Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Margaret Rees (Blake), 1862-1952
By Jeremy Harris, student, University of Oklahoma
Miss Margaret Rees was born in Ohio in 1862 to Welsh immigrants Caleb Rees and Rachel James as the third of four daughters. Margaret's father died in 1865 when she was three years old while the family was living in Nebraska. Margaret's oldest sister, Mary Elizabeth Rees, died in 1893 shortly before Margaret, her mother, and another sister, Rachell Ann Rees, moved to Guthrie, Oklahoma. All three were a vital part of the women's suffrage movement in Oklahoma.
Margaret Rees was a successful school teacher in Guthrie. She taught elementary, middle, and high school and received numerous accolades throughout her career. Rees' background in education spread to her social work, and in 1900, she served on the Committee of Education for the Federation of Women's Clubs of the Oklahoma and Indian Territories. In 1903, she became the first librarian of the Guthrie Public Library, and in 1906 she became the director of Mrs. Ardery's School for Young Women. Rees was a member of various women's clubs, the Chautauqua Circle, Shakespeare Club, and the Woman's Christian Temperance Union. She was one of "Guthrie's most popular school teachers and was universally loved by her co-workers in club and church circles."
Rees was a leading pioneer in Oklahoma's fight for women's suffrage. "The women of the territory are interested in every good government. The thinking woman has opinions and furthermore has political opinions," she said. On November 11-12, 1895, Rees chaired a Territorial Convention held in Guthrie with officers of the National American Woman Suffrage Association in order to create a permanent women's suffrage organization. The result of the mass meeting was the Oklahoma Territory Equal Suffrage Association and Rees was elected the association's first President. Some newspapers dubbed her the "Mother of Equal Suffrage," while others said that she led "women suffrage agitation in Oklahoma."
While serving as Corresponding Secretary of the Oklahoma Territory Equal Suffrage Association in 1897, Rees prepared a suffrage bill, House Bill 36, for introduction in the Territorial Legislature. The bill proposed to change election laws, giving women the right vote. The bill was ultimately defeated in the legislature, but Rees continued to serve as the association's Corresponding Secretary until 1901.
In 1904, a meeting between the Woman Suffrage League of Indian Women and the Oklahoma Territorial Equal Suffrage Association resulted in the combination of the two suffrage organizations, the Women Suffrage Association of Oklahoma and Indian Territory. Eventually known as the Oklahoma Woman's Suffrage Association, Rees served as the association's Treasurer in 1904 and again in 1905.
On December 12, 1913, Rees married George W. Blake in Sherman, Texas. Rees was 52 years old while Blake was 68. Blake was an English immigrant who came to the United States in 1864. After their wedding, the couple moved to Sulphur, Oklahoma where they lived until Blake's death in 1926 at age 81. He was buried in Sulphur Springs, Texas. Blake and Rees never had children and Rees never remarried. After her husband's death, Rees moved to Benton, Arkansas. Margaret Rees Blake outlived her entire family, dying in 1952 at the age of 90.
Mattie Louise Ivie, Woman Suffrage in Oklahoma 1890-1918 (Chickasha, Oklahoma: Oklahoma College for Women, 1971), 8-14, 19-20; The Guthrie Daily Leader (Guthrie, Oklahoma), 24 July 1902; Melvena Thurman, ed., Women in Oklahoma: A Century of Change (Oklahoma City, Oklahoma: Oklahoma Historical Society, 1982), 184-185, 187
The Daily Oklahoma State Capital (Guthrie, Oklahoma), 12 November 1895; Oklahoma State Register (Guthrie, Oklahoma), 22 December 1904 and 26 June 1906; Oklahoma State Register (Guthrie, Oklahoma), 25 December 1913; Weekly Oklahoma State Capital (Guthrie, Oklahoma), 12 June 1896;
U.S. Federal Census, 1920, Sulphur, Murray County, Oklahoma;
"George W. Blake," Texas, Select County Marriage Records, 1837-2015, Ancestry.com, accessed on April 29, 2020.
Ida Husted Harper, et al., eds., History of Woman Suffrage, vol. 6 (1922). [LINK]