Biographical Sketch of Grace Watt Ross

Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920

Biography of Grace Watt Ross, 1861-1929

By Thomas Dublin, Distinguished Professor Emeritus, SUNY Binghamton

Anna Grace Watt was born in Oregon in December 1861. Her parents were early Oregon pioneers, having migrated from Ohio in the late 1840s. In 1882 Grace married Charles Daniel Ross, but he died in 1884 and the couple had no children.

Grace did not remarry and moved to Portland where she was first listed in a city directory in 1896. She was recorded in successive censuses between 1900 and 1920 and died in December 1929 at the age of 68. The 1900 census records her as residing in the household of her widowed father, Ahia Watt, an unmarried younger sister, and a number of cousins, nieces and nephews. She is 38, white, and with no recorded occupation at this date or in any later censuses.

Ahia Watt died in 1909 and in 1910 Grace was heading her own household, sharing it with her sister Agnes and three nieces and nephews. By 1920, Grace was 58 and headed a two-person household, again with her younger sister Agnes. She owned her house, free of a mortgage, and neither sister had a noted occupation.

Without children and without the need to work to support herself, Grace Watt Ross had the time and resources to become actively engaged in a variety of civic organizations. She was a charter member of the Portland Woman's Club and served as its president in 1900-1901. In 1903 she led a class on Elizabeth literature in the club. In 1915 she represented the Portland club in the work of the Oregon Federation of Women's Clubs. In May 1921 she made a presentation to members of the literature department of the club. She remained active in the club in 1925, serving as its parliamentarian. In 1904 she attended an entertainment of the Tuesday Afternoon Club. She was a member of the Oregon Pioneer Association as well.

There is no evidence that Grace was active in the three unsuccessful statewide suffrage campaigns in 1906, 1908, and 1910, but in 1912 the Portland Woman's Club joined decisively in support of the effort. The club's president appointed a committee to work with the Oregon Equal Suffrage Association and Mrs. Ross worked closely with the Association in the lead up to the successful vote in November 1912. A March 1912 newspaper account noted that Mrs. Ross joined other Portland suffragists "in organizing suffrage work" in Eugene.

After Oregon women secured the vote, Mrs. Ross continued to be active in the Portland community, but there are no further indications in local newspapers that she contributed to campaigns for a federal woman suffrage amendment. In May 1916 she supported the campaign of a Portland woman, Mrs. S.M. Blumauer, for the Portland School Board. She spoke occasionally to local groups about the importance of parliamentary procedure and the society page noted periodically that she was spending time in her summer cottage at Seaside.

Grace Watt Ross led a life of civic engagement, and engaged with the Oregon woman suffrage movement at the height of its successful 1912 campaign, but otherwise kept her distance from the more radical and contentious aspects of the movement.

Sources:

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

Federal Manuscript census, Portland, 1900-1920, entries for Grace W. Ross. Accessed through HeritageQuest.com.

Portland City Directories, 1896-1920, for Grace W. Ross and A Grace Ross. Accessed online through Ancestry Library Edition.

Ancestry Library Edition. Death records for George Daniel Ross, 1884 and Anna Grace Watt Ross, 1929.

Abigail Scott Duniway, Path Breaking: An Autobiographical History of the Equal Suffrage Movement in Pacific Coast States (1914).

"Woman Suffrage in Oregon," The Oregon Encyclopedia. Accessed online at https://oregonencyclopedia.org/articles/woman_suffrage_in_oregon/#.XpnP58hKjIU

Oregon Secretary of State, "Woman Suffrage Centennial Web Exhibit," accessed online at https://sos.oregon.gov/blue-book/Pages/explore/exhibits/woman-intro.aspx

Kimberly Jensen, "'Neither Head nor Tail to the Campaign': Esther Pohl Lovejoy and the Oregon Woman Suffrage Victory of 1912." Oregon Historical Quarterly 108:3 (Fall 2007), 350-83.

Numerous newspaper articles in the Oregon Daily Journal, 1900-1925. Accessed via Newspapers.com.

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