Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890–1920
Biography of Kate Trimble Woolsey, 1858–1936
By Paul A. Tenkotte, PhD, Professor of History, Northern Kentucky University
Internationally known women's rights leader and author; speaker at 1908 NAWSA convention in Buffalo, 1908
Kate Trimble Woolsey (1858-1936) was born in Cynthiana, Kentucky in 1858, the daughter of prominent parents, William W. (1821-1886) and Mary Barlow Trimble (1831-1912). Kate was raised in Covington, Kentucky, where her father served as a judge. Her mother was a well-known Kentucky suffragist and a charter member of the Kenton County Equal Rights Association. In 1894, the Trimble Home hosted Susan B. Anthony (1820–1906) and Harriet Taylor Upton (1853–1945) while they attended a suffrage convention in Cincinnati, Ohio, opposite the Ohio River from Covington.
Trimble attended the University of Michigan law school in 1880, but she left before earning a degree. She may have left to marry. In 1881, she wed Eugene de Roode (1857-1887) of Lexington, Kentucky. The couple had one child, a son Trimble de Roode, who later became a noted inventor. Following Eugene's death in 1887, Kate remarried in 1893. Her second husband was Edward J. Woolsey (1842–1895) of New York City. Despite Woolsey's wealth, he was a recent divorcee, so the marriage was considered rather unconventional for the time period. The Woolseys had New York City homes on Lexington Avenue and on Washington Square, a summer house at Astoria, and a farm at Lenox, Massachusetts.
Kate Trimble Woolsey's views were also unconventional for her era. She was a eugenicist, believing that science could be used to engineer better babies. Men, she felt, had reshaped the world of matriarchal societies into male-dominated patriarchies. In an article appearing in the New York Evening World in June 1912, she stated that: "I am a suffragist, but I know suffrage is only a part of the changes to come. Great mechanical inventions of the future will free women from the thraldom of housework and the home. She will resume her natural place in life. She will be the 'female of the species,' with all the rights of the female, and the most important right is that of choosing the father of the ideal baby."
Kate Trimble Woolsey ardently believed that biologically, women and men shared many similarities. Gender roles were merely learned, not inherited, the result of centuries of social constructs. Hence, she believed that women were fully entitled to equal rights under the US Constitution. In a book regarded as controversial for its day, Republics versus Women (1903), she asserted that the aristocracies of Europe were actually more progressive in terms of women's rights than the world's republics, including the United States.
Woolsey's wealth and prestige allowed her to travel back-and-forth between Covington, New York City, and Europe, on behalf of women's rights. By 1911 or so, she had transitioned to full-time residency in New York.
Kate Trimble Woolsey attended many women's conventions throughout Europe and the United States. She delivered a keynote speech entitled "Has Democracy Benefited Womankind?" at the 40th annual NAWSA convention in Buffalo in 1908. Woolsey and Marie Curie (1867-1934) were the only women delegates at the International Free Thought Congress in Brussels in 1910. New York Governor William Sulzer appointed Woolsey as official representative to the General Assembly of the International Institute of Agriculture in Rome, Italy in 1913.
Woolsey lived for many years at the Imperial Hotel in Manhattan, New York City. She died in Manhattan on August 10, 1936. She was buried in Battle Grove Cemetery in Cynthiana, Kentucky.
Paul A. Tenkotte, James C. Claypool, and David E. Schroeder, eds. Gateway City: Covington, Kentucky, 1815–2015 (Covington, KY: Clerisy Press, 2015).
Paul A. Tenkotte and James C. Claypool, eds. The Encyclopedia of Northern Kentucky (Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 2009).
Calendar of the University of Michigan for 1880-1881 (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan, 1881), accessed September 1, 2019,
Nixola Greeley-Smith, "The Ideal Husband? Only the Unmarried Girl Talks of Him—Why?—Because He is a Myth!" The Evening World [New York], June 1, 1912.