Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Anna Westover, 1870-1963
By Janolyn Lo Vecchio, independent historian
Yuma pioneer, suffragist and state legislator, Anna Musselman was born in 1870 near Williamstown, Kentucky, a small town near Cincinnati, Ohio. She was the daughter of H.C. Musselman, a former Confederate captain, and Jennie (Blackford) Musselman. On September 26, 1888 she married a lawyer, John H. Westover, who was known as J.H. Westover. They became the parents of twin sons, Harry and William, in 1895. Shortly after their marriage, J.H. Westover decided to change his occupation and bought The Williamstown Courier. When the newspaper failed, the Westovers left their Kentucky home and moved west for better opportunities. After briefly living in California and Oregon, they moved to Yuma, Arizona Territory in 1909. At that time, Yuma was a supply point on the Colorado River and approximately 1,500 people lived in the small town of mostly adobe buildings. Anna's first home was a two-room building with one bedroom for four people and a kitchen. The murky Colorado River water required filtering before using it for cooking or drinking. Each evening Anna filled a wooden barrel full of water, let the sediment sink overnight, and skimmed off the top water the next morning.
J.H. and Anna bought the Yuma Morning Sun, and the entire family worked together to publish the newspaper. J.H. was the publisher and editor while Anna and her two sons set type and operated the presses. In 1916 a Colorado River flood destroyed the newspaper's adobe building, newspaper presses, type, and linotype equipment. With $2,500 of flood damage, two functional typewriters, and the newspaper mailing list; the Westovers borrowed money, made a down-payment on a new building, and re-opened the newspaper one month later. They continued publishing the Yuma Morning Sun until they sold the newspaper in 1928.
During these years, J.H. became a prominent businessman and was the president of the Yuma County Chamber of Commerce, president of the Yuma County Board of Supervisors, and president of the Yuma School Board. Anna was also a community and civic organization leader. During World War I she was appointed commandant of the Red Cross canteen in which capacity she organized and worked with volunteers to serve refreshments to soldiers on troop trains passing through Yuma and picked cotton to raise funds for the Red Cross. She was a member of the Yuma Woman's Club, president of the Yuma Delta Club, which had 100 members, and a charter member of Yuma Business and Professional Women's Club.
During the Arizona suffrage campaign led by Frances Willard Munds, Anna became known as a suffrage leader in Yuma. When the Yuma County Equal Suffrage League organized on January 18, 1912, she was a charter member and helped organize meetings and events for women's suffrage in Yuma. In 1919, she parlayed her suffrage and community activities into a successful campaign for election as the first woman Yuma County Representative to the Arizona House of Representatives. Anna ran against three men in the primary and general election and was elected by a close margin of 592 to 563 votes to the Arizona House of Representatives. She was appointed to the following committees: Education, Public Health and Statistics, Petitions and Memorials, and Suffrage and Elections.
Anna was one of four women members of the Arizona State Legislature. In a newspaper article In March 1919 she described her initial apprehension: "In the Fourth Arizona Legislature four members of our sex were elected to membership... There were hardly enough of us to give variety and color to the proceedings of the house... The woman in politics was a new thing to me and I am free to confess that when I first arrived at the state capitol I felt more or less out of place and had considerable doubt of my ability to render to my home people and the state acceptable service... After the electors had given me the place I sought, I wondered what I was going to do about it. I was expected to find the legislature made up of very superior individuals who by education and training had peculiar fitness for law. I much feared that in such company I would be utterly lost. Somewhat to my surprise I found the legislature made up of just ordinary folks like myself."
In the 1920 legislative session, Anna introduced three bills. One, a bill providing for settlement of United States veterans on farms, was signed into law. When a special session of the Arizona legislature was convened by Governor Thomas Campbell on February 12, 1920 to discuss ratification of the 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution, Anna joined the other three women state legislators (Pauline O'Neil, Rosa McKay, and Nellie Hayward) to introduce the bill for the ratification of the 19th Amendment. The bill quickly passed the Arizona legislature in one day with minimum discussion after the House of Representatives approved the bill in the morning and the Arizona Senate approved the bill in the afternoon. Women throughout Arizona celebrated as the state became the 32nd state to ratify the 19th Amendment to provide national suffrage for women.
After her term in the state legislature ended, Anna decided not to run for re-election and returned to Yuma where she continued to be active in community and state organizations. In 1921 she helped establish the first library in Yuma. In 1924-1926 she served as state president of the Arizona Federation of Women's Clubs. During her presidency, she traveled 400 miles by train and 750 miles by automobile on rugged roads throughout Arizona.
Anna and her husband celebrated their 63rd wedding anniversary with a large family party shortly before J.H. Westover died in Yuma on November 24, 1951. Both of their sons became lawyers. William practiced law in Yuma while his brother Harry moved to California where he practiced law and served as a state senator. Anna outlived her husband by twelve years and died in San Diego, California on February 15, 1963.
Westover, William H.: Yuma Footprints, Arizona Historical Society, Tucson 1966, pp. 139-44.
Ross, Margaret Wheeler: The Tale Is Told: History of the Arizona Federation of Women's Clubs and Its Forerunners, Arizona Federation of Women's Clubs, 1944: pp. 116-18.
Arizona Federation of Business and Professional Women: Women Who Made A Difference: 1921-2003. Tucson: Arizona Business and Professional Women's Foundation, Volume 3, 2003: pp. 212-13.
"Equality League Appoints Directors," Arizona Sentinel and Yuma Weekly Examiner, January 18, 1912, p. 1.
"For State Representative," The Parker Post, August 3, 1918, p. 1.
"Women's Work in the Legislature: Mrs. J.H. Westover Tells Interesting Story," Yuma Morning Sun, March 29, 1919, p. 2.
"Record for Rapid Work Is Made by the Legislature," Arizona Republican, February 13, 1920, p. 1.