Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Martha Arabella Weamer Morrison, 1857-1943
By Callie Dunkerson
Student, University of Oklahoma
Martha Arabella Weamer Morrison was passionate about prohibition, female suffrage, and equality for women. Her family knew her as Arabella, but she was most often referred to as Mrs. M. A. Morrison. Morrison's dedication and contribution to the Oklahoma Women's Suffrage Association, a NAWSA chapter, helped grant Oklahoma women the right to vote in 1918.
Martha Arabella was born to Mary Ann Wingrove and George W. Weamer in Plumbville, Pennsylvania, on May 30, 1857. She was the second youngest of six siblings. In 1879, at the age of twenty-two, Miss Martha Weamer married Curtis M. Morrison in Pennsylvania. Martha and Curtis expanded their family with six children from 1881 to 1898. Curtis was an engineer and an executive for the Pittsburg-based Oil Well Supply Company, and consequently, the Morrison family was substantially wealthy.
In 1886, the Morrisons moved from Garfield to Clendon, Pennsylvania, where Martha Morrison became involved in the prohibition effort. She joined the Woman's Christian Temperance Movement (WCTU) and actively crusaded to oppose saloons and alcohol. In addition to handing out flyers that rebuked the saloons, she boldly lectured about sin and damnation within the saloons themselves. In retaliation, the Morrison's house was burned to the ground by an angry mob on July 4, 1887. Even after receiving death threats, the family refused to leave Clendon and lived with different neighbors. Although, after the third move, the Morrisons traveled from Pennsylvania to Fostoria, Ohio, in about 1893.
Around 1903, the family moved to Oklahoma where they lived in various locations, but particularly in Cleveland and Tulsa. Morrison continued her prohibition efforts by joining forces with the Oklahoma WCTU. She became deeply involved and continued avidly fighting for prohibition. Morrison served as Pawnee County President prior to Oklahoma statehood in 1907 and was a part of the Honor Roll of County Presidents after statehood.
In addition to the WCTU, Morrison joined the Oklahoma Women's Suffrage Association (OWSA) and became a zealous leader for the cause. In February 1909, Morrison, along with numerous Oklahoma suffragists, went to the state suffrage headquarters in Guthrie to advocate for an amendment to the state constitution that would give Oklahoma women the right to vote. While in Guthrie, she went before the Oklahoma Senate during their hearing of the amendment, and she made a persuasive appeal to the delegation. She argued that women's inclusion to the ballot was necessary for domestic protection. Although the amendment did not pass, Morrison continued to diligently labor alongside the OWSA. In October 1909, Morrison's suffrage leadership persisted with her election as one of four vice-presidents for the association.
Morrison was also an active resident of Tulsa. In 1917, she worked as a nurse to aid in the nationwide contribution to World War I, and in September of that year, she helped oversee a war booth at the Tulsa County Fair. In October, she was elected as the fifth vice-president of the OWSA. .
Morrison used her leadership to influence women's suffrage efforts among Tulsa women and the WCTU. In January of 1918, she was put in charge of a local committee to look after suffrage interests in Tulsa, and in August, she addressed the plans for the suffrage campaign at the annual Tulsa County WCTU Convention. In addition, she was appointed the Oklahoma corresponding secretary for the WCTU in May. Morrison continued the campaign for suffrage as an active member of the OWSA, even publicly accusing the Tulsa World Newspaper of fueling the anti-suffrage campaign.
After Oklahoma women gained the right to vote in 1918, Morrison persisted in campaigning for prohibition and equality for women. In 1936, she was elected treasurer for the Oklahoma State Prohibition Party. Morrison represented the Prohibitionist Party by running for the House of Representatives in 1938 and 1940 for Oklahoma's District One. She believed the Prohibition Party “would save the home and the nation.”
“I know what it is to be a slave, a political slave, to be deprived of my rights and privileges as an American citizen for no other reason for which I was or am responsible except for the simple reason that I...was born a female...I will contribute my services to my country in any way or place in which I am capable of serving.”
Curtis Morrison passed away in 1931, leaving Martha Morrison to live the last four years of her life with her youngest daughter. On July 14, 1943, Martha Morrison died at eighty-six years old. She was given Christian Science rites and buried at Rose Hill Cemetery in Tulsa.
1900 United States Federal Census [database online]. Seneca, OH, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2010. Accessed 26 October 2018; Hillerman, Abbie, 1888-1925 History of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union of Indian Territory, Oklahoma Territory, State of Oklahoma, (Sapula: Jennings Printing and Stationery Co, 1925), 108 & 110; Susan B. Anthony, Matilda J Gage., and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, History of Woman Suffrage, vol. 6, (Rochester: National American Suffrage Association, 1922), 524 [LINK]; Carney Enterprise (Carney, OK), 12 October 1917; Tulsa Daily World (Tulsa, OK), 29 January 1918; Tulsa Daily World (Tulsa, OK), 18 June 1918; The Daily Oklahoman (Oklahoma City, OK), 8 May 1938; The Tulsa Tribune (Tulsa, OK), 15 July 1943.