Biographical Sketch of Florence Hopper Rees

Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists 1890-1920

Biography of Florence Hopper Rees, 1876-1964

By Thomas Dublin, Distinguished Professor Emeritus, Binghamton University

Florence Hopper was born in Pennsylvania in 1876, the second of four children of Isaac and Elizabeth Hopper In 1880 the family lived in Titusville in western Pennsylvania and her father was employed as a jeweler. The family moved to California and the 1900 census found them residing in Los Angeles. She completed college and then, in June 1907, Florence married Kelley Rees, a Classics instructor at Yale. In 1910 they were living in New Haven, but a new job beckoned and the young family moved to Portland in 1912, where Kelley Rees taught Classics at Reed College.

Florence bore two children and became active in women's reform circles in the city. She joined the Civic Progress Circle at the college and gave a talk about the "Oregon System" in March 1913. This was the system, pioneered in Oregon and then adopted by over half the states, of choosing a state's United States senators by a primary election then confirmed by the state legislature. It was a Progressive reform that was superseded with the passage of the 17th Amendment providing for the direct election of senators. At Reed College, Florence served on a committee that produced a play to raise funds "Towards furnishing the women's building soon to be added to the college group." Florence also served on the educational committee of the YWCA in Portland and helped the Red Cross raise funds for Armenian relief.

Oregon suffragists founded the State Equal Suffrage Alliance in March 1915. The Alliance provided assistance to the national suffrage movement in states where women did not yet have the vote. Florence Rees joined the alliance and for a period served as president. Her last documented activity with the alliance entailed planning a luncheon held on May 27, 1919 to commemorate the centennial of the birth of noted suffragist, Julia Ward Howe. She presided over the luncheon and "gave a short tribute to the memory of Mrs. Howe."

Rees's reform activity in Portland came to an end in June 1919 when Florence drove east with her two children to rejoin her husband, who had taken a leave of absence from the college. In Philadelphia Kelley Rees launched a second career becoming a cotton mill manager. By 1930 his occupation was listed as a cotton mill broker. By 1940 Kelley and Florence Rees, now in their 60s, lived in the toney Philadelphia suburb of Lower Merion. Kelley continued to work part-time as a cotton broker earning an income said to $5000+ in the census that year. Kelley Rees passed away in 1954 and Florence followed in 1964.

Sources:

Federal manuscript censuses: Pennsylvania, 1880; Los Angeles, 1900; New Haven, 1910; Philadelphia, 1920, 1930; Lower Merion, 1940. Accessed online via HeritageQuest.com.

Ancestry Library Edition. Marriage record, Florence Hopper & Kelley; death records for both.

Ida Husted Harper, et al., eds., History of Woman Suffrage, vol. 6 (1922) [LINK].

Oregon Daily Journal, 23 March 1913, p. 46; 16 May 1915; 9 Nov. 1916, p. 3; 14 July 1918, p. 37; 25 May 1919, p. 38; 17 June 1919.

The Morning Oregonian (Portland, OR), 28 May 1919, p. 12.

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