Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Sarah "Sally" Jacobs Horton, 1882-1938
By Heidi J. Osselaer, PhD, Arizona State University
Sally Jacobs was thirty when became an editor for the state's leading newspaper. At the turn of the century, female reporters were common in the business. Newspapers were anxious to capture female readers, so woman journalists were hired. Most were assigned to the society pages, as Jacobs was for the Arizona Republican. But she was not content to cover ladies' luncheons and literary clubs, quickly expanding her purview to include political commentary, social justice, and even the state's athletic teams.
Born in Phoenix in 1882 to Marcus and Kate Jacobs, Sally grew up in the city's Jewish mercantile community. Her father was born in Prussia and emigrated to New York City as a young man, where he married and then brought his bride to Phoenix in 1873, just five years after the townsite was established. His successful mercantile establishment allowed Sally, her sister Edith and brother Leon to grow up in comfort in a frontier town.
By the time Sally became society editor for the Arizona Republican in 1912, she had become a fixture on those very pages. She was active in the city's literary society, which allowed her to hone her writing, and in charitable societies, which brought her into contact with local political and business leaders. Arizona became a state that year, with progressive politics dominating the news. Her own family was engaged in local politics: her sister was the voter registration clerk for the Maricopa County recorder's office and her brother had been elected a representative to the legislature. That year, Sally would enter the political arena as well.
In September of 1912, Jacobs and Miss Maybelle Craig were placed in charge of all the press work for the Arizona Equal Suffrage Association. The new state constitution failed to grant women the vote, so Frances Willard Munds, as head of the suffrage movement, organized a campaign to place an initiative on the fall ballot to amend the constitution. Munds, a stirring orator, clearly understood her own limitations as a writer when she chose the two women to write pieces for the state newspapers.
The suffrage movement opened its campaign headquarters at the Adams Hotel in downtown Phoenix, known as the primary watering hole for members of the state legislature. Jacobs and Craig produced an avalanche of press releases which found their way into print in all the major newspapers. Editorial support was strong in every county, and the campaign won a resounding victory that fall.
The following spring Sally registered to vote when the rolls were first opened to women. She continued to work at the newspaper for the next ten years, championing charitable causes as well as the anti-lynching campaign of the local branch of the NAACP and the National Association of Colored Women, which earned her recognition within Arizona's African American community.
The woman suffrage victory in 1912 boosted Sally's writing career, allowing her to delve into the local sports scene, a previously male-only bailiwick. Billing herself as the "Only Woman Sport Writer," Sally covered baseball, football, tennis, and auto racing, even interviewing the world-renowned Barney Oldfield, long before women reporters were given access to male athletes. Her sister Edith benefited as well, when she was elected county recorder in 1918.
Jacobs's journalism career came to an end in 1922 when she resigned as editor just prior to her marriage to mining engineer A. C. Horton. Her colleagues described her as a person with an "attractive personality, of keen mind and a pleasant disposition. Bright and cheerful, she attracts friends everywhere." The following year she gave birth to the first of two sons, but she would not live to see them as adults. She died of colon cancer in 1938.
Jean Marie Lutes. Front-Page Girls: Women Journalists in American Culture and Fiction, 1880-1930, (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2006.)
Arizona Republican, June 16, 1912; April 30, August 23, 1913, August 31, October 3, November 12, 1914; September 1, 1920; April 16, 1922.
Tombstone Epitaph, Sept 1, 1912
Phoenix Tribune, June 4, 1921
1913 Maricopa County Voter Registration
El Paso Herald, June 8, 1915
Graham Guardian, November 29, 1918
Ida Husted Harper, et al., eds., History of Woman Suffrage, vol. 6 (1922) [LINK]