Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920

Biography of Catherine Campbell Warren, 1867-1941

By Karen Seehausen, independent historian

The life of Catherine Campbell Warren is easily divided into two chapters. The first begins in Indianapolis where she was born and named Minnie. According to the Federal Census of 1870, Minnie was born in 1867 and lived with her mother, Mary Campbell. Ten years later, the census records show that Mary married John Bacon; their children were listed as Minnie, age thirteen and Bert, five. (Mary Bacon's obituary revealed that she had been formerly married to Henry Campbell). I can't say for certain when Minnie began using the name "Catherine Campbell." It is likely she adopted it as her stage name. In any case it is the name she would use for the rest of her life. In her twenties and early thirties, Catherine enjoyed some popularity as a stage and stock company actress. She performed with the Empire Theater Stock Co. in New York and with the St. Louis Grand Opera House Stock Company. When at home in Indianapolis, she gave lessons in drama and acting techniques. Catherine appeared to love acting and the challenge of being part of a stock company As a troupe member, she was required to learn the parts of various characters for a number of plays to be performed during the theater booking but the demands of the fast-paced career took its toll. On December 12, 1898, Catherine suffered what is now commonly known as a nervous breakdown. The episode occurred while she was performing in St. Louis and involved allegations of theft of property from the hotel in which she was staying. It was subsequently disclosed that Catherine had previously been treated in Indianapolis for mental and physical exhaustion. The crimes were not prosecuted and Catherine returned home to rest and recuperate. She never appeared on stage again. In 1904 she returned to New York and wrote articles on the theater and the arts. In 1905, she married Howard Crosby Warren. Warren, 38 years old, was a native of New Jersey and a professor of psychology at Princeton University. A leader in the field of experimental psychology, he was appointed the first Chair of the Department of Psychology. Marriage to Howard and relocating to Princeton, NJ began the second chapter of Catherine's life.

There is nothing in the first chapter of her life to suggest Catherine Warren expected to be a spokeswoman for or against woman suffrage. But her leadership in the New Jersey State Federation of Women's Clubs (NJSFWC) made it inevitable and perhaps solidified her own position. The Princeton women's club, the Present Day Club was co-founded by Ellen Axson Wilson. Mrs. Wilson's husband Woodrow was President of Princeton University from 1902-1909. He was elected Governor of New Jersey in 1910 and then served as President of the United States from 1913-1921. Ellen died in 1914 and President Wilson remarried. Ellen was a trained and accomplished artist. The Present Day Club provided opportunities to women to study and develop interests in art. Although her husband refused to do so until late in the campaign for equal suffrage, Ellen and their three daughters spoke publicly in support of the 19th Amendment. Mrs. Warren joined the Present Day Club and was elected chair of the club's Department of Social Studies in 1909. At the Seventh Annual Convention of the NJSFWC in 1911, she was elected president. Following the election, Warren toured the mid-west as well as New Jersey speaking on the mission of women's clubs and the benefits of membership. The question-Should the clubs take a position on suffrage for women?-was frequently raised. When women's clubs were founded in 1868, the goal was to provide women with opportunities for intellectual growth and education that had been reserved exclusively for men. In 1890, representatives from sixty-three state clubs voted at a meeting in New York City to form a federation to share resources and learn from each other. The organization was called the General Federation of Women's Clubs. In response to the suffrage question, Mrs. Warren said in 1911, "Many club women are suffragists, but the great majority of them do not think it matters whether women put a little piece of paper in a box or not. Clubs are for research work and not to promulgate certain movements." A year later, she articulated her personal view on suffrage but once again emphasized that clubs were forums for discussion and expression of diverse opinion, saying, "...Personally I believe in suffrage, for I have paid taxes all my life and never had a word to say about how my tax money should be expended...But ballots will not watch legislation, make others intelligent, note factory conditions....The woman's club is the training school for getting specific things done, and the women of the state must learn to march in step."

