Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890–1920

Biography of Katherine Reed Balentine, 1878-1934

by Georgia Behrens, Erika Jurvetson, Gaby Ma, Sode Smith and Isabella Summe, students at Sacred Heart Preparatory High School in Atherton, California

Maine Suffragist, NAWSA Activist, Founder of the “Yellow Ribbon” Newspaper

Katherine Reed Balentine was a prominent suffragist who worked on the suffrage cause in both California and Maine. She was born in 1878 in Maine to Susan P. Reed and Thomas Brackett Reed. An influential member of the Republican Party, Mr. Reed's nickname was Czar Reed because of his large stature and tyrannical presence in the House of Representatives. His wife, Susan, was opposed to women's suffrage, while Thomas Brackett Reed supported the suffrage cause. In 1889, Thomas Reed won the election as the Speaker for the House of Representatives, beating future President William McKinley for the important job. He held this position until 1891, when Republicans lost their majority in the House, but he regained this leadership position in 1895. Thomas Brackett Reed greatly expanded the role of the Speaker of the House by implementing what is known as “Reed Rules,” which limited the minority party to establish a quorum. He was also known for his support of voting rights, helping to pass the Lodge Bill, which sought to protect African American voting rights in the South. Unfortunately, this bill failed in the Senate.

Katherine Reed, who was nurtured in this political environment, later changed her name to Katherine Reed Balentine when she married Colonel Arthur Balentine. Her husband was a member of the 56th Pioneer Infantry of Maine. Additionally, Katherine founded and edited the statewide suffrage newspaper, “The Yellow Ribbon” in 1906 in San Francisco. This publication was devoted to sharing information about women's suffrage on the west coast. In 1906 she also served as secretary of the Suffrage State Central Committee in California. In 1910 she worked for NAWSA and spoke on behalf of the District of Columbia branch before the Judiciary Committee of Congress. She also led the Maine Woman Suffrage Association from 1916-1917, but her main focus was on “The Yellow Ribbon.” This newspaper was produced in Monterey, California.

The main goal of “The Yellow Ribbon” was to gain more visibility for suffrage. She printed fliers in English, Spanish, German, and Yiddish. In addition to publishing on suffrage, Balentine also helped lead parades, rallies, and took part in door-to-door canvassing. In 1907, Katherine Reed Balentine was part of the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) committee which met with President Theodore Roosevelt. This committee was comprised of many notable suffragists such as Kate M. Gordon and Harriet Taylor, and sought to change the opinion of President Roosevelt on suffrage. However, he refused to change his stance on women's suffrage, while offering he would consider his position on this issue. In 1911, male voters in California voted in favor of women's suffrage, making California the 6th and largest state in the Union to give women the right to vote. NAWSA, which later would become the League of Women Voters of Maine, led women and men in the effort to secure Maine women's right to vote. Balentine played an important role in this push for suffrage and on November 1919, Maine became the third New England state to ratify the 19th Amendment. She died on September 17, 1934.


Evening Sentinel. 14 Sept. 1906. California Digital Newspaper Collection, Accessed 17 Dec. 2018.

Gullett, Gayle Ann. The Emergence and Development of the California Women's Movement 1880-1911. University of Illinois Press, 2000.

Heritage Square Museum. 29 Aug. 2008, Accessed 7 Dec. 2018.

The Leavanworth Times. 16 Nov. 1907, Accessed 17 Dec. 2018.

"Men Who Made Good." Detroit Free Press, 29 Nov. 1908, Accessed 17 Dec. 2018.

"The Most Important Politician You've Never Heard of." National Public Radio Station, Accessed 7 Dec. 2018.

Risk, Shannon M. "'In Order to Establish Justice': The Nineteenth- Century Woman Suffrage Movements of Maine and New Brunswick (2009)." Electronic Theses and Dissertations, Accessed 11 Dec. 2018.

"Tom Reed's Daughter Champions Woman Suffrage." San Francisco Chronicle [San Francisco], 8 Sept. 1906., Accessed 11 Dec. 2018.

"Women's Suffrage Activist Had Roots in Alpine's History." The Alpine Sun Shopper, 7 Nov. 2013, Accessed 7 Dec. 2018.

"Women to Meet for Big Confab." The Chronicle-Telegram, 24 Sept. 1908, Accessed 17 Dec. 2018.

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