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.


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Sadie Park Grisham. Retrieved from


Drawing of Sadie Park Grisham after winning a seat on the Cottonwood Falls city council. Retrieved from


Gravestone of Sadie Park Grisham and Thomas Henry Grisham, Prairie Grove Cemetery, Cottonwood Falls, Kansas. Retrieved from

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