Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Anne Wright Watkins, 1873-1948
By Olivia Hughes, undergraduate student, Hobart and William Smith Colleges
Anne Wright Watkins was an influential suffragist who advocating vigorously for the establishment of women's right to vote. Her communal activism efforts aided in constructing a proper foundation for the suffragist movement in New York.
Anne was born on January 7, 1873 in Memphis, Tennessee to parents Luke Edward Wright and Katherine Semmes Wright. Her father was a prominent national political figure, who served as the 43rd Secretary of War during President Theodore Roosevelt's administration. He also served as Governor General of the Philippine Islands from 1904-1906 and as U.S. Ambassador to Japan from 1906-1907.
In 1895, when Anne was 22 years old, she married John Humphrey Watkins in Memphis, Tennessee. In June of 1920, the couple moved to Mount Kisco, New York, where they bought Jonathan Farm and made it their residence. Here, John worked the farm while Anne managed the home.
Following in the footsteps of her political father, later in life Watkins began to champion the suffrage movement, serving in the Woman Suffrage Party as the Suffrage Leader of the Second and Fourth Assembly Districts of Westchester from 1915 to 1917. Her district included the towns of northern Westchester County: White Plains, Harrison, Port Chester, Rye, and parts of New Rochelle. In her time serving as a leader in the party, Watkins worked to provide connections and construct dialogue across numerous branches of suffrage organizations. This included hosting events and lunches, organizing rallies, opening a school for women on her residence as well as initiating the Suffrage Red Cross team in the local area.
In January of 1917, Watkins was elected to be the Chairman of Manhattan Borough for the New York City Woman Suffrage Party. Previously known for her passionate work and extensive social connections as district chairman in Weschester, this work helped propel her to her leadership role in Manhattan. In an impassioned speech upon her acceptance of the new title, Watkins urged to fellow activists, “Let us proceed in the belief that every healthy resolute woman is an organizer, that every human being, if approached in the right way, may become a force for good, and finally, that success may be immediate in this great and glorious cause which we are together undertaking, if we will only put forth our best and physical energy.” In her time as Manhattan's Chairman, Watkins opened a chain of suffrage sub-headquarters, widening suffrage efforts across 16 locations. Her ideal strategy was to create a common headquarters, where meetings for all the local districts could take place and the movement could mobilize.
Further, Watkins became a prominent figure when she stood up for the Colored Woman's Suffrage Club of New York City after the state convention of the New York State Woman Suffrage Party held in Saratoga, N.Y. in August of 1917. She argued that the black members of the convention should have the same status as the white members. She believed that any woman paying her dues and abiding by the rules should have full membership in the party.
Anne died on July 18, 1948 in Moscow, Tennessee at the age of seventy-five.
“Anne Spencer Wright.” Ancestry.com. Accessed February 21, 2018. https://www.ancestry.com/family-tree/person/tree/7124521/person/2405997653facts_phsrc=zcF3&_phstart=successSource.
“Arranging for Suffrage Vaudeville.” The Evening Enterprise. May 23, 1916.
Goodier, Susan and Karen Pastorello. Women Will Vote. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2017.
“Gov. Gen. Wright's Daughter in the Suffrage Camp.” Katonah Record. February 18, 1916, vol. 3, num. 41.
Katonah Record. June 16, 1916.#x200eNational American Woman Suffrage Association. The Woman Citizen. New York: Leslie Woman Suffrage Commission, 1917, 227- 472.
Ida Husted Harper, et al., eds. The History of Woman Suffrage, Vol. 6, 1900-1920. New York: J. J. Little and Ives Company, 1922, 466. [LINK]
“Suff Conventions Show Real Peace.” The Sun. January 17, 1917.
“Suffrage Music Recital.” Katonah Record. January 26, 1917, vol. 4, num. 39.
“Suffrage Rally: Federal Amendment Day Will Be Celebrated With Big Parade Tomorrow.” Ka- tonah Record. October 6, 1916, vol 4, number 22.
U.S. Army Center of Military History, “Luke Wright,” U.S Army Center of Military History. 6 March, 2001. Accessed February 21, 2018. https://history.army.mil/books/Sw-SA/Wright.htm.
Woolston, Florence and Mary Ritter Beard. The Women Voter. New York: The Woman Suffrage Party of New York, 1916, 12-53. Picture on page 12