Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Ann Drew (Platt), 1888-1964
By Olivia Garrison, University of Missouri
Miss Ann Drew was a suffragist from St. Louis, Missouri. She grew up in a wealthy, well-known family and was a member of high society. Most of her life she resided in St. Louis but her wealth allowed her to make several trips to New York. Her father, Francis Drew, was a merchant and owned a prosperous glass company to which she was the heir. When she was not advocating for suffrage, Ann was an artistic dancer and was one of the first females to fly in an airplane in St. Louis.
Ann married James H. Platt in 1914, but her married life was far from happy as her husband was abusive and a heavy drinker. In a court hearing that took only ten minutes, she divorced her husband who offered no defense to her argument. She went on to become president of the Junior Equal Suffragist League and organized “Votes for Women” assemblies at local St. Louis beer gardens. Ann also made trips to Jefferson City to attend Missouri assembly meetings and discuss suffrage with her representatives.
Her main contribution to the suffrage effort, however, was an article she wrote about her time working in a candy factory. Having lived a privileged lifestyle, Ann realized a better understanding of the working-class woman would allow her more insight into the suffragist movement. The article details the hard-working conditions and terrible pay: “The tragedy of long hours and unsanitary conditions, and the darker side of their lives- Miss Drew believes that when women vote things will be better.” Under the alias, Annie Barnett, Ann worked in a candy factory for one week in Chicago. She discovered the women were making six dollars a week, but half of their salary went towards their room and board. Three dollars was nowhere near enough money for them to support themselves and their families, which is what many of the women were attempting to do. Because of the horrible pay and working conditions, a “Girls Wanted” sign hung constantly in the window of this particular factory. These women worked from 5:30 am to 7:00 pm and had a half hour break for lunch. In the article, Ann described the filthiness of the tables where the women ate lunch and how her back ached from the hunched position in which she and the rest of the women had to do their work. Her article, published in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, was among the first of its kind due to the controversial topic and because it was written by a female. It offered a different perspective on the lives of the working class. This degrading work compromised their femininity, which society placed heavy importance on, and their rights as citizens since they had no right to elect their own representatives who could voice their grievances. Miss Ann Drew gave them a voice and worked to make her own life and the life of working-class women better.
“Dr Anna Shaw, Suffragist Head Here to Speak.” St. Louis Dispatch, 5 Feb. 1913.
Drew, Ann. “Miss Ann Drew, Factory Worker For One Week.” St. Louis Dispatch, 24 Nov. 1912.
Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com), memorial page for Ann Drew Platt (18 Dec 1888–11 Feb 1964), Find A Grave Memorial no. 47408625, citing Calvary Cemetery and Mausoleum, Saint Louis, St. Louis City, Missouri, USA ; Maintained by T.V.F.T.H. (contributor 46496806).
Martin, Marguerite. “My First Flight in an Aeroplane.” St. Louis Dispatch, 29 Oct. 1911.
“Miss Ann Drew Reported Engaged to Mr James H Platt.” St. Louis Dispatch, 10 Nov. 1913.
“Miss Ann Platt Granted A Divorce.” St. Louis Dispatch, 19 May 1921.
“Suffragists Get Street Fair Space in a Beer Garden.” St. Louis Dispatch, 16 Oct. 1913.