Biographical Sketch of Adelaide Mary Haley Johnson

Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920

Biography of Adelaide Mary Haley Johnson, 1850-1902

By Abigail Salings, undergraduate student, University of Missouri, Columbia

President of the National American Woman Suffrage Association's (NAWSA) Missouri branch, St. Louis; president of the Missouri Equal Suffrage Association; member of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union; St. Louis Humane Society; Clotho Club

Adelaide 'Addie' Mary Haley was born in Kalamazoo, Michigan, in 1850 to Rachel and Thomas Jefferson Haley. Addie Haley married Harlow A. Cross on December 15, 1871, in Kalamazoo. The couple did not have children. As a widow, Addie Cross married Edward P. Johnson on August 10, 1876, also in Kalamazoo. Although Addie and Edward Johnson did not have children, Edward had three from a previous marriage. The Johnsons lived in St. Louis, Missouri, where Edward Johnson was an attorney.

In May 1879, Addie M. Johnson called to order a suffrage meeting that created a constitution for the St. Louis Women's National Suffrage Association: Susan B. Anthony chaired the meeting, and Virginia Minor was elected the group's president. Johnson participated in suffrage activities throughout the 1880s. From 1890 to 1899 and 1901 to 1902, she served as president of the Missouri branch of the National American Woman Suffrage Association. The Missouri branch was also called the Missouri Equal Suffrage Association before it was renamed the Equal Suffrage League.

In May 1896, the Missouri Equal Suffrage Association had internal disagreements that were making the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The St. Louis Equal Suffrage Club, under the leadership of Victoria Conkling Whitney, challenged Addie Johnson, president of the Missouri state suffrage association. The tensions continued in June, when the Missouri Equal Suffrage Association called a convention in St. Louis. Whitney's St. Louis-based faction claimed to represent the state, and the Johnsonites maintained their organization. While the feud continued, the national convention meeting in Des Moines, Iowa, in January 1897, recognized the Johnson's group as the state branch for Missouri.

In addition to suffrage, Addie M. Johnson also engaged with other community organizations in St. Louis, including the Clotho Club (a cloth weaving/spinning club), the Golden Chain Humane Society, a committee supporting children's playgrounds, and the Woman's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU). In January 1902, Johnson joined WCTU women in challenging the St. Louis police board's efforts to create a red light district. At one meeting, Johnson proposed different lines for such a place in the city, but at the next meeting, she opposed the entire proposal of creating such a district.

On September 8, 1902, Adelaide M. Johnson died of suicide at her home in St. Louis. She was known in her social circles to hold controversial, positive views of suicide. Johnson viewed suicide as a way to end one's life of their own volition when they have outlived their purpose and usefulness. In fact, members of the Clotho Club defended her actions in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, claiming that Johnson "was quite sane" in her decision to end her life. Her physician, Kate M. Beall, responded in the paper, emphasizing the distress faced by Johnson as well as her struggles with mental health. In 1897, Johnson had suffered a dog bite and lived in fear of rabies, traveling to New York for treatment. Friends theorized that her mental issues, the stresses of leading her organizations, and the added paranoia of the dog bite, all proved to be too much for her. Addie Johnson was buried at Mountain Home Cemetery in Kalamazoo, Michigan.


Beall, Kate. "Mrs. Johnson's Mind Unsound." St. Louis Post-Dispatch. September 20, 1902.

"Behind Closed Doors." St. Louis Post-Dispatch. February 3, 1897.

"Bitten by Pet Dog." St. Louis Post-Dispatch. July 2, 1897.

"Declare Suicide Was Quite Sane." St. Louis Post-Dispatch. September 18, 1902.

"Did Not Want Her Body Embalmed." St. Louis Post-Dispatch. September 9, 1902.

Find a Grave. Addie M. Haley Johnson. October 21, 2008.

"The Good Fruits." St. Louis Post-Dispatch. May 14, 1879.

Harper, Ida Husted, ed. "Missouri." Chapter 24 in History of Woman Suffrage, vol. 6: 1900-1920, pp. 352-69. New York: National American Woman Suffrage Association, 1922. [LINK]

Harper, Ida Husted and Susan B. Anthony, ed. "Missouri." Chapter 49 in History of Woman Suffrage, vol. 4: 1883-1900, pp. 966-71. Rochester: Privately published, 1902. [LINK]

"The Ladies are Full of Wrath." St. Louis Post-Dispatch. May 15, 1896.

Michigan, County Marriage Records, 1822-1940. Addie Haley Cross and Edward P. Johnson, August 10, 1876, Kalamazoo, MI. Ancestry Library.

Michigan, County Marriage Records, 1822-1940. May Adalade Haley and Harlow A. Cross, December 15, 1871, Kalamazoo, MI. Ancestry Library.

"Mrs. E.P. Johnson Commits Suicide." St. Louis Post-Dispatch. September 8, 1902.

"Mrs. Johnson Victorious." St. Louis Post-Dispatch. February 1, 1897.

"Segregation Is Opposed." St. Louis Post-Dispatch. January 23, 1902.

"She Fears Hydrophobia." Inter Ocean (Chicago). July 3, 1897.

"Suffragists Still at War." St. Louis Post-Dispatch. June 16, 1896.

"Suggestions to Segregate." St. Louis Post-Dispatch. January 16, 1902.

"Thanked God She Could End Life." St. Louis Post-Dispatch. September 19, 1902.

United States Census, 1850,1860, 1870 s.v. "Adelaide Haley, Kalamazoo, MI." Ancestry Library.

United States Census, 1880, 1900, s.v. "Addie M. Johnson, St. Louis, MO." Ancestry Library.

"Woman Suffragists Demand a Plank." St. Louis Post-Dispatch. June 28, 1896.

"Woman, Woman, Lovely Woman." St. Louis Dispatch. June 15, 1896.

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