Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Sadie Park Grisham, 1859-1928
By Suzanne Tuckey, PhD, independent scholar, and Tobi Salo, undergraduate, and Professor Liette Gidlow, Wayne State University, Detroit, Michigan
President, Kansas Equal Suffrage Association; President, Chase County Equal Suffrage Association; President, Fourth District Federation of Clubs; President, Cottonwood Falls Federation of Clubs; founding member and Secretary-Treasurer, Kansas Women Lawyers' Association; Chase County Superintendent of Public Instruction
Sadie Park Grisham was born on July 22, 1859, in Litchfield Township, Pennsylvania, to Joseph Prentice and Jane A. (Moody) Park. In 1870, the Park family moved to the Middle Creek area of Chase County, Kansas. She attended Kansas State Normal School (later renamed Kansas State Teachers College) in Emporia, Kansas, where she graduated in 1882. In December that year, Sadie married Thomas Henry Grisham of Cottonwood Falls, in Chase County, Kansas. The couple had no children.
The Grishams were a prominent, well-respected couple in Chase County. Sadie worked as a teacher, was promoted to principal in 1890, and was elected Chase County Superintendent of Public Instruction in 1896. She was also affiliated with the Order of the Eastern Star, the Daughters of the American Revolution, and the Ladies of the Grand Army of the Revolution.
In 1889, Sadie and six other women advocating temperance were put on the local ballot for the Cottonwood Falls Council as a joke by anti-temperance men. At first, the women were offended, but decided to run after asking around realizing their chances to win were reasonably good. They won. Fellow temperance and suffrage activist, Minnie D. Morgan, was elected mayor of Cottonwood and Alice Hunt, Elizabeth Porter, Barbara Gillet, and Elizabeth Johnson were elected as council members. Sadie was elected as president of the council and was Chairman of the Committee on Streets and Alleys. The women ran a famously clean and professional administration, during which time they enforced several temperance policies. Although, according to a 1912 article in The San Francisco Call Bulletin, they could have easily won reelection, they declined to seek a second term.
In 1890, Sadie accepted a position as a school principal. During her service as principal, she provided boarding for a number of young girls, including her younger siblings, as a way of supporting their efforts to obtain a high school education. Like her husband, Sadie also trained as an attorney, serving in several leadership roles. In 1919, she was one of only 25 female attorneys in Kansas and was a founding member of the Kansas Women Lawyers' Association. In 1920, she served as the Kansas Women Lawyers' Association's secretary-treasurer.
Sadie was elected president of the Fourth District Federation of Women's Clubs and was selected to be an alternate delegate to the 1904 National Federation of Women's Clubs convention. That same year, she was elected president of the Kansas Equal Suffrage Association. In 1912, when president of the Chase County Equal Suffrage Association, Sadie led a campaign to increase membership and public support for woman suffrage. She and other activists went house to house in every town in Chase County, organized events featuring prominent suffrage leaders, and held planning meetings. According to the Emporia Gazette, the level of activity in the name of woman suffrage during this Chase County campaign was historic.
On November 5, 1912, Kansas women won full suffrage. Sadie, however, continued to fight for women's rights, among other things, giving lectures on women's property rights. As a Democratic partisan, in 1917, Sadie was a guest of honor at a Washington Tea Party event for Democratic women hosted by the Women's Shawnee Democratic club and the Wilson League of Kansas.
In 1916, Sadie was elected as an officer of the Chase County Federation of Women's Clubs. In July, 1918, Sadie's husband, Thomas H. Grisham, died and was buried with masonic and military Grand Army honors. He had practiced law in Chase County for 50 years, had served as Judge Advocate four times, and had held other national positions. Much less is known about Sadie's legal career, however. A 1919 issue of The Topeka State Capital depicts Sadie as a pioneering woman lawyer.
Sadie continued to lead the campaign for woman suffrage in Kansas following her husband's death. On August 18, 1920, the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was fully ratified, granting most women in the United States the right to vote. That same year, Grisham moved to Long Beach, California where she lived until May, 1927, when she was stricken with paralysis. She then moved to a hospital in Colorado. Sadie Park Grisham passed away on November 10, 1928, at the age of 69. She was buried in Prairie Grove Cemetery in Cottonwood Falls, Kansas, alongside her husband.
Aplington, Kate A. “Federation Meeting.” Council Grove Republican. Oct. 11, 1901, p.9.
Carpenter, J.S. “First Annual Convention.” Council Grove Republican. Apr. 12, 1901, p.4.
“Ideas of Women.” The Topeka State Journal. Jan. 28, 1914, p.6.
Jenab, Farrell. Minnie D. Morgan. Symphony in the Flint Hills Field Journal, (2016), p.27.
“Kansas Women Lawyers.” The Topeka Daily Capital. 16 Feb. 1919, p.4.
“New President of Kansas Equal Suffrage Association.” The Topeka State Journal. Nov. 15, 1904, p. 5.
