Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Alice F. Kiernan, 1870-1953
By Kimberly Drotar, Rosemont College, Pennsylvania
Alice Flake Kiernan was born in Pennsylvania on June 15, 1870, to Junius B. Flake and Nancy Flake (nee Paisley). Kiernan married Judge Edmund E. Kiernan on March 27, 1895. They lived in Somerset, Pennsylvania, with their two children: Edmund Kiernan, born in 1897, and Rebecca Kiernan, born in 1904.
Kiernan became involved in the suffrage movement in 1913 when she was chosen as an alternate to the National Suffrage Convention in Washington, D.C. She became inspired and by October 1914 was the district leader of Huntingdon, Bedford, Somerset, Cambria, and Blair Counties. Her way with words and talents as a host made her an instant favorite in the community, and by 1916 Kiernan was a state officer and vice president of the Executive Committee of the Pennsylvania Woman Suffrage Association.
In July 1916, Kiernan hosted between 700 and 800 women at her sprawling farm, Suanlinbar. The guests hailed from 11 southwestern Pennsylvania counties at her annual suffrage rally. The most active and prominent members of the Pennsylvania suffrage movement attended, including Dr. Anna Howard Shaw. As the honorary NAWSA president, Shaw formally presented and dedicated Pennsylvania's new suffrage flag, which featured a blue Pennsylvania keystone with 11 blue stars, representing the states that had suffrage, set against a yellow background. In the following years, those at this rally described it as the best suffrage picnic Pennsylvania ever had.
During her time with the movement, Kiernan attended such events as the Forty-Eighth Annual Convention of the National American Woman Suffrage Association in 1916. She also spoke at the Women's Alliance of the First Unitarian Church and continued active in the suffrage movement through the ratification of the 19th Amendment in 1920. Her husband died unexpectedly from a cerebral embolism in 1925, and Kiernan was not deeply involved in civic matters until 1929, when she led a meeting of the Women's Legislative Council of Pennsylvania in 1929. Her unique talent for speechmaking won her high acclaim, and she was appointed president of the Women's Legislative Council, president of the State Parent Teacher association, and was a member of the State Council of Education.
In the late 1930s, Kiernan and her son moved to Laguna Beach in Orange County, California, as he pursued a career as a writer. She quietly resided in Orange County until her death on June 18, 1953.
California Death records, 1940-1977, for Alice Flake Kiernan in Ancestry Library Edition.
"Great Suffrage Rally at Beautiful Suanlinbar," Meyersdale (Pennsylvania) Republican, July 13, 1916, p. 1, https://www.newspapers.com/clip/35267413/meyersdale_republican_report_about/
"Legislative Council Makes Resolution," Harrisburg (Pennsylvania) Telegraph, Jan. 30, 1929, p. 5, https://www.newspapers.com/image/41474410/?terms=%22Alice%2BKiernan%22
"Reappointed to Post," Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Sept. 22, 1931, p. 5, https://www.newspapers.com/image/90128465
"Suffrage Party Plans Weekly Newspaper," Pittsburgh Gazette Times, July 7, 1916, p. 6, https://archives.post-gazette.com/image/85766264/?terms=kiernan,+alice.
"When Pennsylvania Suffragists Dedicated Their New Flag," Pittsburgh Gazette Times, August 13, 1916, p. 41, https://www.newspapers.com/image/85777095/