Biographical Sketch of Minnie Flanigan

Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920

Biography of Minnie Flanigan, 1863-1953

By Evelyn Rose, PharmD, Project Director

Glen Park Neighborhoods History Project, San Francisco, California

www.GlenParkHistory.org

Minnie Flanigan, Forgotten Nevada Suffragist

Minnie Flanigan (her given name) was born in Oswego, New York on October 2, 1863, the daughter of James and Mary (Linehan) Flanigan. Little is known of their family history in New York. However, by 1877 her brother, Patrick L. Flanigan, was living in Nevada west of Pyramid Lake near the California border. A successful and respected sheepherder, by the 1890s Patrick had acquired 60,000 acres in northern Washoe County and established the town of Flanigan as a railroad crossroads for shipments to the east. In 1894, he was elected to the Nevada State Assembly, and then in 1898 as a Nevada State Senator, serving until 1902.

After visiting Patrick from her home in New York in 1894, Minnie had moved to Reno by 1900. Her civic activities begin in earnest when she joined the St. Agnes Society of St. Mary's Catholic Church in Reno and the Children of Mary Sodality for girls (likely as a coordinator and mentor to young women). Throughout her adult life, Minnie was active organizing picnics, festivals, and charity and other fundraising events. She was well known for her weekly bridge games with other women and admired for holding the "most original" and "clever" events in Reno. She was also a survivor of the San Francisco Earthquake of 1906, having been in the city on that fateful day of April 18.

In 1911, representing women in the religious community, Minnie helped coordinate a visit to Reno by former president Theodore Roosevelt. It is also the year she joined Reno's Twentieth Century Club. Organized in 1894, the club was open to "all women of good repute" and focused on education and social issues. Still active in the 21st century, the Twentieth Century Club is the oldest woman's club in Nevada. By 1913, Minnie was recognized in local newspapers as a "prominent club worker" and making presentations to women's organizations about vocational training.

Minnie's suffrage activities began with a flourish in 1914 when she played Clara Barton, founder of the American Red Cross, in a play called "Women's Work." At the closing session of the Nevada Equal Suffrage Society that year, with Nevada suffragist Anne Martin as president and Minnie elected as Washoe County's second auditor, members adopted the principle of being "absolutely non-sectarian," and adopted the slogan, "Nevada Don't Keep Your Women Out," reminding women that it be "sounded regularly on every occasion." Minnie was also a member of the Equal Franchise Society. While Nevada women were successful in winning the vote on November 3, 1914, they realized their work was not yet complete.

When the first election following enfranchisement arrived in May 1915, Minnie was one of the first women in Reno to cast her ballot. Within a year, Minnie had been elected president of the Nevada Women's Civic League and held a reception for Mrs. Sara Bard Field upon her return from a convention of women voters in California that had urged Congress to pass a universal amendment. Minnie was also elected Treasurer of the California Federation of Women's Clubs that same year. With the state vote in hand, most franchise leagues transitioned into civic groups to help inform the new female voting bloc about issues and candidates. As president of the Reno Women's Civic League, the Women's Citizen Club, and as an elected member of the Reno Election Board, Minnie coordinated a mock election and educated women about the upcoming ballot – including the importance of making decisions on issue principles rather than the popularity of any particular candidate. As president of the Reno Women's Civic League and working with Anne Martin, president of the Nevada Women's Civic League, she helped gain the necessary approvals to allow the Liberty Bell to pass through Reno on its way to the Pan-Pacific International Exposition (PPIE) in San Francisco that same year.

In her leadership role of the Nevada Women's Civic League, Minnie also helped establish probation officers and a branch of the American Society of the Prevention of the Cruelty of Animals in Reno. She served as a delegate to the first "purely political convention" for women, held in September 1915 during the PPIE in San Francisco for "the women voters of the west, rallying under the Congressional Union for Woman Suffrage." During the convention and as president of the Nevada Women's Civic League, Minnie presided over the meeting welcoming Alice Paul and Sarah Bard Field to the convention.

By 1916, Minnie was again treasurer for the Nevada Women's Civic League with Anne Martin returning to her role as the group's president. As president of the Reno Civic League, Minnie signed a resolution supporting the Susan B. Anthony amendment in April 1916, in part stating, "We women voters of Nevada realize the injustice done to the women of the nation to whom political rights are denied and the necessity that this wrong should be righted." The resolution was sent to President Woodrow Wilson, in addition to the Speaker of the House, leaders in the Senate, and other national political figures.

In August 1916, Minnie is reported to have successfully led discussions for organizing the more militant Nevada Woman's Party and aligning it with the Nevada Women's Civic League. As president of the new organization, she welcomed Mrs. William Kent of Marin County, California, a leading suffragist and officer of the National Woman's Party. Controversy arose, however, when some members of the Nevada Women's Civic League objected to the alliance with the Woman's Party and resigned, claiming the decision had been made without regard to the league's constitution. Minnie responded that the vote had followed all constitutional rules to make the decision, proclaiming, "We are not against persons; we are for a principle. As women, we stand with women. Women come first, and we wish to see them all enfranchised."

