Ida Morgan Thornton

Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890–1920

Biography of Ida Morgan Thornton, 1877-1933

By Erin Hvizdak, Reference and Instruction Librarian, Washington State University

Co-Founder and First Vice-President, Colored Women's Republican Club No. 1, East St. Louis, Illinois (1922)

Ida (Morgan) Thornton was born on March 13, 1877 in Illinois. As of 1880, she resided in Collinsville with her parents, father Andrew Morgan and mother Nancy (Wheeler) Morgan. The 1880 census indicates that they were one of only a few black families in their immediate neighborhood. While listed on most censuses as “negro,” she is listed as “mulatto” in the 1920 census. She married Jacob Thornton, five years her junior, in approximately 1904. He is listed as a railroad roundhouse cleaner in 1910 and a railroad ashpit man in the 1920. The 1910 census indicated that she had one child but that it is no longer living; no children were listed in subsequent censuses. In 1910 they resided at 619 South 5th Street in East St. Louis, Illinois, moving to 617 South 5th Street and residing there for the 1920 census. While listed as renters, boarders are listed in the home in the 1920 and 1930 censuses. Ida Thornton is listed as a widow by the 1930 census but still listed in that same residence. In the 1930 census, she is listed as a probation officer with the St. Clair county jail, but did not have an occupation previous to this. Her death certificate indicates that she died on December 15, 1933 and is possibly buried in the Booker T. Washington cemetery in Centreville, Illinois.

Ida Thornton was a co-founder of the Colored Women's Republican Club No. 1 in East St. Louis, Illinois. At the initial meeting on April 26, 1922, she was appointed First Vice-President, and it was decided to hold meetings on the second and fourth Wednesdays of the month. Other officers included: Laura Thomas, President; Mahase (also spelled elsewhere as Melissa and Mallissie) Bassfield, recording secretary; Pinksen (Pinkie) Reeves, corresponding secretary; Queens Huff, treasurer; and Amanda Cotton, treasurer. This has elsewhere been called the Central Colored Women's Republican Club. In 1924, Reeves, Basfield, and Mary Martin renamed the club the Colored Women's Republican Club of of St. Clair County to include women outside of the immediate East St. Louis area. The club was affiliated with the Colored Women's Republican Clubs of Illinois and at one point had nearly 800 members. According to an East St. Louis Daily Journal (ESLDJ) article dated September 18, 1924, talks given at meetings included: “Citizenship,” “The Necessity of Political Parties,” “Pure Government,” and “The Social, Religious, and Political Issues of the Day,” given both by women of the Club and men from the outside including reverends and government officials. This same article lists the headquarters of the organization at 412A East Broadway, but meetings were also held in churches and the homes of members; for example, an ESLDJ article dated January 14, 1926 indicates that the prior Friday meeting was held in the home of the organization's secretary (Pinkie Reeves, 1930 Bond Avenue), while a January 22, 1928 article lists their meeting at St. Paul's church on 15th and Bond Avenue. Thornton remained active in this organization for a few years after its creation. In 1926 she is listed as the Second Vice-President, and as a member of the organization's Committee on Campaigning. The ESLDJ indicates in a January 31, 1926

article that she was listed as a speaker at the St. Clair County Colored Woman's Club convention, which brought together colored G.O.P organizations from around the country. This same article indicates that Thornton was “appointed by her chairman” but does not indicate what she was appointed to, and that she was a speaker at this meeting.

Sources consulted:

Collections consulted from Family Search (
United States Census, 1880, 1910, 1920, 1930, 1940
Illinois Deaths and Stillbirths, 1916-1947

Newspaper articles:
“Colored Women to Organize Clubs,” East St. Louis Daily Journal, Thursday, April 27, 1922
“G.O.P. Colored Women of Eighth Precinct Elect,” East St. Louis Daily Journal, January 20, 1926
“Colored Women of G.O.P. Club Name Campaign Heads,” East St. Louis Daily Journal, January 24, 1926
“County Colored G.O.P. Women to Have Convention,” East St. Louis Daily Journal, January 31, 1926
“Colored Women's Club Will Meet Wednesday,” East St. Louis Daily Journal, January 22, 1928

City Directories:
East St. Louis, Illinois, City Directories, 1924, 1926

Secondary sources consulted:
Freeman, J. (2002). A Room at a Time: How Women Entered Party Politics. Lanham, MA: Rowman and Littlefield.
Lumpkins, C. (2008). American Pogrom: The East St. Louis Race Riot and Black Politics. Columbus, OH: Ohio University Press.
Materson, L.G. (2013). For the Freedom of Her Race: Black Women and Electoral Politics in Illinois, 1877-1932. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press.

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