About Mrs. Grisham: New President of Kansas Equal Suffrage Association. (1904, November 15). The Topeka State Journal, p. 5. Retrieved from https://www.newspapers.com/image/323193808
Angora. (1920, December 10). The (Box Butte County, Nebraska) Alliance Herald, p. 7. Retrieved from https://www.newspapers.com/image/78646970
Blackmar, F. W. (Ed.). (1912). Kansas: A cyclopedia of state history, embracing events, institutions, industries, counties, cities, towns, prominent persons, etc.,vol. III. Chicago, IL: Standard Publishing Company. Retrieved from http://www.ksgenweb.org/archives/1912/g3/grisham_thomas_henry.html
Chase County suffragists. (1912, March 13). Emporia (Kansas) Gazette, p. 1. Retrieved from https://www.newspapers.com/image/10290525/
Club women elect officers. (1916, May 1). Emporia (Kansas) Gazette, p. 1.
Emporia Club women. (1904, December 9). Emporia (Kansas) Gazette, p. 6. Retrieved from https://www.newspapers.com/image/11960486
Hanschu, S. (2013). The Kansas State Normal years. Emporia State Research Studies, 49(1), pp. 19-28. Retrieved from http://academic.emporia.edu/esrs/vol49/hanschu.pdf
He belongs to the ages. (1918, August 2). Chase County (Kansas) Leader, p. 1. Retrieved from https://www.newspapers.com/image/341737884/
Kansas. (1922). In I. H. Harper (Ed.), The history of woman suffrage (Vol. 6) (pp. 193-206). New York, NY: National American Woman Suffrage Association. Retrieved from https://archive.org/details/historyofwomansu06stanuoft
Kansas women: Twenty counties will have female superintendents. (1896, December 9). Barbour County Index, 16, p. 2. Retrieved from https://www.geneologybank.com
Leonard, J. W. (Ed.). (1914). Woman's who's who of America: A biographical dictionary of contemporary women of the United States and Canada 1914-1915. New York, NY: The American Commonwealth Company. [LINK]
Man loses his vocational monopolies. (1912, March 3). The San Francisco Call Bulletin, 111, p. 32.
Old Chase Co. settler dies. (1918, July 29). The Topeka State Journal, p. 5. Retrieved from https://www.newspapers.com/image/324316281
Precedent was broken. (1903, May 9). (Wichita) Daily Eagle, p. 7. Retrieved from https://www.newspapers.com/image/85819734/
Prominent Kansas women. (1914, February 1). The Topeka Daily Capital, p. 2A. Retrieved from https://www.newspapers.com/image/64083960/
Sadie P. Grisham (2019). Her Hat Was In the Ring!: U.S. Women Who Ran for Political Office Before 1920. Retrieved from http://www.herhatwasinthering.org/biography.php?id=4347
Sadie P. Grisham dead. (1928, November 14). Emporia Gazette, p. 6
Society. (1912, October 19). Emporia Gazette, p. 2. Retrieved from https://www.newspapers.com/image/10783192
Society. (1919, September 19). Emporia Gazette, p. 4.
“Society.” The Topeka State Journal. 29 Mar. 1911, p.5.
“Society.” The Topeka State Journal. 21 Feb. 1917, p.8.
Suffrage week in Chase. (1912, September 13). Emporia Gazette, p. 6. Retrieved from https://www.newspapers.com/image/10780693/
The Congressional District Women's Federation. (1901, April 5). Emporia Gazette, p. 1. Retrieved from https://www.newspapers.com/image/382277662/
Thomas Grisham dead. (1918, July 29). Emporia Gazette, p. 1. Retrieved from https://www.newspapers.com/image/10225902/
Under petticoat rulers: Cottonwood Falls elects a full ticket of feminines. (1889, April 7). Kansas City Times, p. 14. Retrieved from https://www.geneologybank.com
U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 [online database]. Retrieved from http://heritagequest.com
Willard, F. E., & Livermore, M. A. (Eds.). (1893). A woman of the century: Fourteen hundred -seventy biographical sketches accompanied by portraits of leading American women in all walks of life. Buffalo, NY: Charles Wells Moulton.
Valentine, D. A. (1915). Roll of attorneys of the State of Kansas. Topeka, KS: Kansas State Printing Plant. Retrieved from https://archive.org/details/rollofattorneyso00kans_0/page/n3
Women lawyers here: Mrs. Lilla Day Monroe calls Kansas meeting today. (1919, January 28). The Topeka State Journal, p. 1. Retrieved from https://www.newspapers.com/image/324173834/
Women lawyers to meet: New constitution to be considered in Topeka tomorrow. (1920, January 27). The Topeka Daily State Journal, p. 5. Retrieved from https://www.newspapers.com/image/324172237
Sadie Park Grisham. Retrieved from https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/16678472/sadie-grisham.
Drawing of Sadie Park Grisham after winning a seat on the Cottonwood Falls city council. Retrieved from https://www.genealogybank.com
Gravestone of Sadie Park Grisham and Thomas Henry Grisham, Prairie Grove Cemetery, Cottonwood Falls, Kansas. Retrieved from https://www.findagrave.com