President Woodrow Wilson's support for national enfranchisement was lackluster, instead believing it was a matter for the states. As vice-chair of the Nevada branch of the National Woman's League, Minnie sent a telegram to Wilson in 1917 protesting the arrests of suffragists who had been picketing for the right to vote in Washington, D.C., and how the women who had recently been released from confinement, including Alice Paul and several others, in "an emaciated condition." The following year, Anne Martin, the first woman in America to announce her candidacy for the United States Senate, appointed Minnie secretary and later treasurer of her campaign committee. Martin, who ran as an independent in 1918 and 1920, failed to garner enough votes in both elections.

On February 7, 1920, the Nevada Legislature convened a special session that, according to Governor Emmet D. Boyle, had been assembled "for the one purpose of acting on the resolution of the Congress of the United States proposing the extension of the voting franchise to women citizens of the Nation." While Nevada had already adopted suffrage, he noted that "without our favorable action the cause of national suffrage may be delayed for such as time as to withhold the right to vote in a presidential election from millions of women in America." Minnie was appointed as Engrossing Clerk for the special session (ie, an editor and proofreader for official documents), both a symbolic and highly important role. After Minnie's review and approval of the document, Senate Resolution No. 2 was ratified that same day.

Once 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution was fully ratified in 1920, Minnie continued her leadership roles in civic organizations, including as president of Reno's Twentieth Century Club in 1924, and in 1932 as second vice president of the Nevada Federation of Women's Clubs and president of the Reno chapter of the Nevada State Federation of Business and Professional Women's Clubs. Four years earlier, she had been appointed to the Republican National Committee as one of 16 delegates to support the drive to encourage business and professional women to vote Republican.

Having reached her 70s by the early 1930s, Minnie began directing more of her focus on the roots of her public service, activities that she had neither left nor ignored. In addition to her ongoing participation in Reno's social clubs, she also became more involved with religious societies, including the Children of Mary Sodality and the St. Agnes Society. At a 1933 meeting of the Reno Deanery of the Diocesan Council of Catholic Women, she urged attendees to "exercise their right of suffrage." In one of her last civic activities, Minnie was appointed Honorary Board Member of the Washoe County Red Cross in 1944. In a description of the history of Nevada during National Business Women's Week in 1950, Minnie was recognized as one of the standard bearers of those women who in 1915 "realized what could be done with strength in numbers and cohesion in their ranks."

Minnie succumbed to complications of breast cancer on April 13, 1953 at the age of 89. At the time of this writing, it seems her remarkable life and achievements have fallen under the radar, as she is rarely highlighted in Nevada women's history resources. Minnie Flanigan, who never married and who appears to have no direct descendants, was a beacon of light during those hard-fought years of the Nevada and national suffrage movement. Recognition for her efforts are long overdue.

Resources

1. United States Department of the Interior. Environmental Impact Statement, North Valleys Rights-of-Ways Projects. Bureau of Land Management: Carson City, Nevada, May 2005. Available at Google Books.

2. Cox J.M. Images of America, Washoe County. Arcadia Publishing: Charleston, South Carolina, 2011.

3. Barber A. Flanigan Warehouse. No date. Available at the Reno Historical Preservation Society.

4. Division of Research, Nevada State Legislature. NEVADA LEGISLATORS, 1861–2019. Nevada State Legislature: Carson City, Nevada, April 2019. Available at the Nevada Legislature.

5. Reno Gazette-Journal (Reno, Nevada), February 6, 1894. Available at Newspapers.com (subscription required).

6. Reno Gazette-Journal (Reno, Nevada), July 25, 1900. Available at Newspapers.com (subscription required).

7. Reno Gazette-Journal (Reno, Nevada), Sep 14, 1901. Available at Newspapers.com (subscription required).

8. Nevada State Journal (Reno, Nevada), October 15, 1901. Available at Newspapers.com (subscription required).

9. Nevada State Journal (Reno, Nevada), April 22, 1906. Available at Newspapers.com (subscription required).

10. Reno Gazette-Journal (Reno, Nevada), July 3, October 22, 1906. Available at Newspapers.com (subscription required).

11. Nevada State Journal (Reno, Nevada), December 11, 1907. Available at Newspapers.com (subscription required).

12. Nevada State Journal (Reno, Nevada), January 6 and 22, 1908. Available at Newspapers.com (subscription required).

13. Reno Gazette-Journal (Reno, Nevada), July 31 and August 20, 1908. Available at Newspapers.com (subscription required).

