Biographical Sketch of Frances McDonnell Wentworth

Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920

Biography of Frances McDonnell Wentworth, 1831-1921

By Constance Bougie, student, University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, Oshkosh, WI

Treasurer of the Racine, WI, branch of the Wisconsin Woman Suffrage Association.

Frances McDonnell was born July 2, 1831, in New York City, to Thomas and Frances (Halsey) McDonnell. Her father hailed from Portaferry in northeast Ireland. She had one brother, James, and a sister, Jane. On October 4, 1852, Frances McDonnell married John Theodore Wentworth. At that time, both were residents of Saratoga Springs, NY. The wedding took place at her father's home and McDonnell was described as a “beautiful and accomplished young lady of one of the oldest American families.” The Wentworths lived for some time in Chicago, IL, Geneva (now Lake Geneva), WI, and Elkhorn, WI, before finally settling in Racine, WI. John Wentworth practiced law and served as clerk of court, district attorney, and circuit court judge at various times throughout his life. The couple had four children: John Theodore Wentworth (1854-1916), Thomas McDonnell Wentworth (1859-1882), Mary F. Wentworth (1861-1931), and Jane R. Wentworth Pinto (1864-1943). After her husband died in 1893, Frances Wentworth continued to live in the family home on College Avenue in Racine until her death in 1921.

Wentworth's obituary in the Racine Journal-News expressed that “[during] the forty years of her life in Racine there has been no movement for social progress in which she has not been an inspiration.” Supporting the cause of temperance even when it was unpopular, she “threw the influence of her strong personality to further what she considered a righteous cause.” In June, 1908, she became treasurer for the Racine branch of the Wisconsin Woman Suffrage Association (WWSA). Meetings of the Racine WWSA were held at the homes of its members and at least one was hosted at the Wentworth home. At these meetings, attendees would discuss suffrage work but also play music, sing, and share readings about political and civic news from around the country. Wentworth herself presented papers at several meetings, some of which included “Being Denied Political Privileges,” “What Starts Boys and Girls on Their Downward Career,” one on the training of boys, as well as a parody poem on “The Doom of Voting Women.”

In addition to participating in local activism, Wentworth was a prominent figure in Racine's First Presbyterian Church, working with its missionary society, “its Ladies' union, and its every activity.” An article published in the Chicago Daily News upon the death of her husband describes Wentworth as “dazzling” in mind, character, and spirit. The author wrote to her: “My dear friend of long ago: You will always be to [me] as you were in the beauty and effulgence of the spring-time of your life.”

Frances McDonnell Wentworth died on March 21, 1921, in Racine, WI. The Wentworths have a family plot in the city's Mound Cemetery.

Sources:

Ancestry.com and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 1860 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2009.

Ancestry.com and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 1880 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Lehi, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2010.

Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/116784033/john-t-wentworth: accessed 14 November 2017), memorial page for John T. Wentworth, Sr (unknown–1893), Find A Grave Memorial no. 116784033, citing Mound Cemetery, Racine, Racine County, Wisconsin, USA; Maintained by Gina Townley Swinburn (contributor 46543340).

Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/116784003/frances-wentworth): accessed 24 April 2019), memorial page for Frances McD. Wentworth (unknown-1921), Find A Grave Memorial no. 116784003, citing Mound Cemetery, Racine, Racine County, Wisconsin, USA; Maintained by Gina Townley Swinburn (contributor 46543340).

Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/116784026/john-t-wentworth): accessed 24 April 2019), memorial page for John T. Wentworth, Jr (unknown–1916), Find A Grave Memorial no. 116784026, citing Mound Cemetery, Racine, Racine County, Wisconsin, USA; Maintained by Gina Townley Swinburn (contributor 46543340).

Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/116784056/thomas-mcd-wentworth): accessed 24 April 2019), memorial page for Thomas McD Wentworth (unknown–1882), Find A Grave Memorial no. 116784056, citing Mound Cemetery, Racine, Racine County, Wisconsin, USA; Maintained by Gina Townley Swinburn (contributor 46543340).

Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/116784046/mary-f-wentworth): accessed 24 April 2019), memorial page for Mary F. Wentworth (unknown–1931), Find A Grave Memorial no. 116784046, citing Mound Cemetery, Racine, Racine County, Wisconsin, USA; Maintained by Gina Townley Swinburn (contributor 46543340).

Beers, J.H. & Co. Commemorative Biographical Record of Prominent and Representative Men of Racine and Kenosha Counties, Wisconsin: Containing Biographical Sketches of Business and Professional Men and of Many of the Early Settled Families. J.H. Beers & Company, 1906, pp. 21-22, 65-66. https://archive.org/stream/commemorativebiogr00jhbe/commemorativebiogr00jhbe_djvu.txt

“Hold Annual Meeting.” The Racine Daily Journal, July 16, 1910, Saturday Afternoon edition, pg. 10.

“In Memoriam.” The Racine Journal-News, March 23, 1921, Weds. Afternoon edition, pg. 4.

“Old Parties Are Blamed.” The Racine Daily Journal, June 11, 1908, Thursday Afternoon edition, pg. 3.

“Suffragists Hold Meeting.” The Racine Daily Journal, November 12, 1908, Thursday Afternoon edition, pg. 5.

“The Training of Boys.” The Racine Daily Journal, September 3, 1908, Thursday Afternoon edition, pg. 6.

“Woman's Suffrage Society.” The Racine Daily Journal, October 22, 1910, Saturday Afternoon edition, pg. 2.

“Women's Suffrage Society Holds Enjoyable Meeting.” The Racine Daily Journal, December 12, 1907, Thursday Afternoon edition, pg. 1.

Williams, F. W. A History of the Class of Seventy-Nine, Yale College, 1906, pp. 456-459. https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/7f/Yale_History_of_the_Class_of_1879.pdf

Yale University. Obituary Record of Graduates of the Undergraduate Schools, Deceased 1860-70--1950-51, series sixteen, no. 11, Yale University, 1920, pp. 368-370. https://archive.org/stream/1915t20obituary00yaleuoft/1915t20obituary00yaleuoft_djvu.txt

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