Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of MARY KATE HUNTER, 1866-1945
By Claydeen Osborn Harrell
This entry has been republished with special permission from the Handbook of Texas Women, a project of the Handbook of Texas Online, Texas State Historical Association. https://tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fhu76. Accessed February 12, 2020.
HUNTER, MARY KATE (1866-1945). Mary Kate Hunter, suffragist, poet, and historian, daughter of Nathaniel Wyche and Jane Armistend (Beeson) Hunter, was born at Brushy Creek near Palestine, Texas, in 1866. She attended Palestine Female Academy, several other private schools, and Sam Houston State Teachers College (now Sam Houston State University) in Huntsville; she later studied music in Boston, Chicago, and Berlin. After a short stint teaching in the public schools of Palestine and Mexia, she returned to music and taught piano in Palestine until her retirement in 1941. She never married.
In 1894 she went as a delegate of the Palestine Self Culture Club, which she had helped to found, to the meeting of the Texas Federation of Women's Clubs. At that meeting the federation adopted the project of founding free public libraries in Texas cities. The Palestine Carnegie Library, now the Palestine Public Library, resulted from her efforts (see CARNEGIE LIBRARIES). She was a founder and the first president of the Palestine Equal Suffrage Association and was vice president of the Texas Equal Suffrage Association in 1915-16. In the latter role she made a tour of Texas organizing and lecturing for suffrage. After women were enfranchised she held classes to teach them voting procedures and methods of evaluating the candidates. She also turned her attention to civic affairs and chaired the Good Citizenship League, which obtained paved streets in residential areas and improved county roads.
In 1921 Hunter went to Washington, D.C., where she was selected to organize a local unit of the Woman's National Foundation. The unit was started at her home on November 15, 1921, with fifty-two charter members. The group's emphasis was the study of local history. The foundation amassed a file of early Anderson County newspapers and started a museum of historical relics in the Carnegie Library. In 1927 she organized the Fort Houston chapter of the Daughters of the Republic of Texas. The group started a collection of rare Texas history books and donated it to the Palestine Carnegie Library. Hunter did much research for a history of Anderson County, but the work was unfinished at her death. She served on the Texas State Library and Historical Commission (now the Texas State Library and Archives Commission) from October 31, 1919, until October 16, 1927. Through her efforts the State Library acquired the diary of Adolphus Sterne, which recounts life in East Texas from 1838 to 1851.
Kate Hunter published poetry in several well-known newspapers and magazines and was elected poet laureate of the Daughters of the Republic of Texas. A volume of her poetry, Vision, was published in 1936. She also was society editor in 1897-98 for the Palestine Sunday Daily Advocate. During this time she began an eight-page society and current events review known as The Observer. She was active in the Poetry Society of Texas and the Texas State Historical Association. At the time of her death on April 14, 1945, she was coordinating plans for the Palestine centennial celebration. The celebration, held the following year, was dedicated to her.
Claydeen Harrell, "Kate Hunter: Palestine's Guardian Angel," Texas Libraries 47 (Fall 1986). Notable Women of the Southwest (Dallas: Tardy, 1938). Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin. Who's Who of the Womanhood of Texas, Vol. 1 (Fort Worth: Texas Federation of Women's Clubs, 1923-24).