Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Grace (Mrs. Seward A.) Simons, 1866-1931
By Jordyn Fuggins, Sociology major, University of California, Santa Barbara
State Chairman for international relations of the California Federation of Women's Clubs, chairman of the committee on international co-operation for the California League of Women Voters, director of the Los Angeles Tuberculosis Association, member of the advisory council of the League of Nations Association, director of the National Council for Prevention of War, president of the Political Equality League, National Peace Association, Southern California Civic League, Friday Morning Club, South Pasadena Women's Improvement Association, Los Angeles City Club, Pasadena Civic League, Southern California Smith College Club
Grace Churchyard was born in Buffalo, New York in 1866 to Joseph and Ruth Churchyard. Grace attended Buffalo Seminary, an independent girls' boarding school that prepared women who were college-bound. From Buffalo Seminary, Grace then attended Smith College, a college which she was the first woman in the city of Buffalo to attend. At Smith College Grace obtained a Bachelor's degree. During her time at Smith, Grace also developed an interest in education.
In 1888 she married Seward Adams Simons, a distinguished lawyer who was known throughout the United States. The couple had one son whom they named Seward after his father.
Grace put together the Mother's Club in Buffalo for the purpose of studying preschool education. The Mother's Club started the Franklin School in the city of Buffalo and Mrs. Simons had been a trustee of this school. Furthermore, for three years, Grace was a member of the executive committee of the Free Kindergarten Association where she helped ensure that kindergartens were integrated into the public school system.
Sometime between 1900 and 1910 Charles and Grace migrated to southern California, where they settled in Pasadena.
Grace lived a life that was dedicated to helping others and being a voice of liberation and empowerment. Mrs. Simons gave several lectures throughout the state of California on the importance of preparedness for war, emphasizing the importance of ensuring American society would be ready and well equipped to face any war related dangers. Grace's investment in war issues is made clear by her involvement in the National Peace Association, the National Council for Prevention of War, and the advisory council of the League of Nations association. All of these organizations were dedicated to protecting the nation and ensuring the safety of the American people. For her efforts and involvement, Grace received a peace medal from the Council of Conciliation of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
Grace was dedicated to a number of causes but most notable were her efforts and leadership in the California suffrage movement. While Grace was involved in a number of organizations dedicated to promoting women's rights and suffrage, some of her most notable involvements were with the California Federation of Women's Clubs and the Political Equality League, founded in 1910. Grace was the chairman of the international relations of the California Federation of Women's Clubs. With this organization, in 1917 Grace published a questionnaire on what the results of women's suffrage would look like. It was a survey of the political involvement and voting information of the women in California. This survey was meant to serve the purpose of accurately representing the women in California whose voices and political activity had long been silenced and bringing attention to the disproportionate underrepresentation of women in office. Grace was also the president of the Political Equality League which was dedicated to attaining political equality and suffrage for women, hoping to eliminate any distinctions made on the grounds of sex when it came to political representation and involvement. With this organization, Grace worked diligently to contribute to the efforts that were being put towards getting an amendment to the federal constitution that would give suffrage to women. The organization worked to get endorsements from notable organizations, held multiple presentations on suffrage, and published hundreds of pamphlets advocating women's suffrage. Ultimately, Grace put in a tremendous amount of effort towards gaining the publicity needed to efficiently contribute to the passing of the aforementioned women's suffrage amendment.
Mrs. Simon's husband passed away in 1928 and she had spent the five years leading up to his passing doing everything in her capacity to care for him. Grace's political activism continued until she died in 1931, due to an illness which she had for several years. Grace will be remembered as a woman who dedicated her life not only to the cause of women's suffrage but to many other causes as well, all of which centered on positively impacting the well-being of others. The legacy she leaves behind is one that shows not only her great capacity as a leader in the fight for equality but also demonstrates her caring and diligent nature, qualities which translated directly to her activism.
The History of Woman Suffrage, National American Woman Suffrage Association. Edited by Ida Husted Harper. Volume 6: 1900-1920. [LINK]
"Extending the Right of Suffrage to Women: Hearings Before the Committee on Woman Suffrage, House of Representatives, Sixty-Fifth Congress, Second Session on H. J. Res 200. January 3, 4, 5, and 7, 1918." Google Books. U.S. Government Printing Office. Pg 329-330. Accessed May 23, 2020. https://play.google.com/books/reader?id=O0kuAAAAYAAJ&hl=en&pg=GBS.P A329
UCR: Center for Bibliographic Studies and Research. "Noted Woman in Address on Preparedness" California Digital Newspaper Collection; Morning Press. Published April 11, 1916. Accessed May 22, 2020.
"Woman Civic Leader Dies," Los Angeles Times, published May 31, 1931. Accessed 5/23/2020.
Woman's Who's Who of America : A Biographical Dictionary of Contemporary Women of the United States and Canada, 1914-1915. American Commonwealth Company, Edited by John William Leonard, 1914. Pg 747. [LINK]
Federal Manuscript Censuses: Buffalo, 1900; Pasadena, CA, 1910. Accessed via HeritageQuest.com.