14. Reno Gazette-Journal (Reno, Nevada), September 4, 1909. Available at Newspapers.com (subscription required).

15. Reno Gazette-Journal (Reno, Nevada), June 18, 1910. Available at Newspapers.com (subscription required).

16. Reno Gazette-Journal (Reno, Nevada), March 14 and 31, 1911. Available at Newspapers.com (subscription required).

17. Nevada State Journal (Reno, Nevada), February 2, 1913. Available at Newspapers.com (subscription required).

18. Harmon M. The Twentieth Century Club. No date. Available at the Reno Historical Preservation Society.

19. Community Foundation of Western Nevada. Twentieth Century Club Looks Ahead to 2100. Available at NevadaFund.org.

20. Reno Gazette-Journal (Reno, Nevada), Feb 25, 1914. Available at Newspapers.com (subscription required).

21. Reno Gazette-Journal (Reno, Nevada), February 7, 1914. Available at Newspapers.com (subscription required).

22. Anonymous. Nevada Suffrage. Available at Women in Nevada History.

23. Nevada State Journal (Reno, Nevada), May 5, 1915. Available at Newspapers.com (subscription required).

24. Nevada State Journal (Reno, Nevada), September 28, 1915. Available at Newspapers.com (subscription required).

25. Reno Gazette-Journal (Reno, Nevada), May 24, 1915. Available at Newspapers.com (subscription required).

26. Starbuck L. Commemorating Women's Suffrage in Nevada. November 29, 2019. Available at KUNR.org.

27. Reno Gazette-Journal (Reno, Nevada), March 6, 1915. Available at Newspapers.com (subscription required).

28. Nevada State Journal (Reno, Nevada), April 1, 1915. Available at Newspapers.com (subscription required).

29. Reno Gazette-Journal (Reno, Nevada), April 2, 1915. Available at Newspapers.com (subscription required).

30. Nevada State Journal (Reno, Nevada), May 5, 1915. Available at Newspapers.com (subscription required).

31. Reno Gazette-Journal (Reno, Nevada), May 6, 1915. Available at Newspapers.com (subscription required).

32. Reno Gazette-Journal (Reno, Nevada), May 24, 1915. Available at Newspapers.com (subscription required).

33. Reno Gazette-Journal (Reno, Nevada), June 1, 1915. Available at Newspapers.com (subscription required).

34. Reno Gazette-Journal (Reno, Nevada), June 3, 1915. Available at Newspapers.com (subscription required).

35. Tonopah Daily Bonanza (Tonopah, Nevada), September 10, 1915. Available at Newspapers.com (subscription required).

36. Reno Gazette-Journal (Reno, Nevada), September 28, 1915. Available at Newspapers.com (subscription required).

37. Reno Gazette-Journal (Reno, Nevada), September 29, 1915. Available at Newspapers.com (subscription required).

38. Yerington Times (Yerington, Nevada), April 15, 1916. Available at Newspapers.com (subscription required).

39. Reno Gazette-Journal (Reno, Nevada), April 20, 1916. Available at Newspapers.com (subscription required).

40. Reno Gazette-Journal (Reno, Nevada), August 2, 1916. Available at Newspapers.com (subscription required).

41. Reno Gazette-Journal (Reno, Nevada), August 14, 1916. Available at Newspapers.com (subscription required).

42. Nevada State Journal (Reno, Nevada), August 29, 1916. Available at Newspapers.com (subscription required).

43. Nevada State Journal (Reno, Nevada), August 30, 1916. Available at Newspapers.com (subscription required).

44. Reno Gazette-Journal (Reno, Nevada), November 14, 1917. Available at Newspapers.com (subscription required).

45. 1917 Timeline. Women of Protest: Photographs from the Records of the National Woman's Party. Available at the Library of Congress.

46. Capace N. Encyclopedia of Nevada, a Volume of the Encyclopedia of the United States. Somerset Publishers, Inc.: Santa Barbara, California, 2000. Segments available at Google Books.

47. The Journal of the Senate of the Thirtieth Session of the Legislature of the State of Nevada, 1921. State Printing Office: Carson City, Nevada, 1921.

48. 1920 Statutes of Nevada, 4th Special Session. Laws of the State of Nevada Passed at the Special Session of the Legislature, 1920. Available at the Nevada Legislature.

49. Nevada State Journal (Reno, Nevada), May 25, 1924. Available at Newspapers.com (subscription required).

50. Mason Valley News (Yerington, Nevada), March 18, 1932. Available at Newspapers.com (subscription required).

51. Reno Gazette-Journal (Reno, Nevada), May 20, 1932. Available at Newspapers.com (subscription required).

52. New York Times (New York, New York), September 30, 1928. Available at the New York Times (subscription required).

53. Nevada State Journal, Reno, Nevada, February 8, 1933. Available at Newspapers.com (subscription required).

54. Nevada State Journal (Reno, Nevada), January 12, 1944. Available at Newspapers.com (subscription required).

55. Nevada State Journal (Reno, Nevada), October 15, 1950. Available at Newspapers.com (subscription required).

56. Nevada Death Certificates, 1911-1965. Nevada Department of Health: Carson City. Available at Ancestry.com.

https://unrspecoll.pastperfectonline.com/photo/B7538089-EE04-4977-BE80-612255903465

 

[Caption] "Minnie Flanigan with a Bush" in 1914. Image courtesy of University Libraries, University of Nevada, Reno.

back to top