Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Ann (Anne) Bush Nesbitt, 1875-1942
By Nancy Gonce, independent historian
Ann (Anne/Annie) Bush, daughter of Captain Thomas Green Bush and Alberta ( Williams) Bush, was born in Atlanta, Georgia in 1875. In 1895 She married W. D. (William Duncan) Nesbitt who was born in Savannah, Georgia in 1869. In records and photographs which included references to Anne Bush Nesbitt she is identified as Mrs. W.D. Nesbitt. In an application for a U.S. Passport in 1923 she is listed as Annie B. Nesbitt and described as being 5'5" tall with hazel eyes, straight forehead, straight nose, regular mouth, round chin, fair complexion, oval face and gray hair.
The couple moved to Birmingham, Alabama, in 1898 and W.D. became engaged in the cotton business, first as a member of the firm Johnston, Nesbitt and Company, and later W.D. Nesbitt & Company and remained in the cotton business until 1910. His father served in the Georgia State Senate in 1868; in 1898 was elected state commissioner of agriculture. In 1890 Anne Bush Nesbitt's father, Captain Thomas Green Bush, moved to Birmingham from Anniston, Alabama and became president of the Alabama Consolidated Coal and Iron Company and was regarded as a national figure.
Ann Bush Nesbitt and W.D. Nesbitt were active in the Birmingham community as well as in the state government. In 1905, W. D. Nesbitt supported B.B. Comer for the chairmanship of the Railroad Commission and two years later was campaign manager for Mr. Comer and as candidate for governor. He became a member of the Democratic Executive Committee, and served as its chairman for many years.
1910 was an important year in the woman suffrage movement in Alabama as several chapters of suffrage associations were formed, with those in Selma and Birmingham being among the first. The Selma Equal Suffrage Association (SESA) and the Birmingham Equal Suffrage Association (BSEA) joined forces with the Alabama Equal Suffrage Association (AESA) which in turn joined the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA). The Alabama Equal Suffrage Association (AESA) was founded in Birmingham in 1912 when members of the Birmingham and Selma groups came together at the Church of the Advent, and opened its headquarters in downtown Birmingham.
When the BSEA and the SESA organizations came together to support the creation of the AESA, Mrs. W.D. Nesbitt was selected vice chairman of the Ratification Committee in 1919. Activities of the organization included sponsorship of public lectures, debates and essay contests, distribution of brochures in booths with voting rights information at public events and were often identified by the bright yellow sashes that suffrage supporters wore. Mrs. W.D. Nesbitt also worked in the state archives of the AESA.
Alabama women, including Anne Nesbitt supported a range of reform initiatives and were visible in the public arena calling for the right of women to vote. Anne Nesbitt was appointed a member of the Ratification Committee. At a joint session of the Legislature many spoke in support of the proposal including W.D. Nesbitt as state chairman of the Democratic Executive Committee. In 1915, the Alabama House of Representatives refused to authorize the referendum which had been proposed as an amendment to the Alabama Constitution despite an energetic campaign by the AESA. The vote was 13 ayes and 19 noes.
Attention turned toward an effort to amend the U.S. Constitution. In June, 1919, Congress passed a resolution to amend the U.S. Constitution so that women could vote. In August, 1920, the Nineteenth Amendment became a part of the U.S. Constitution after receiving approval by the required three-fourths of the states, but without Alabama. In the election of the fall women voted for the first time in Alabama.
Anne Bush Nesbitt was active in other community projects in addition to her work with the suffrage campaign, including efforts to secure funding for a Roosevelt memorial headed by Governor Thomas E. Kirby, the Liberty Loan Drive and as a founding member of the Alabama League of Women Voters.
Allen, Lee N. "The Woman Suffrage Movement in Alabama, 1910-1920," Alabama Review, II April 1958, pp 83-99
U.S. Passport Application 1795-1925
Marriage records 1816-1957
U.S. Federal Census 1930, 1920, 1900, 1880, 1870
California Death Index 1950-1997
Bridges, Edwin C. Alabama: The Making of an American State. University of Alabama Press, published in cooperation with the Alabama Bicentennial Commission, 2016, pp 162-163.
Burnes, Valerie Pope. "Alabama Equal Suffrage Association" Alabama Encyclopedia. http://encyclopediaofalabama.org
Causey, Donna B. Alabama Pioneers: Days Gone By- Stories From the Past, "Can you believe it took this long for Alabama to ratify woman's right to vote? http://alabamapioneers.com
Cruikshank, George M., Ed. A History of Birmingham and Its Environs: A Narrative of their Historical Progress, Their People, and Their Principal Interests. Vol. II, The Lewis Publishing Company, 1920, pp 122-23.
Gadsden Times-News, November 16, 1964.
Harper, Ida Husted, ed. The History of Woman Suffrage. Vol VI 1900-1920. National American Woman Suffrage Association, 1922. Chapter 1 Alabama pp. 1-9 [LINK].
Montgomery Times, September 28, 1912
September 12, 1919
September 19, 1919
Mountain Eagle, June 11, 1919
Owen, Thomas McAdory. History of Alabama and Dictionary of Alabama Biography. Vol. VI, The S.J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1921 pp 1272-1273.
Swenson, Mary E. "To Uplift a State and Nation: The Formative Yea5rs of the Alabama League of Women Voters, 1920-1921. Alabama Historical Quarterly, Vol 37, No 2, 1975 pp 115-119
Thomas, Mary Martha. The New Woman in Alabama, "The New Woman in Alabama: Social Reforms andSuffrage, 1890-1920, University of Alabama Press
Tuskegee News, September 12, 1918
Wheeler, Marjorie Spruill. New Women of the New South: The Leaders of the Woman SuffrageMovement in the Southern States. Oxford University Press, 1993.