Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Katherine Rutledge Covington, 1874-1958
By Mona Vance-Ali, Archivist, Columbus-Lowndes Public Library, Columbus, Mississippi
Woman Suffrage Activist
Katherine Rutledge Covington was born on February 7, 1874, to William and Nancy Easterling Rutledge in Mount Caramel, Mississippi. She attended Whitworth Female College in Brookhaven. She married Samuel Maurice "Sam" Covington on June 8, 1898, at her alma mater. Afterward, they moved to his hometown of Summit, Mississippi, where he worked as a druggist from 1898 until 1943. They had one son, William Rutledge Covington, who was born in 1906.
Covington pushed for social reform in Mississippi relating to many issues including women's suffrage, prohibition, public education, public libraries, public health, and equal pay discrimination. She advocated by meeting with legislators, writing to newspapers, and working through clubs and organizations such as the Mississippi Federation of Women's Clubs (MFWC) and the League of Women Voters.
Covington saw the cause for women's suffrage as an opportunity to reform politics. In 1920, Covington wrote a letter to the members of the MFWC that was later published in the Vardaman Weekly newspaper in which she said, "We women want the ballot, not as an ornament, but to enable us to help put into office such candidates as will look on public office as a sacred trust. It is our ambition that women shall purify, not merely increase the volume of the stream of politics."
She made numerous trips to the state capital to meet with legislators regarding women's suffrage and social concerns. Prior to the vote to ratify the Federal Suffrage Amendment, Covington spent twelve consecutive days in Jackson meeting with legislators advocating for the Amendment.
In anticipation of the Amendment's ratification, Covington was appointed to a committee with the Mississippi Suffrage Association to draft the constitution for a newly created Mississippi League of Women Voters.
Mississippi, however, failed to ratify the 19th Amendment on March 29, 1920.
Even after 1920, Covington continued to publicly hold state legislators accountable for not voting for women's suffrage. During Martin S. "Mike" Conner's 1927 bid for the Governorship, Covington wrote him a letter challenging his stance on the 19th Amendment. Conner responded in the Clarion-Ledger newspaper on June 29, admitting that he had not supported the amendment because he was "a State Rights Democrat and opposed to the federal government telling us who shall vote in our elections in Mississippi...." Conner lost that election.
Much of Covington's efforts towards social reform in Mississippi were made possible through her involvement with the Mississippi Federation of Women's Clubs. She served as State Secretary before becoming President from 1920-1922. Following her time as Club President, she served as State Secretary, State Chairman of the Legislation Committee, State Chairman of the Education Committee, Chair of the Hebron Memorial Scholarship, and State Parliamentarian.
Covington was also member of the Prohibition Campaign for the Anti-Saloon League of America, the Aspasia Club, the Contract Bridge Club, the Summit Literary Club, the Climber's Club, the Summit Garden and Civic Club, and the Flower Lovers Club.
Covington died on January 19, 1958, and is buried in Woodlawn Cemetery in Summit.
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"Additional Local." The Leader, June 1, 1898.
"Contract Club Met Friday in Magnolia." McComb Daily Journal, April 14, 1937.
Covington, Katherine R. "Jubilee Echoes." Enterprise-Journal, January 27. 1950.
Find A Grave, "Katherine Covington," https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/8066921/katherine-covington (Accessed June 2019).
Find A Grave, "Nancy Easterling Rutledge," https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/40191482/nancy-rutledge (Accessed June 2019).
"Garden, Civil Club of Summit's Regular Meeting Held Friday." Enterprise-Journal, January 16, 1947.
Hardy, J.C., Mrs. "Appeal to Women to Register." Vardaman's Weekly, October 7, 1920.
Harper, Ida Husted, et al., eds. The History of Woman Suffrage. Vol. VI (1900-1920). N.p.: National American Woman Suffrage Association, 1922, pp. 334, 337. [LINK]
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Mike Conner Makes Answer." Clarion-Ledger, "June 29, 1927.
"Mississippi Club Women Asked to Support Bill." Semi-Weekly Leader, December 6, 1919.
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"Miss. Women Indorse Fight for Prohibition."Oxford Eagle, January 8, 1920.
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"To Form League of Women Voters." Greenwood Daily Commonwealth, March 23, 1920.