Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Frances Ethel (Mrs. Samuel J.) Nixon, 1881-1961
By Jennifer Wilson and Summer R. Begay, undergraduate students, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM
Orator and suffragist
Frances, sometimes spelled Francis, Ethel Walker was born March 3, 1881, in Whitesboro, Texas, to William Asbury and Nancy J. Walker. By 1900, William Walker was a widower. His daughter Nora Walker McDill helped him manage the house, and (Frances) Ethel Walker taught music.
Around 1902, Frances Walker married Samuel J. Nixon, and by 1910, the couple had lived in Oklahoma before moving to Portales, New Mexico, with Frances's younger brother, Elmer. The Nixons did not have children. Marriage did not keep Frances Nixon from working. In 1910, she continued as a music teacher; in 1920, she was listed on the census as a stenographer. The Clayton News described her as “the foremost lady orator in New Mexico,” and noted her service in Washington, D.C., on the Bureau of War Risk Insurance during World War I. In 1930, she was a broker with a gas and oil firm, likely with her deceased husband's company, Nixon Oil and Gas, which was incorporated in 1919. Sam Nixon was a lawyer, a business owner, and later a judge in New Mexico. On January 17, 1921, Sam Nixon died in Mineral Springs, Texas, and he was buried in Nixon Cemetery in Lamar County, Texas. France Nixon remained in New Mexico.
In 1911 at the founding convention of the New Mexico Federation of Woman's Clubs in Las Cruces, Frances Nixon was chosen as secretary. The state federation worked tirelessly for woman suffrage in New Mexico. Through club work, Nixon fought for women's suffrage and laws that mandated equal protection for women and children.
Following the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment, Frances Nixon rose to leadership in New Mexico's party politics. In August 1921, Nixon was the first woman to chair the New Mexico Democratic Convention, delivering the keynote speech. As temporary chair, Nixon used her address to “flay bitterly” the current New Mexico Republican senator, Holm O. Bursum, and the New Mexico Republican administration, claiming that they failed to reduce taxes, neglected to help teachers and ex-servicemen, and refused to amend election laws. The same convention elected her vice chair of the State Democratic National Committee. In 1924, she was chosen as one of New Mexico's delegates to the Democratic National Convention. During the 1920s, she also served on the Board of Regents of the University of New Mexico, an appointment from Democratic Governor James Hinkle.
Between 1935 and 1940, Frances Nixon moved from Santa Fe to Los Angeles, California. She traveled frequently, but she moved back to Texas in the final years of her life. After several years of illness, she died on April 4, 1961, in Midland, Texas. News of her passing made the newspapers in Albuquerque and Santa Fe. The Santa Fe New Mexican described her as a former “leader in New Mexico political and civil affairs.” She passed away one week before she was to be honored at the State Federation of Woman's Clubs at the organization's 50th anniversary.
Death Certificate for Frances Ethel Nixon, 4 April 1961, File No. 23321, State of Texas.
“Democratic Convention Adjourns Until Today; No Nomination Is Made.” Albuquerque Journal (Albuquerque, N. Mex.). August 19, 1921, p.1. Newspapers.com.
Find a Grave. Samuel J. Nixon. Accessed March 6, 2019. https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/46533971/samuel-j-nixon.
“Former SF Resident Dies at 80.” Santa Fe New Mexican(Santa Fe, N. Mex.). April 7, 1961, p.2. Newspapers.com.
“Frances Nixon Dies at Age 80,” Albuquerque Journal (Albuquerque, N. Mex.). April 8, 1961, p.C-4. Newspapers.com.
Harper, Ida Husted, ed. “New Mexico.” Chapter XXX in History of Woman Suffrage, vol. 6: 1900-1920. New York: National American Woman Suffrage Association, 1922, 434-439. [LINK]
“Mrs. Sam J. Nixon To Speak on League of Nations.” Clayton News (Clayton, N. Mex.). October 23, 1920, p.1. Newspapers.com.
“Judge Sam Nixon Dead.” Clovis News (Clovis, N. Mex.). January 27, 1921, p.1. Newspapers.com.
Pithy News Items. Carrizozo Outlook (Carrizozo, N. Mex.). February 7, 1919, p.7. Newspapers.com.
United States Census 1880, “Nora Walker, Grayson, Tex.” HeritageQuest.
United States Census 1900, “Ethel Walker, Grayson, Tex.” HeritageQuest.
United States Census 1910, “Francis Nixon, Portales, N. Mex.” HeritageQuest.
United States Census 1920, “Sam Nixon, Fort Sumner, N. Mex.” HeritageQuest.
United States Census 1930, “Frances Nixon, Santa Fe, N. Mex.” HeritageQuest.
United States Census 1940, “Sam Nixon, Fort Sumner, N. Mex.” HeritageQuest.