Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Minerva C. Babb, 1861-1918
By Alex Fleet, Ph.D. student, and Liette Gidlow, associate prof., Wayne State University, Detroit, MI
Club Woman and Suffragist
Minerva Clough Babb was born at Jewell Farm near Columbia, Missouri on July 29, 1861. Her father, Albert W. Clough, was from Ohio and her mother, Phebe Isabelle Willis, was from Mississippi. In 1879, she graduated from Stephen's College and married William Jasper Babb, a farmer from South Carolina. They had three children in Missouri: Albert C. Babb in 1881, Minnie C. Babb in 1882, and Virginia C. Babb. In 1887, Minerva and her family moved to Wichita, Kansas where her husband became mayor and judge. In Kansas, Babb also gave birth to her final two children, Caroline Isabel Babb in 1889 and William Jasper Babb, Jr. in 1891.
Babb joined the First Baptist Church in Wichita in 1888. She performed in the church choir, organized women's meetings, and, by 1903, became president of the church's Woman's Mission Circle. In 1900, Fairmount College reopened its women's dormitory, Holyoke Cottage, and Babb served as one of its board members. In February, 1906, she organized an art exhibit for Fairmount College and in October she became vice-president of the school's Library Club. Believing in the importance of children growing up in a positive environment, she gave a speech on the problems of the juvenile court system in April, 1907. She also argued in November 1909 that the environment in which children grew up in was more influential than their inherited traits. She also participated in conservation efforts. In 1910, she joined the board of the Audubon Society of Kansas and worked to pass laws against hunting particular birds.
In January 1912, the Kansas Equal Suffrage Association established a district office in Sedgwick County and Babb became president of the District. In February she began working to establish ties with local social groups, submitting a resolution to the Southern Kansas Teachers Association to endorse women's suffrage. When suffragist Jane Addams visited Wichita in May, Babb helped organize her welcoming party and public events. Ida Husted Harper reported that at the state convention for the Equal Suffrage Association in May, Babb gave an opening speech and was reelected as Eighth district's president. Defending suffragists against the charge that their movement threatened the family, the Wichita Beacon quoted Babb in July stating that "such is eminently not the case. What suffragists want, and this applies to the thoughtful club women as well, is the appointment of suitable nurseries or care stations in charge of competent nurses, where women may leave their children while they go about their business of voting or wage earning." For Babb, economic issues were also women's issues. She explained that if child care was available, "there would not be the economic limit there is now on the size of families, and the proper function of women in the government of the state could be attended to without interference by primitive domestic duties. Man long ago got rid of his petty household cares; why not woman as well?" Babb believed that voting was an important step in promoting equality between men and women, but clearly felt that women's economic equality was just as necessary.
As the 1912 state referendum on women's suffrage in Kansas drew near, Babb devoted much of her time to campaigning and canvassing. In July, she began visiting neighboring towns and cities, such as Mulvane, to advocate for women's right to vote before large audiences. She helped organize an Equal Suffrage Day celebration on October 4, 1912 to advertise the importance of the vote. On the day of the vote, November 5, she made sure to advocate for women's suffrage outside the Fourth ward voting booth of Wichita, helping to ensure that women would successfully gain the right to vote in Kansas.
After women won suffrage in Kansas, Babb continued her political activity. In January 1913, she began work as superintendent of the Juvenile Court Department for Sedgwick County for the Woman's Christian Temperance Union. In 1913 the Eighth district of the Equal Suffrage Association became the Sedgwick County Good Citizenship League. Babb continued her work with it, helping to establish a new constitution and bylaws to promote "good citizenship" among the people of the county. She also served on a committee in 1915 that investigated the issuance of pensions to widowed mothers and helped several women receive monthly pensions for support.
Babb passed away on June 13, 1918 from illness. In her obituary, the Wichita Daily Eagle described her as having lived "a beautiful Christian life of service and devotion." Babb, the paper noted, was "known among her many friends as a gracious, intellectual and tender- hearted woman," and had "identified herself with the educational, political and spiritual progress of the city."
"An Equal Suffrage Day," The Wichita Beacon, September 27, 1912, p. 3. Kansas Historical Open Content website.
"At Fairmount College," The Wichita Daily Eagle, October 7, 1906, p. 14. Kansas Historical Open Content website.
"Baptist Mission Circle," The Wichita Daily Eagle, March 1, 1893, p. 8. Kansas Historical Open Content website.
"Give an Art Exhibit," The Wichita Beacon, February 8, 1906, p. 5. Kansas Historical Open Content website.
Harper, Ida Husted, ed. History of Woman Suffrage, Volume VI (1900-1920). National American Woman Suffrage Association, 1922. [LINK]
"Holyoke Reorganized," The Wichita Daily Eagle, January 18, 1900, p. 5. Kansas Historical Open Content website.
"In Club Circles," The Evening Kansas-Republican, November 9, 1909, p. 8. Kansas Historical Open Content website.
"It was a Hummer," The Wichita Daily Eagle, June 27, 1901, p. 5. Kansas Historical Open Content website.
"Juvenile Court Work," The Wichita Beacon, January 10, 1913, p. 3. Kansas Historical Open Content website.
"Lawn Social," The Wichita Daily Eagle, page 5, August 15, 1888, p. 5. Kansas Historical Open Content website.
"Mrs. Aley Hostess," The Wichita Daily Eagle, April 4, 1907, p. 9. Kansas Historical Open Content website.
"Mrs. W. J. Babb Prominent Club Woman is Dead," The Wichita Daily Eagle, June 14, 1918, p. 6. Kansas Historical Open Content website.
"No Place to Leave Babies," The Wichita Beacon, July 06, 1912, p. 10. Kansas Historical Open Content website.
"No Suffrage Action," The Wichita Beacon, February 24, 1912, p. 19. Kansas Historical Open Content website.
"Pensions to Five Mothers," The Wichita Daily Eagle, November 17, 1915, p. 10. Kansas Historical Open Content website.
"Prominent Wichita Women to Entertain Miss Adams," The Wichita Daily Eagle, May 02, 1912, p. 12. Kansas Historical Open Content website.
"Suffragists Invade Mulvane." The Wichita Daily Eagle. July 21, 1912, p. 5. Kansas Historical Open Content website.
"Suffragists Meet Today," The Wichita Daily Eagle, June 12, 1913, p. 5. Kansas Historical Open Content website.
"To Pension 10 Mothers," The Wichita Daily Eagle, November 10, 1915, p. 2. Kansas Historical Open Content website.
"To Protect the Birds," The Ottawa Daily Republic, March 5, 1910, p. 5. Kansas Historical Open Content website.
"Two Clubs Formed," The Wichita Daily Eagle, page 2, January 27, 1912. Kansas Historical Open Content website.
U.S. Bureau of the Census. Thirteenth Census of the United States, 1910, Population. MyHeritage.com website.
"Wichita Colleges," The Wichita Daily Eagle, page 14, November 3, 1901. Kansas Historical Open Content website.