Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Hattie Elizabeth (Mrs. Aylett) Cotton, 1854-1921
By Kristen Thomas-McGill, PhD student in History at the University of California, Santa Barbara
Founder and president of the California Club (1905-06); president of the Woman's Auxiliary of the Society of California Pioneers (1911); member of Clubwomen's Franchise League delegate to Central Campaign Committee (1911)
Hattie Elizabeth Walker was born in Williamsport, Pennsylvania on October 7, 1854 to Joseph Thompson Walker and Anna Mary (Steuart) Walker. She was educated in public schools in Davenport, Iowa, and married Aylett Rains Cotton (1826-1912) in Clinton, Iowa on November 20, 1873. She had three children: Aylett Rains Cotton, Jr. (1874-1965), Steuart Walker Cotton (1878-1915), and Claudine Cotton (1886-1976). Hattie Cotton died at the Children's Hospital of San Francisco on March 11, 1921 after a brief respiratory illness. She is interred in Woodlawn Cemetery in Colma, California with her husband, her son Steuart, and her granddaughter Claudine Cotton Muller (1909-1940). She was a Presbyterian and a Republican.
At the time of her marriage to Aylett Rains Cotton, he was serving as the Republican Congressman for Iowa's second district, a position which he held until 1875. In 1883, the Cottons moved west to San Francisco, where Aylett Rains Cotton practiced law and Hattie Cotton became involved in civic and social organizations as her children grew older.
Cotton was active in the 1896 Sixth Amendment effort to extend the franchise to California women, chairing the local Susan B. Anthony Club from her home, which Anna Howard Shaw and Susan B. Anthony herself visited. After the failure of the Sixth Amendment, she continued her community involvement through her work with the California Club. Under her leadership, the California Club built a three-story, $25,000 clubhouse on Clay Street in San Francisco that opened in the autumn of 1905. Just months later, the clubhouse burned in the aftermath of the 1906 earthquake.
As a member of the Clubwomen's Franchise League, Cotton renewed her work for women's suffrage following as part of the 1911 suffrage movement. She and other League members campaigned that summer at the California State Fair in Sacramento, and she served as the Clubwomen's Franchise League's delegate to the regional Central Campaign Committee, which coordinated the efforts of Bay Area suffrage groups. Following the achievement of women's suffrage in California, Cotton remained active in San Francisco and California civic groups. She served a director of the Women's Board of the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition, having advocated for San Francisco's hosting of a world's fair as early as 1910.
"California Club's New Home." The Architect and Engineer of California 3, no. 1 (November 1905): 27-30. https://books.google.com/books?id=1rRCAQAAMAAJ.
"COTTON, Hattie Elizabeth." In Woman's Who's Who of America: A Biographical Dictionary of Contemporary Women of the United States and Canada, 1914-1915, Volume A-D, edited by John William Leonard, 191. New York, NY: American Commonwealth Company, 1914.
Miller, Mary Ashe. "Fair Grounds a Battlefield For Equality." San Francisco Call, August 27, 1911.
"Mrs. Aylett Cotton, Club and Social Leader, Succumbs: Noted San Francisco Woman Dies in Hospital After Brief Illness." San Francisco Chronicle (1869-Current File), March 12, 1921. https://search.proquest.com/docview/574928425?accountid=14522.
Powers, Laura Bride. "Home of California Club is Nearly Finished." San Francisco Call, August 19, 1905.