Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890–1920
Biography of Frances Mervy McMillan, 1873-1965
By Sally J. Price, technical writer: Roseville, CA
Activist in the Suffrage Movement
Frances Theodora Mervy was born in California in 1973 to Dr. Alphonse John Mervy (1847-1903) and Consuelo Trinidad Mervy (1849 -1939). She was raised in San Francisco CA, where her father was a well known doctor. Frances met George Washington McMillan, a law student and football player for Stanford University, in 1895 when he worked as librarian for the Oakland CA Bar Association. They married in 1896 after George had been recruited to play football for the famous Butte football team in Montana.
The young couple later moved to Portland, Oregon where George became a founding member of the Multnomah Amateur Athletic Club. Their daughter Consuelo Martha McMillan was born to them in Portland on Feb 3, 1899. Frances and George McMillan were active members of Portland society. Along with his athletic skill and support of the Multnomah club, George served as Deputy Sheriff under Sheriff Frazer for Multnomah County. In 1906 George started the McMillan Grain Company. On April 7, 1911 George McMillan was killed in a tragic train accident in Portland. So well known and beloved was he that the Daily Oregonian newspaper for April 8, 1911 featured a full column story on his passing on the front page and an additional three columns of details inside describing his life and history with the city of Portland. At age 38, Frances McMillan was now a widow and their daughter was just 12 years old.
In December 1911, Dr. Anna Howard Shaw, the national president of the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA), wrote a strong letter to some of the suffrage leaders in Oregon in which she criticized their apathy and lack of preparation for a campaign that was supposed to have begun in the previous summer. The letter eventually was shown to the Women's Club in Portland, an organization that had not previously taken an active part in working for the national suffrage movement. A motion was passed that the club would enter into the campaign, and club president Mrs. A. King Wilson was chosen to appoint a committee for this purpose.
Frances McMillan's involvement with women's suffrage began through the Woman's Club. In January 1912, she was appointed by club president Mrs. A. King Wilson to a committee through which the club would become active in the state suffrage movement. Appointed to the committee along with McMillan were Mrs. Fredrick Eggert, Mrs. William Fear, Dr. Esther Pohl Lovejoy, Mrs. Grace Watt Ross, Mrs. Sarah A. Evans, chairman; and Mrs. William Strandborg, secretary.
Initially, this committee waited on the State president for guidance. They submitted a plan in which various groups of women could coordinate and operate from one headquarters. The Portland Women's Club committee offered to assume all financial expense for this. The plan however was not approved, and the committee and other groups worked independently from the State organization.
Oregon had a unique history with the woman's suffrage movement. On the state level, the campaign for women's suffrage in Oregon began as early as 1870, and the issue was raised on the Oregon ballot six times (1884, 1900, 1906, 1908, 1910, and 1912), more than in any other state.
On November 5, 1912, 52% of the men of Oregon voted in favor of granting women the right to vote. While women across the country would have to wait until 1920 to vote in national elections, women in Oregon were permitted to vote in state elections eight years earlier.
Although not much direct information about Frances McMillan is known, her influence on her daughter is apparent in historical records. Consuelo McMillan was just 12 years old when her father passed away. Her name is mentioned in Portland society pages often in conjuction with art and music. By the 1920 census, they were living in the coastal town of Seaside. Consuelo McMillan attended Reed College in Portland. She was registered to vote on March 15, 1920 while attending college. In 1931, Consuelo McMillan married fellow Reed graduate Edward Payne Larrabee.
The first appearance of Frances McMillan's name in the voter registration files in Oregon is in the 1928 registration, though it is very possible that she voted much earlier. She passed away at the age of 92 in Oregon in 1965. She was buried with her parents, husband, and other family members in Mountain View Cemetery, Oakland CA.
"United States Census, 1880," database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:M6PX-H7T : 19 August 2017), Francese T Mervy in household of Alplonse Mervy, San Francisco, San Francisco, California, United States; citing enumeration district ED 199, sheet 51C, NARA microfilm publication T9 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.), FHL microfilm 1,254,078.
Morning Oregonian. (Portland, Or.) 1861-1937, April 08, 1911, Image 1 Front Page, Page 12, Image 12.
"Find A Grave Index,"Database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:QVKS-66CH : 13 December 2015),
Alphonse John Mervy, 1903; Burial, Oakland, Alameda, California, United States of America, Mountain View Cemetery; citing record ID 36856533, Find a Grave, http://www.findagrave.com.
"United States Census, 1910," database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MLYJ-Z1N : accessed 4 November 2019), George W Mcmillan, Portland Ward 4, Multnomah, Oregon, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) ED 150, sheet 14A, family 86, NARA microfilm publication T624 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1982), roll 1286; FHL microfilm 1,375,299.
"United States Census, 1920," database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:M4ZB-QP7 : accessed 4 November 2019), Frances McMillan, Seaside, Clatsop, Oregon, United States; citing ED 85, sheet 18A, line 37, family 480, NARA microfilm publication T625 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1992), roll 1492; FHL microfilm 1,821,492.
"Oregon, Multnomah County, voting registration records." Voting registration records, McFarlene to Magner (1992-022-02-0090), 1918-1958