Biographical Sketch of Rachel L. Ash

Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920

Biography of Dr. Rachel L. Ash, 1868-1958

By Julie Diane Larson, Independent Scholar, Santa Barbara CA

Physician; Equal Suffrage League of Northern California; American Association for the Study and Prevention of Infant Mortality; War Service Committee for the Association of Collegiate Alumnae of California; Chairman of the Committee on Public Health for the California State Federation of Women's Clubs; Northern California member of the California Organization of Women Physicians for Federal Recognition.

Dr. Rachel Leona Ash was a very accomplished medical doctor and active suffragist in San Francisco during the first part of the 20th century. She was born in San Francisco, on 9 January 1868, the child of two immigrants from Germany. Her father was a plumber and a naturalized citizen. Ash did not marry. She received her medical degree from the University of California in 1899, and practiced medicine in San Francisco. Dr. Ash was a Delegate to Council in 1911 for the College Equal Suffrage League of Northern California, which was a group formed in 1900 to encourage young college age women to join the fight for suffrage. It was an offshoot of the National American Woman Suffrage Association, and the League campaigned across the state in 1911 to push the suffrage ballot initiative. In 1913 she registered in California as a Democrat.

Ash is quoted in the book Winning Equal Suffrage in California: Reports of Committees of the College as saying this about canvassing for the right for women to vote in San Francisco: “we addressed, or circularized, telephone and gas companies, street railroads, employers' associations, advertising clubs, builders' exchanges, factory employees, bank clerks—in short we attempted to reach every considerable aggregation of workers related to the community in a business way... the committee was more than moderately successful.” She went on to explain that if the manager of the office or factory was pro-suffrage, then the workers were a more accepting crowd, but if the manager was anti-suffrage it was a much harder sell in the push to grant women the right to vote in the state of California in 1911. In the end, the canvassing and rallies gave suffrage the necessary votes to win statewide.

As a trained doctor, she also was active in women's medical groups, including the American Association for the Study and Prevention of Infant Mortality, where she was listed as a member who helped support a well-baby clinic in San Francisco. This particular group, however, was concerned that a decrease in infant deaths would lead to “unfit” people creating more “unfit” individuals and that would ruin civilization. In 1917, Ash was on the War Service Committee for the Association of Collegiate Alumnae of California, and as such co-signed a letter to the Medical Women's National Association, urging that group to lobby the Secretary of War for the inclusion of “medical women” in the war effort. She was the Chairman of the Committee on Public Health for the California State Federation of Women's Clubs (circa 1922). Ash was also a Northern California member of the California Organization of Women Physicians for Federal Recognition.

In 1921 Rachel Ash was listed as being a doctor at Children's Hospital in San Francisco. The Children's Hospital was started in 1875 by three women physicians to create a hospital specifically for women and children. It opened the first training school for nurses on the west coast in 1880. The hospital was focused on the care of women and children; it hired a majority female physician staff and trained female nurses to help a growing number of patients. Ash continued to practice medicine in the Bay Area for many years; she died in 1958.

Sources:

Ancestry.com. 1910 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Lehi, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2006. Accessed, July 8, 2019.

Ancestry.com. California, Voter Registrations, 1900-1968 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2017. Accessed, July 8, 2019.

Ancestry.com. U.S. Passport Applications, 1795-1925 [database on-line]. Lehi, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2007. Accessed, July 8, 2019.

Better Health, volumes 1-2 (1921). P. 35. Retrieved from: https://books.google.com/books?id=ZXkVAQAAIAAJ&pg=RA7-PA35&lpg=RA7-PA35&dq=Dr.+Rachel+Ash+san+francisco&source=bl&ots=IG8J7nFHta&sig=mgJbGrr1X7UjHuInjVs1vIAFYHY&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjctdSngaXfAhXOna0KHe3GBoMQ6AEwDnoECAIQAQ#v=onepage&q=Dr.%20Rachel%20Ash%20san%20francisco&f=false

College Equal Suffrage League of Northern California. Winning Equal Suffrage in California: Reports of Committees of the College, p.76-77. Retrieved from: https://books.google.com/books?id=nxsEAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA76&lpg=PA76&dq=dr.+rachel+l.+ash+suffrage+san+francisco&source=bl&ots=Zqzc7zRRY7&sig=ag59-PPLdMMKPTyQbPOnQn1fkhs&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjYsNamspPfAhWKna0KHXaWBswQ6AEwCHoECAgQAQ#v=onepage&q=dr.%20rachel%20l.%20ash%20suffrage%20san%20francisco&f=false

College Equal Suffrage League of Northern California. Winning Equal Suffrage in California: Reports of Committees of the College, p.76-77. Retrieved from: https://books.google.com/books?id=nxsEAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA76&lpg=PA76&dq=dr.+rachel+l.+ash+suffrage+san+francisco&source=bl&ots=Zqzc7zRRY7&sig=ag59-PPLdMMKPTyQbPOnQn1fkhs&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjYsNamspPfAhWKna0KHXaWBswQ6AEwCHoECAgQAQ#v=onepage&q=dr.%20rachel%20l.%20ash%20suffrage%20san%20francisco&f=false

Johnson, Audrey, M. (1962). A historical study of the woman suffrage movement in California. p.60. Retrieved from: https://scholarlycommons.pacific.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=2515&context=uop_etds

The Woman's Medical Journal, Volume 27 (1917). Retrieved from: https://books.google.com/books?id=uQMDAAAAYAAJ&pg=RA2-PA143-IA8&lpg=RA2-PA143-IA8&dq=dr.+rachel+ash+suffragist+medical+school+san+francisco&source=bl&ots=_-icXx7Lzm&sig=ACfU3U3ufxooJChjTLYW5p246cdeuh4m0Q&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwj4k7_7ncPgAhULiIMKHWHBBZQQ6AEwC3oECAMQAQ#v=onepage&q=dr.%20rachel%20ash%20suffragist%20medical%20school%20san%20francisco&f=false

Lyons, Louis (1922). Who's who among the women of California. Retrieved from: https://books.google.com/books?id=xW8_AQAAMAAJ&pg=PA170&lpg=PA170&dq=California+Organization+of+Women+Physicians+for+Federal+Recognition&source=bl&ots=U39zieIwpE&sig=ACfU3U0udlu3weJgLy-pW1K3RwcK-t9BWQ&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwj276iRosPgAhWk7YMKHaG2DvsQ6AEwAXoECAgQAQ#v=onepage&q=California%20Organization%20of%20Women%20Physicians%20for%20Federal%20Recognition&f=false

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