Biographical Sketch of Katharine Collison

Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890–1920

Biography of Katharine Collison, 1868- ?

By Chelsey Moore, undergraduate, Rosemont College

Katharine Collison was born on October 13, 1868, in Philadelphia, although her parents resided in Delaware. She was the daughter of Katherine Morton Collison and Edward Collison. In 1892, Edward Collison, the head bookkeeper at the DuPont powder factory, was killed in an explosion. After his death, Katherine Collison and her mother lived abroad from 1897 to 1903. Upon her return to the US, Collison attended the University of Pennsylvania as a part-time student of sociology from 1909–1911. She never married and did not have any children. Her death date is unknown.

Historical sources provide details of Collison's involvement in the suffrage cause for a relatively brief time span. She served as state officer in the Pennsylvania Woman Suffrage Association from 1909 to 1911, although accounts conflict as to whether she was only the corresponding secretary or also elected recording secretary. In 1912 she attended the NAWSA annual meeting in Baltimore as a member of the Philadelphia delegation. There she participated in a suffrage parade and pageant. In 1912, when the PWSA headquarters moved to Harrisburg, the elected officers were drawn from the western half of the state, and Collison no longer appears in accounts of suffrage activism. However, as she is listed as a participant in a suffrage pageant in Philadelphia in 1920, it seems she may have remained active in the movement, albeit not in a position of formal leadership. After the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment, Collison became a member of the League of Women Voters.

In addition to her suffrage work, Collison was a member of the Home and School League, giving tours at a Philadelphia infant welfare exhibition in 1912. In the 1930s and 1940s, she gave music lessons and remained active in civic organizations, serving as secretary of the Mantua Neighborhood Association. Following her mother's death in 1939, Collison returned to Delaware. In 1954–1955, she was the subject of an oral history interview by the Hagley Museum that focused on her childhood at the DuPont plant. In this interview, she mentioned that her father took her to the polls as a child, and she felt certain he would have supported woman suffrage.

Sources:

Information about Collision can be found in University of Pennsylvania Bulletin (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania, 1900); National American Woman Suffrage Association, Proceedings of the Annual Convention of the National American Woman Suffrage Association (Washington, DC: National American Woman Suffrage Association, 1893); Katherine Collison interview with Joseph P. Monigle and Norman B. Wilkinson, 1954–1955, Hagley Digital Archives, https://digital.hagley.org/1970370_62713_collison; and newspapers including the Harrisburg Daily Independent, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Harrisburg Telegram, Philadelphia Inquirer, Evening Public Ledger, and New York Times.

back to top