Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920

Biography of Ada Wallace Irvin, 1852-1923

By Nancy Holder, Hot Springs Village, Arkansas

Ada Wallace was born in either Beaver or Lawrence County, Pennsylvania on May 10, 1852 and died in Phoenix, Maricopa County, Arizona on May 8, 1923 after a short illness. She remained actively involved in community affairs until her death in 1923. She was a land attorney, real estate investor, charter member of the local GAR chapter started by her father, a Civil War veteran, and an active member of The Women's Relief Corp. She was a member of the Arizona Territories Women's Suffrage organization from its onset about 1899 through at least 1915, holding many board positions. She was a Notary, also a stockholder and board member of the Appropriation Canal Company, acting as the board secretary.

She spoke before the Arizona commission regarding water rights and was the attorney of record in some lawsuits regarding water rights. In 1883 in District Court in Arizona, Ada Irvin, the plaintiff, won her case against the Grand Canal Company. On 1 July 1885 Irvin is shown as a resident of Tucson, Arizona in the Official Register of the U.S., listing officers and employees in the Civil, Military, and Naval Service. She is listed as a clerk working in the Tucson Land Office with a compensation of $1,200 annually

Her parents were Daniel Henderson Wallace, born 1821 in Beaver County, Pennsylvania, and Mary Jane Elder and the couple had four children. (Robert, Mary Ada[line], Wynona, and Charles S.) After Mary Jane Wallace's death, Daniel married Rebecca Cunningham and had four more children (John, James, Dottie/Carrie, Rachel/Minnie) before he moved to Arizona for his health in 1883. His daughter, Ada, accompanied him and clerked in the land office in Tucson, Arizona where her father had been appointed receiver of the land office. He later moved to Phoenix where he practiced land law and eventually became a judge. His daughter, Mrs. Ada Irvin, assisted him in his law practice. Ada's uncle was Pennsylvania Senator W. A. Wallace who died l896 in Phoenix.

The 1860 census shows an 8 year old named Mary in the D. H. Wallace family. According to the age this should be Ada. In the 1870 census, an eighteen-year-old Ada Wallace was attending the Steubenville Female College in Jefferson, Ohio. The 1880 census shows Adaline Wallace living with her brother Charles and sister Wynona in New Castle, PA. In June 1880 she married J. Scott Irvin at the Silver Springs Church in Mechanicsburg, PA. In 1871, J. Scott Irwin and in 1873 a James Scott Irwin of New Castle had been enrolled in Westminster College, New Wilmington, Pennsylvania. This J. Scott Irvin was most likely the 28-year old lawyer, J. Scott Irvin, who was listed in the 1880 census for New Castle, Pennsylvania. J. Scott Irwin evidently died shortly after their marriage and sometime before Ada joined her father in Arizona in 1883. The 1903 City Directory for Phoenix, Arizona lists Mrs. Ada Irvin, as a widow.

Ada was very active in community affairs and real estate development projects. In her work as Land Attorney, she represented clients involved in Salt Valley development. She was also active in development in other areas of Maricopa County.

January 24, 1903 in the Bisbee Daily Review it was noted that: "The Arizona Equal Suffrage association had elected its officers. Mrs. H. F. Robinson was unanimously chosen as president of the association. Mrs. Nellie Sullivan of Safford was elected Secretary. Both of these ladies have been identified with the work in this territory during the past two years. Mrs. Robinson being the retiring secretary and Mrs. Sullivan was the retiring vice president. Mrs. Anna Doan of Florence was then named recording secretary and Mrs. Ada Irvin corresponding secretary. Mrs. George Erwin of Mesa was elected treasurer. Mrs. Munds of Prescott was named by the association as Arizona's member of the national executive committee. The business of the association being completed the convention adjourned after fixing Phoenix as the meeting place two years hence."

Efforts to secure woman suffrage in Arizona began in the 1880s with the introduction of woman suffrage bills in the territorial legislature, but these efforts were unsuccessful. Josephine Brawley Hughes founded the first women's suffrage organization in 1891. She was joined by other women such as Ada Wallace Irvin and Frances Willard Munds. The History of Woman Suffrage, Vol 6, page 11 names Ada Irving [Irvin] inducted as Treasurer in the 1902 revival of the suffrage organization in Phoenix. Irvin served as a delegate to the third biennial session of the Arizona Equal Suffrage group in Phoenix in January 1903, the same year that the territorial legislature approved a women suffrage bill, which was ultimately vetoed by the governor. Arizona became the tenth state to provide full suffrage for women with a successful statewide referendum held in November 1912, nine months after Arizona became a state. After the passage of the 19th Amendment, Arizona ratified the amendment in February 1920.

Ada Wallace Irvin died on May 23, 1923 of cardiac insufficiency for which she'd been treated in her home in Phoenix, for a period of 11 months. She left a will naming her brother Charles S. Wallace as executor of her estate.


Find-A-Grave Memorial #53325057 for Daniel H. Wallace (1821-1894)

Find-A-Grave Memorial #38925162 for Ada Irvin

Death Certificate for Ada Irwin (1851-1923) from Phoenix Arizona.

Arizona, Wills and Probate Records, 1803-1995,

U.S. Census records via 1850, 1860, 1870, 1880, 1900, 1910, 1920,

U.S. Register of Civil, Military, and Naval Service, 1863-1959,

U.S., School Catalogs, 1765-1935,

Lawrence County, PA genealogy records,

Newspapers: Arizona Republican (Phoenix, Arizona), Bisbee, AZ Daily News, Prescott Courier, AZ News. New Castle, PA Courier

Periodicals & Newspapers, and

City directories for Phoenix, Arizona, Iowa and Boston, Sudbury, Lincoln, Massachusetts (1888-1938)

Arizona and the 19th Amendment," on the National Park Service website, accessible at

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