magazine collection (PUB 003-11a). Oregon Digital. Digital Scholarship Center. University of Oregon Libraries and Oregon State University Libraries.

Finley, Sarah Elizabeth. “Oregon State College in an Incubator.” Oregon State Monthly. March 1930, pp.5-6, 8. Oregon State University Alumni Magazine collection (PUB 003-11a). Oregon Digital. Digital Scholarship Center. University of Oregon Libraries and Oregon State University Libraries.

“Meeting of the Starr King Club.” Press Democrat (Santa Rosa, CA). October 7, 1911, p.1. California Digital Newspaper Collection, Center for Biographical Studies and Research, University of California, Riverside (https://cdnc.ucr.edu).

Second Annual Catalogue of Officers and Students of Corvallis College, Corvallis, Oregon, 1866-1867. Portland: A.G. Walling and Co., 1867. Oregon State University General Catalogs. Oregon Digital. Digital Scholarship Center. University of Oregon Libraries and Oregon State University Libraries.

Sarah and W.A. Finley as Bride and Groom. Photograph, Corvallis, Oregon, 1866. HC0224. Harriet's Photograph Collection, 1868-1996 (P HC). Oregon Digital. Digital Scholarship Center. University of Oregon Libraries and Oregon State University Libraries.

Sarah Latimer Finley. Photograph, Corvallis, Oregon, ca. 1874. HC0225. Harriet's Photograph Collection, 1868-1996 (P HC). Oregon Digital. Digital Scholarship Center. University of Oregon Libraries and Oregon State University Libraries.

“Suffrage and the Newspaper.” Press Democrat (Santa Rosa, CA). June 21, 1911, p.5. California Digital Newspaper Collection, Center for Biographical Studies and Research, University of California, Riverside (https://cdnc.ucr.edu).

“Suffrage for the Women.” Press Democrat (Santa Rosa, CA). June 4, 1911, p.5. California Digital Newspaper Collection, Center for Biographical Studies and Research, University of California, Riverside (https://cdnc.ucr.edu).

Third Annual Catalogue of Officers and Students of Corvallis College, Corvallis, Oregon, 1867-1868. Portland: A.G. Walling and Co., 1868. Oregon State University General Catalogs. Oregon Digital. Digital Scholarship Center. University of Oregon Libraries and Oregon State University Libraries.

Sarah Finley's Writing Post 1911
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College Teaching
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