Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Anna M. Brower Kinnan Bennett, 1837-1921
By Krystal Willeby, Director of Programs
George Ranch Historical Park, Richmond, Texas
Anna M. Brower was born on July 22, 1837 in Camden, Ohio, to John and Elizabeth Egbert Brower. In 1855, she married E.W. Kinnan and traveled with him to Texas. The couple resided in Belton, Texas where E.W. was the editor of the local newspaper. The couple fled north when the Civil War broke out; her husband died en route due to injuries he received in the escape. With the help of a long- time servant, Anna and her two children, Edward and Anna B., made it through the lines of both armies to return to Ohio.
On March 19, 1867, she married her second husband, George Washington Bennett, in Camden. The family moved to Emporia, Kansas, in 1870. Her husband opened a grocery store and the family settled into town as the city grew rapidly into a railroad hub. The couple had three more children, two boys, Albert and Warren, and a daughter, Blanche. While her suffragist roots are unclear, Anna first appears in the Emporia Daily News on November 1, 1880, as Mrs. G.B. Bennett who signed a petition encouraging passage of a temperance amendment on the ballot that presidential year. On November 3, the Emporia Daily News credited the "Temperance Ladies" for the victory of the amendment and wrote, "After what we saw yesterday, we feel constrained to say that we believe Kansas works against her own interests by not extending the right of suffrage to intelligent ladies."
With his health failing, Anna's husband sold his grocery store and after a long sickness, he passed away on June 29, 1891. In 1902, Anna lost her son Albert to typhoid pneumonia. Her daughter, Anna B. Severy, had died previously in October 1890 at the age of 29.
In 1904, Anna moved to Guthrie, Oklahoma to be with her daughter Blanche. Blanche married James Abner Rexroad in 1909. Her son, Edward Kinnan, also followed the family to Guthrie. Anna quickly became part of local society in Guthrie. By December 1904, she was listed as President of the Equality Club in Guthrie, later integrated into the Oklahoma Woman Suffrage Association, a NAWSA chapter.
On December 1, 1904, an article was written about the club which expressed excitement for the upcoming visit from Reverend Anna Howard Shaw and an upcoming December territory- wide convention of Oklahoma and Indian Territory members. Anna published a letter to Honorable B. S. McGuire, encouraging the delegate to reevaluate the use of "sex" as one of the disqualifying conditions for the right to vote in the upcoming Hamilton Bill for statehood. The group objected to gender being included among other disqualifying causes such as illiteracy, conviction of a felony and mental condition. She wrote, "to classify the intelligent Oklahoma women who have pioneered with their husbands and have been an equal factor in the building of this great commonwealth, with the illiterate and the degenerate classes, it is not only unjust but disparaging to their dignity and self-respect."
The conference held on December 15 and 16, 1904 in Oklahoma City proved to be a turning point for the suffrage movement in Oklahoma. After a disastrous defeat in 1899, the movement had languished in the state for a time. This gathering of Oklahoma and Indian Territory delegates however would rejuvenate the cause for years to come.
At the conference, the Twin Territorial Association was organized and a resolution was adopted calling for statehood. The resolution read, "Said statehood shall never enact any law restricting the right of suffrage on account of sex, race, color or previous condition of servitude." Anna was nominated as the second vice president for the new organization, a position she held until the next conference in 1905.
Her local efforts continued after the conference. On March 13, 1905, she is again listed as the President for the Equality Club in Guthrie where a variety of speeches on the suffrage movement were given at a meeting held at her house, including "Progress of Equal Suffrage" and "Fruits of Equal Suffrage in Wyoming, Colorado, Utah and Ohio." On July 23, 1905, she would lose her son, Warren Bennett, a 33-year old Chief of Police and United States Marshall, to a hemorrhage.
In 1907, she was listed in the Oklahoma Leader as a speaker for a suffrage rally at the Brooks Opera House on January 23. In 1909, she published an advertisement for a meeting of the Equal Suffrage Club where she is again listed as President. Her son Edward would pass away in 1911, and she acted as the executor for his will.
On March 7, 1914, she was listed as being on the legislature committee for the local City Federation of Clubs in The Guthrie Daily Leader. In 1914, the club, after years of resistance, embraced the suffrage movement so this may have given her a place to continue to wage this fight politically. When the universal woman suffrage amendment to the Oklahoma Constitution was ratified in 1918, Anna was alive to see her decades of effort succeed.
On March 19, 1921, Anna died at the age of 83 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. She was survived only by her daughter Blanche, two grandsons Will and Walter Severy and granddaughter Maude Ethel Severy McDaniel. She is buried in Maplewood Memorial Lawn Cemetery in Emporia, Kansas.
Ida Husted Harper, et al., eds., The History of Woman Suffrage, Volume 6 (New York City: New York: National American Woman Suffrage Association, 1922) [LINK];
"Anna M. Brower Bennett," U. S. Find-A-Grave, accessed on 15 May 2020;
Emporia Daily News (Emporia, Kansas), 1 November 1880; Emporia Daily News (Emporia, Kansas), 3 November 1880; The Oklahoma State Capital (Guthrie, Oklahoma), 1 December 1904; The Guthrie Daily Leader (Guthrie, Oklahoma), 7 March 1914; The Oklahoma State Capital, (Oklahoma City, Oklahoma), January 8, 1909; The Guthrie Daily Leader (Guthrie, Oklahoma), 13 March 1905; Emporia Gazette (Emporia, Kansas), 23 March 1921; The Emporia Weekly Gazette (Emporia, Kansas) 4 July 1891; The Oklahoma Leader (Guthrie, Oklahoma), 24 January 1907; Hartford Times (Hartford, Kansas) 28 July 1905; The Emporia Weekly Gazette (Emporia, Kansas), 6 November 1902;
U. S. Federal Census, 1920, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma County, Oklahoma;
U. S. Federal Census, 1880, Emporia, Lyon County, Kansas;