It appears that Mrs. Warren was briefly associated with leading suffrage movements. Newspapers reported she had been elected treasurer of the Congressional Union (CU) in December 1914 only to resign for reasons of health. The militant tactics of the CU may have contributed to her decision. There were also reports that immediately after leaving the CU, she joined the Political Union. I haven't found anything to confirm that she was active in any other pro-suffrage organization. The New Jersey Association Opposed to Woman Suffrage was founded in 1913. The association ran an ad in a Trenton newspaper in May 1915 promoting a fund-raising event. Among those listed as Patronesses of the Ball was "Mrs. H. Warren, Princeton". Many of the women on the list were in Mrs. Warren's circle of wealthy, socially prominent women. Perhaps a patron donation had been made in her name by a friend. There is no other instance in which her name is associated with opposition to passage of the 19th Amendment. Furthermore, in October of that year, she added her name to a petition urging the passage of an equal suffrage amendment to the NJ State Constitution.

Mrs. Warren, remaining faithful to the original mission of the federation of women's clubs, continued to champion equal access to higher education for women. She spearheaded the NJSFWC movement to establish a women's college in the state. The robust effort resulted in the founding in 1918 of the New Jersey College for Women. The NJSFWC secured a donation of land as well as funding for the college. It is now known as Douglass Residence College at Rutgers University.

Mrs. Warren was a member of many civic and charitable organizations including: the Mercer Association of State Charities Aid and Prison Reform Association; the New Jersey Housing Association; the Daughters of the American Revolution; and the Colonial Dames.

Howard Crosby Warren died on January 4, 1934. Mrs. Warren funded an award in Howard's honor to recognize outstanding scholarship in the field of psychology. The Howard Crosby Warren Medal was first given in 1936 and is regarded today as one of the most coveted awards in the field. Catherine Campbell Warren remained active until her death in 1941.


1870 United States Federal Census for Mary Campbell. Indiana-Marion-Indiana Ward 2 (2ndEnum). Accessed via

1880 United States Federal Census for Mary F. Bacon. Indiana-Marion-Indiana-107. Accessed via

"Dramatic Instruction". The Indianapolis News (Indianapolis, Indiana). 06 Aug 1898: p 11.

Mary F. Bacon, Obituary, The Indianapolis Star (Indianapolis, Indiana). 28 Jan 1911: p 3.

"Actress Arrested". The Indianapolis News (Indianapolis, Indiana). 12 Dec 1898: p 2.

"Miss Campbell Is Lost to the Stage". The Indianapolis Star (Indianapolis, Indiana). 06 Apr 1905: p 7.

First Lady Biography:Ellen Wilson.

"Women's Club Has Prosperous Years". Trenton Evening Times (Trenton. New Jersey). 25 Feb 1909: p .5

"Luncheon for Club Women," The Montclair Times (Montclair, New Jersey). 14 Dec 1912: p 1.

"Must Have Attractive Personality," The Central New Jersey Home News (New Brunswick, New Jersey). 23 Nov 1911: p 3.

Miller, Patricia. "GFWC and Suffrage,"

"Head of State Federation of Clubs Talks on Club Problem." Trenton Evening Times (Trenton, New Jersey). 31 Dec 1912: p 4.

"Quits One Suffrage Office," Perth Amboy Evening News (Perth Amboy, New Jersey). 4 Dec 1915: p5.

"Plans for Anti Ball in Armory". Trenton Evening Times (Trenton, New Jersey). 27 May 1915: p 23.

"Mrs. Breese at Head of Appeal for Suffrage," Trenton Evening Times (Trenton, New Jersey). 18 Oct 1915: p 1.

"New Jersey Federation Clubs to Ask State to Build on the Rutgers Campus, and a Mass Meeting of Women is Called," TheCentral New Jersey Home News (New Brunswick, New Jersey). 22 Oct 1912: p 1.

"Want Trenton to Take an Interest." Trenton News (Trenton, New Jersey). 14 Jul 1911: p 5.

Prof. H. C. Warren, Obituary, Brooklyn Daily Eagle (Brooklyn, New York). 5 Jan 1934: p 15., pdf

Mrs. Howard C. Warren, Obituary, The Central New Jersey Home News (New Brunswick, New Jersey). 31 Dec 1941: p 2.

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