Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920

Biography of Anna Morrison Reed, 1849-1921

By John Sheehy, Penngrove, California

  • Charter member of the Pacific Coast Women's Press Association, 1890
  • First Woman to deliver the inaugural address at the California State Fair, 1893
  • First California Lady Manager at the 1893 Chicago World's Fair
  • Founder and publisher of the pro-suffragist Northern Crown magazine, 1904-1920
  • Founder and Editor, Sonoma County Independent newspaper, 1909-1912
  • Official Speaker, California Equal Suffrage Association, 1911
  • Candidate for the California State Assembly, 1918

Five months after Anna Morrison's birth in Dubuque, Iowa, in 1849, her father, Guy Bryan Morrison, departed on a wagon train bound for the California Gold Rush. In 1854, Anna's mother, Mary Elmira Preston Morrison, and four-year-old Anna boarded a ship to California, where they united with her husband, who was working the mines in Butte County.

Home-schooled in rural Butte County by her mother, Anna demonstrated an early talent for poetry, publishing her first poems in local newspapers when she was fifteen. At the age of seventeen, she began teaching in a rural school and writing articles for the local press. At nineteen, she gained entry to Mrs. Perry's Seminary in Sacramento but had to withdraw after two months when her parents and three siblings were afflicted with malaria. To support the family, Anna joined the temperance lecture circuit, first as the opening act for her mother's cousin, Col. E.Z.C. Judson, the originator of the western "dime novel," and then on her own for two-and-a-half dogged years, touring small towns throughout Northern California either on horseback or by stagecoach, accompanied by just her younger brother Eddie.

Anna gained notoriety by espousing traditional roles for women in the home, as opposed to many women suffragists working the temperance circuit. Her conservative position, along with her intelligence and personal magnetism, drew large crowds and the attention of prominent politicians as well as the national press, who dubbed her the "California Girl." The tour generated enough money for Anna to purchase a house in her name for her family. It also garnered her several suitors and marriage proposals. In 1872, following a whirlwind romance, she married John Smith Reed (1829-1900), a successful miner twenty years her senior.

The Reeds made their home in Ukiah, where John became involved in ranching, politics, and presiding over the Bank of Ukiah. During the first eight years of their marriage, Anna gave birth to five children. Off the speaker circuit, she remained active in the local and state temperance movement, drafting in 1874 California's first local option law allowing communities to determine whether they would be wet or dry, which was quickly struck down by the state high court. She also continued to write, publishing her first book of poetry in 1880, followed by two more volumes in the 1890s.

After a large fire destroyed their Ukiah home in 1889, the Reeds bought a sheep ranch near Laytonville in Mendocino County. As a rancher, Anna returned to the public eye, becoming the first woman to deliver the annual address before the State Agricultural Society of California, as well as Cloverdale's Citrus Fair and Petaluma's Sonoma-Marin Agricultural Fair. In 1892, after the California legislature appointed her to the seven-member Board of Lady Managers for the Columbian Exposition in Chicago, she returned to the speaking circuit in Northern California, sometimes with a child in tow, raising money for the exposition's California exhibits. In 1890 she was a founding member of the Pacific Coast Women's Press Association, which provided support to women writers and journalists.

A financial downturn in the sheep business in 1890s led to the repossession of the family's ranch. Soon after, in 1900, John died, leaving Anna and her family penniless. To make money she began selling ads and subscriptions for Ukiah's two newspapers, as well as writing a weekly column. By 1904, she had made enough money to purchase a house and to fund a magazine, The Northern Crown, which covered the people, politics, arts, and travel of Northern California. As the first issue demonstrated, Anna had become a staunch supporter of women's rights and social justice reform. In the years that followed, she became a prominent advocate for the California suffragist movement.

In 1908, Anna moved her family from Ukiah to Petaluma, where she continued to publish The Northern Crown, while launching her own daily newspaper, The Sonoma County Independent. In 1911, she was chosen to be one of the official speakers of California's Equal Suffrage Association to campaign for passage of the state suffrage amendment, which passed that year by a narrow margin.

After selling her newspaper company in 1912, Anna returned to the California lecture circuit in support of two causes: first, to spearhead fundraising for the erection of the Pioneer Mother monument, a testament to early women settlers at the 1915 Panama Pacific Exposition in San Francisco (it can be seen today in Golden Gate Park); and second, to serve as a paid spokesperson for both the United Brewery Workers and the Grape Growers of Northern California. Anna remained a supporter of temperance in terms of drinking in moderation — she herself enjoyed an evening glass of port — but not of prohibition, speaking out against "warped and Puritanical minds" intent upon suppressing individual liberty and stealing the livelihoods of the thousands who labored in California vineyards, hopyards, wineries, and breweries.

In 1916, Anna returned to Ukiah, where she took a job editing the Ukiah Times Journal. In 1918, she was one of several women who ran for the California State Assembly, losing by only a few hundred votes. She died at her daughter's home in San Francisco on May 23, 1921, having witnessed the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment, and was buried in Laytonville.


Keller, John E. Anna Morrison Reed, 1849-1921 (California Historical Society, 1978).

Kolosov, Joanna, "A Northern California 'Pioneer' in Her Own Right," Sonoma County History & Genealogy Library, March 28, 2018.

Mendelson, Richard, From Demon to Darling: A Legal History of Wine in America (University of California, 2010), p. 32.

Rice, Richard B. William A. Bullough, Richard J. Orsi, Mary Ann Irwin, "The California Girl," The Elusive Eden: A New History of California, Fourth Edition (Long Grove, IL: Waveland press, 2017). pp. 317-18.

Thompson, Mendelson C. (1993). A 'California Girl': The Life and Times of Anna Morrison Reed, 1849-1921 (Unpublished master's thesis). California State University, Hayward.

Yamane, Nan Towle. Women's Press Organizations, 1881-1999, edited by Elizabeth V. Burt, (Greenwood Publishing Group, 2000).

Newspaper Articles

"The Golden Coast," Akron Daily Democrat, December 29, 1892.

"'Prohibition is Piracy' Says Mrs. Reed," Cloverdale Reveille, February 19, 1916.

"For the Ladies," Chicago Tribune, August 17, 1870.

Daily Commonwealth (Topeka, KS), August 14, 1870.

Hartford Courant, August 23, 1870.

Petaluma Argus Courier, Mrs. Anna M. Reed Gave Address," February 15, 1916; "Rear-View Mirror Column," August 20, 1960; "Anna Medora Morrison Reed," March 4, 1987.

Petaluma Argus: "Jack Reed is Home Again," June 4, 1914; "Will Soon Move the Plant up to Ukiah," June 14, 1916.

"Installed New Press," Petaluma Courier: August 25, 1891; May 14, 1909; December 12, 1912; "Mrs. Anna Reed Will Speak on Monument," June 19, 1914.

"Wet Speaker Shows Endorsement of Prohibition Woman," Sacramento Bee, September 10, 1914.

"Suffragette Appeals to Workers," San Francisco Examiner, August 31, 1911.

"Mrs. Reed to Take Platform," Santa Rosa Republican, July 25, 1911.

Ad for Anna and Col. E.Z.C. Judson, Stockton Independent, December 9, 1868.

"The Petaluma Fair," Ukiah Daily Journal, September 4, 1891.

"A Wise Appointment," Ukiah Republican Press, February 12, 1892.

"World's Fair Lecture," Ukiah Daily Journal, March 31, 1893.

Vermont Journal, August 13, 1870.

"Inter Poenia," Weekly Butte Record, June 9, 1866.

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