Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920

Biography of Fanny/Fannie Harrison Hays, 1863-1930

by Kate Byars, student, University of Kentucky

Fanny Harrison was born on January 8, 1863 to Samuel H. Harrison and Josephine Taylor Harrison in Kentucky. She married James D. Hays at the First Baptist Church of Owensboro on October 20, 1880. J. D. was beginning his career in the wholesale farm supply business and their wedding announcement described Fanny as a "charming specimen of true womanhood." After their marriage, they relocated to Kansas City, Missouri. By 1895, however, the couple moved back to Owensboro. The Hayses had two sons, James and Wallace, and two daughters, May and Jesse. James became a Sergeant Major in the U.S. Army and served at Verdun during World War I. May was a very talented vocalist who often performed around the area.

In Owensboro, Fanny Hays was thoroughly involved in the community. She had a fondness for literature and theater. She hosted many theater parties and served as the Owensboro Shakespeare Club's critic. Likewise, she was an officer of the Married Ladies Reading Club of Owensboro. Hays was also involved in many volunteer organizations. She was a founding member and the Treasurer of the Owensboro Anti-Tuberculosis League. After becoming President of the League in 1917, Hays led an unsuccessful effort to build a tuberculosis sanatorium in Owensboro.

During World War I, Hays and her husband became devoted Red Cross members. She spoke at many War Bond drives, sold seals for the Daviess County Red Cross, and directed the Social Welfare committee. Under her leadership, the committee sent a Christmas gift to every Owensboro soldier in 1917. By 1918, she was the Vice President, a member of the Executive Committee, and Chairman of Woman's Work. Hays resigned the positions in June 1918 due to poor health, but quickly returned as Vice Chairman and Chairman of Woman's Work in 1919.

Like many suffragists, Hays was an active member of the local Woman's Club. She was one of the Owensboro chapter's founding members and served as its first Treasurer. In 1909 and 1910, she served as local President and went as a delegate to the State Convention. She also served as local First Vice President, a member of the Committee on Homes, and in the Industrial and Child Labor Department. Hays was a skilled speaker and The Owensboro Messenger and The Owensboro Inquirer often praised her speeches for the Woman's Club and the Red Cross. She was the vice president of the local Woman's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) and spoke at its district meeting in 1915 on the relation of woman suffrage to prohibition. In 1917, she was elected president of the WCTU.

Hays was a long-time proponent of woman suffrage. Despite the fact that most women entered suffrage work through the WCTU or Woman's Club, Hays was involved in suffrage many years before she became prominent in other women's organizations. She was an original member of the Political Equality Club of Owensboro, which formed in 1895 to promote women's involvement in politics. Unfortunately, the club dissolved shortly afterward. In 1897, she became the Superintendent of Literature for the Kentucky Equal Rights Association (KERA), a position she held until 1899. After taking a step back from suffrage involvement for several years, she became a founding member and Treasurer of the Owensboro Equal Rights Association in 1913. Her husband was one of the first to turn in a membership card. In 1914, KERA elected her Third Vice President and in 1915 and 1916 she served as its Recording Secretary.

In 1921, Hays' health was declining. She was frequently hospitalized over the next several years. Fanny Hays died of heart failure on March 22, 1930, aged 67. She is buried in Rosehill-Elmwood Cemetery in Owensboro.


Frances Harrison Hays in the U.S., Find A Grave Index, 1600s-Current.

The Messenger and Examiner
"Hays-Harrison" October 27, 1880

1880 U. S. Census,

1910 U. S. Census,

The Owensboro Inquirer:
"Reading Club Elects Officers" April 25, 1915
"Last Chance of Workers Fails" March 11, 1917
"Red Cross Loses Good Chairmen" June 7, 1918
"History Notable Work of Daviess County Red Cross" May 25, 1919
"Red Cross Seal Sale on Tuesday" December 1, 1919
"Fifteenth Annual Meeting of Federation Women's Clubs" June 6, 1909
"Woman's Club Officers Installed" April 11, 1915
"Fine Program of Woman's Club for Coming Year" September 5, 1915
"W. C. T. U. Elects Officers" September 10, 1915
"Snap Shots at Home News" December 3, 1895
"Officers Named by Suffragists" November 12, 1915
"Local Dashes" February 27, 1921

The Owensboro Messenger:
"Capital of $75,000 T J. Turley Company Will Incorporate This Morning," December 21, 1904
"Letter from Jas. Hays" December 28, 1918
"Whiting-Hays Nuptials" October 24, 1909
"Shakespeare Club" October 10, 1915
"Theatre Party" October 22, 1916
"For Mrs. Hays" February 10, 1921
"Action of City Causes Much Joy to Members of O'boro Anti-Tuberculosis Association" May 17, 1916
"Republicans on Council Block Sanatorium" February 8, 1917
"Red Cross Is Bright Star of Hope for Soldiers" December 18, 1917
"Woman's Club to Have a Reception" October 13, 1933
"Enthusiasm is Being Shown by Local Women" April 15, 1917
"Program Ready for Meeting of Women's Clubs," November 12, 1916
"All-Day Session of Woman's Club" November 17, 1916
"Solicitors for City and County Are Selected" December 14, 1917
"Suffragist in Address Before District W. C. T. U." July 2, 1915
"Mrs. W. H. Conant is Elected President of the W. C. T. U." September 8, 1915
"Many Members Are Secured" April 29, 1913
"Mrs. J. D. Hays" March 20, 1930

Kentucky Equal Rights Association, Journals of the Ninth Annual Convention, Held at Guild Hall, Trinity Church, Covington, KY, October 14 and 15, 1897, and the Tenth Annual Convention, Held at Court House, Richmond, KY, December 1, 1898 (London, KY: Mountain Echo, [1899]), 41, University of Kentucky Special Collection Research Center (UKSCRC).

Minutes of the Eleventh Annual Convention of the Kentucky Equal Rights Association, December 11th and 12th, Held at Merrick Lodge, Lexington, Ky., [1899], UKSCRC.

Report of the Twenty-Eight and Twenty-Ninth Annual Conventions of the Kentucky Equal Rights Association, Held at Lexington, Kentucky, November 30 and December 1, 1917, and Louisville, Kentucky, March 11th and 12th, 1919 (n. p.), UKSCRC.

Report of the Twenty-Fourth Annual Convention of the Kentucky Equal Rights Association, Held at Louisville, Kentucky, November 20, 21 and 22, 1913 (Louisville: Westerfield-Bonte Co., [1914]), UKSCRC.

Report of the Twenty-Fifth Annual Convention of the Kentucky Equal Rights Association, Held at Owensboro, Kentucky, November 6, 7 and 8, 1914 (Louisville: C. T. Dearing Co., [1915]), UKSCRC.

Minutes of the Twenty-Sixth Annual Convention of the Kentucky Equal Rights Association, Held at Lexington, Kentucky, November 8, 9 and 10, 1915, (n. p.), UKSCRC.

Report of the Twenty-Seventh Annual Convention of the Kentucky Equal Rights Association, Held at Louisville, Kentucky, November 15 and 16, 1916 (n. p.), UKSCRC.

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