Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Roxana Elizabeth Rice, 1883-1924
By Cecilia Mendez, undergraduate student, Johnson County Community College
President and vice president, Kansas Equal Suffrage Association; member, Woman's Christian Temperance Union; charter member, Woman's Kansas Day Club.
Roxana Elizabeth Miller was born on October 16, 1833 near Kalida, Ohio in Medina County. In 1849, Roxana married Addison Crowe, a dry goods store owner. Five years later, Addison died leaving behind a few hundred dollars that Roxana would use to attend Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio.
Roxana graduated in 1862 with a regular degree, and later would obtain her master's degree. She began teaching in Illinois, New Jersey, and other places, while also lecturing on suffrage. Roxana introduced herself to Elizabeth Cady Stanton in 1866 and not long afterwards she met Susan B. Anthony. Anthony wanted Roxana to work for woman's rights, and it was under the direction of Anthony that Roxana would conduct a lecture tour in Western New York.
During this tour, Roxana met her future husband, Martin Calvin Rice, and they would marry on March 9, 1867. Martin's political background was ideal for Roxana. Not only did Martin take an active and prominent part of politics, he also practiced law out of western New York for thirty years. His success as a lawyer was enough reason for the citizens of Chautauqua county to purchase a newspaper and make him the editor. The couple would make their home in or near Westfield until 1880.
In 1880, the Rice family would move to Lawrence, Kansas. Rice became a member of the Kansas Equal Suffrage Association (KESA), the Woman's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU), and a Charter member of the Woman's Kansas Day Club (WKDC). She received her first nomination to the KESA presidency at the 1905 convention in Topeka, Kansas. She was elected because Mrs. Sadie P. Grisham refused a second term and because Rice felt that the KESA had exhausted its list of material for presidents to present. At this point in time, Rice felt like the KESA was truly lacking in its progress and that “for a time after she came to Kansas, the woman's rights cause was in a state of innocuous desuetude—nothing doing.”
As president, Rice knew the KESA had no financial support and that the membership was small and uncertain. During her presidency, Rice focused on convincing the undisputed political power in Kansas, the Republican party, that continued Republican dominance could only be assured if they granted women full suffrage. The men that Rice spoke with recognized her earnestness and faith in the cause, but would not offer any contribution to KESA. Rice was re-elected the following year and shortly after her re-election, Rice and her board members, including vice-president Mrs. Lilla Day Monroe, would represent Kansas during the 1907 national convention held in Chicago.
Monroe came back from the Chicago meeting extremely dissatisfied, reporting at the 1907 KESA convention that “all propositions and resolutions offered to the mother organization were either rejected or referred to a committee.” Monroe concluded that KESA should withdraw from the National Equal Suffrage Association on the basis that it could get more done alone. This decision would lead to the election of Monroe, with Mrs. Rice becoming second vice president. The change in presidency was meant to bring new interest to KESA since the cause was lacking. Monroe also provided the Kansas Woman's Journal as an outlet to share KESA opinion on suffrage if the opposition in other news outlets became too one-sided.
Although Mrs. Rice would not hold a political office the following year, there was an increase of support with the uniting of both the WCTU and the Good Government Club with the Association during the 1908 convention. Since the removal of Kansas from the National Equal Suffrage Association, the newly formed unity between the three groups would help motivate the office the following year. That year, Rice was elected auditor in the KESA.
As time went on, Rice's health would prevent her from being as active in the woman suffrage movement. Rice mentions in a letter to Monroe that at eighty-eight years old, she was unable to find subscribers for the newspaper, and that her daughter would not allow her to work, even though she was getting around some, waiting on herself. At the age of ninety, Roxana Elizabeth Rice would pass away on April 19, 1924, leaving behind her husband, a son named Martin E. Rice, and a daughter named Mary A. Rice Perkins. Rice was a true suffragist for women and deserves more credit than she received. She “followed the whole dreary history with all the interest she could feel for anything.”
Brown, Burt E. “Lawrence Has Four Fine Examples of Nonagenarians.” Topeka Daily Capital,Douglas County Clippings: 1921-1930, 11 November 1923, D74 (Volume 4), 6.
Rice, Roxanna. “Autobiographical,” unpublished autobiography edited by Mina Diaz. Lilla Day Monroe Collection of Pioneer Stories. Manuscript Collection 163. The Kansas State Historical Society.
Diaz, Mina, “Roxanna Rice,” unpublished biography. Lilla Day Monroe Collection of Pioneer Stories. Manuscript Collection 163. The Kansas State Historical Society.
Rice, Roxana, to Lilla Monroe, 13 Dec 1913. Letter in possession of Lilla Day MonroeCollection of Pioneer Stories at the Kansas State Historical Society, State Archives & Library.
Rice, Roxana, to Lilla Monroe, 23 Nov 1915. Letter in possession of Lilla Day MonroeCollection of Pioneer Stories at the Kansas State Historical Society, State Archives & Library.
Rice, Roxana, to Lilla Monroe, 18 Dec 1915, “The Struggle for Equal Suffrage.” Letter in possession ofLilla Day Monroe Collection of Pioneer Stories at the Kansas State Historical Society, State Archives & Library.
Monroe, Lilla D. “Mrs. Roxana E. Rice: Lawrence, Kansas.” Kansas Women's Journal (January 1922): 3.
National American Woman Suffrage Association. The History of Woman Suffrage, Volume six,1900-1920. New York: National American Woman Suffrage Association, 1922. [LINK]
Roxana Elizabeth Miller Crowe Rice
Lilla Day Monroe Collection of Pioneer Stories. Manuscript Collection 163. The Kansas State Historical Society.