Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Annette Ford (Mrs. J.R.) Kinyon, 1872-1935
By Stephen Fox, Silver City, N.M.
Silver City, a recently settled mining town in southwestern New Mexico, offered daunting prospects for woman suffragists. In the spring of 1896, an intrepid traveling lecturer for the National American Woman Suffrage Association arrived to offer free lectures. Julia B. Nelson "had very small crowds," a newspaper reported. Three years later, Carrie Chapman Catt--soon to become the NAWSA president--visited New Mexico on a tour that took her to eleven states and two territories. Of those thirteen places, New Mexico seemed the least likely to let women vote. "Since 75 per cent of the population of New Mexico is Mexican," Catt concluded, "and more than half the population is wholly illiterate, this Territory offers little incentive for suffrage work."
Skip ahead a dozen years, to an apparently more promising event. At the July 4th parade in Silver City in 1911, a float seemed to carry woman suffragists bearing signs and enthusiasm. But it was just a joke, a group of men patients from the Cottage Sanatorium--the biggest TB resort in town--dressed as women. They flirted and threw kisses to the crowd and mocked the notion of woman suffrage. "The one good laugh of the day," said the Silver City Enterprise.
In the crowd that day, probably, was a local clubwoman, Annette Kinyon. Over the next few years, through the thriving web of women's clubs, she became the most active suffragist in Silver City. Mary Annette Ford was born in 1872 in Cobleskill, New York, west of Albany, the oldest of five children of Celynda Werner Ford and Colonel Raymond L. Ford of the US Army. She grew up in Washington, DC, where her father was stationed, and graduated there from the Kindergarten Normal Institute run by Louise Pollock, a pioneer in the field. Annette married James R. Kinyon, from a town near Cobleskill; they had no children. She was an accomplished pianist and soloist in church choirs. Her beloved uncle, Edgar Schell Werner, encouraged her musical and intellectual interests. An expert on vocal and singing culture, he published popular anthologies and his monthly Werner's Magazine.
In the mid-1890s the Kinyons moved to Silver City, perhaps because James was hired as an accountant for one of the mining companies in Grant County. Annette organized the first Kindergarten School at the local teachers' college and taught there for two years. She loved small children; her childlessness must have been hard to bear. Yet having no children did clear more time for club work. First she revived the Silver City chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution. (She qualified for DAR membership through her father's side.) She joined the chapter in 1907 and soon became its president. Finding the group "in rather a quiescent condition," she recalled, "active work was then commenced by the appointment of officers and the arranging for a series of social meetings."
To raise money the DAR women held dances at public halls and offered a candy booth at a bazaar. In December 1908 they collected old toys and restored dolls so that no child in town would be denied a Christmas. "Although the list of beneficiaries was a long one," Kinyon wrote, "every poor child in the city received some gift." In 1909 they donated funds to maintain a child's bed in a local hospital. In 1910 both Kinyons gave a Halloween party at their home for the children of DAR members. (The recurring theme is children.)#x00a0
At that point Annette Kinyon shifted her forceful attention to the Silver City Woman's Club, part of the enormous General Federation of Women's Clubs. The GFWC was one of the most powerful national political forces in the country, able to generate blizzards of letters, resolutions, and meetings for good causes (clean government, conservation, and--from 1914 on--woman suffrage) and dubious ones (prohibition, eugenics, and immigration restriction). The club in Silver City began as the Mother's Club in 1906. Five years later the name was changed to the Woman's Club, which allowed childless women to join. Kinyon became a member that fall.
The minutes of the monthly meetings, recently discovered in a safe deposit box, track her growing interest in feminist politics. In March 1912 she read a "very delightful" paper on "Telling Stories to Little Ones." That fall she read "a very interesting paper on Property Rights of Women in New Mexico, with a discussion on the paper." She became vice-president of the club only eight months after joining it; in May 1913 she was elected president. Elizabeth Warren and Belle Eckles, the two most prominent women in Silver City, joined the club as Kinyon zoomed to leadership: an implicit endorsement of her plans. Like Kinyon, they were suffragists.
The club minutes are sometimes muted and vague. Apparently the club's conservatives resisted some of Kinyon's politicking. In the fall of 1913 the club debated and passed a motion that President Kinyon "be allowed to go on with the civic work as she had planned." It's impossible to know what "civic work" this covered, or the margin of that vote. But she generally got her way. Early in 1914 Kinyon, always pushing, announced that she wanted to incorporate the club and buy the site for a clubhouse. Warren and Eckles revised the group's constitution accordingly, and Warren moved that Kinyon be unanimously re-elected to a second one-year term. The motion passed.
At a time when the national suffrage groups paid little attention to New Mexico, the women's clubs carried the load for voting rights. The state's clubs were organized as the New Mexico Federation of Women's Clubs within the larger GFWC structure. In general, the main interests of most clubwomen were high culture, homemaking, and civics, broadly defined. Thus in the fall of 1913, with Kinyon as the new president of the Silver City club, it consisted of five departments: Literature, Art, Music, Domestic Science, and Current Events.
Kinyon and two others were elected to attend the annual meeting of the New Mexico Federation, held that October in Santa Fe. The meeting extended Kinyon's links with women from the rest of the state, and her club was awarded the coveted prize of hosting the next annual meeting a year later.
The New Mexico Federation conference in Silver City in October 1914 was the major event of Kinyon's two-year presidency. Thirty-nine delegates came from fifteen clubs for three days of meetings, lectures, and musical performances. The local newspapers, the Enterprise and the Independent, extended full, respectful coverage; the town had improved in only three years since that rowdy float on the 4th of July. At the opening reception on Tuesday evening, Kinyon made "a particularly felicitous" speech of welcome. On Thursday morning, the men of Silver City donated about twenty-five automobiles for a caravan to the nearby mining towns of Bayard, Hurley, and Santa Rita. At Santa Rita the delegates boarded a special train and descended into the smoke and dust of the enormous new open pit copper mine, to the din of explosions and steam engines.
The most important work was done at the Model Mass Meeting, Thursday evening at the Elks Opera House. It was "quite one of the most interesting events ever held in the city." The delegates heard presentations on "Equal Community Property Rights for Married Women," by Elizabeth Warren and two others, and "Why Women Should Be Placed on All State Boards." They then adopted resolutions urging state-wide suffrage and equal property rights for women, the creation of more national parks from national forests, and national prohibition.
The meeting was a triumph for Silver City's clubwomen and, especially, for Annette Kinyon. She was elected first vice-president of the state federation, the second-highest of the ten available offices. Her own club, and the New Mexico Federation, and the GFWC were now declared supporters of woman suffrage. In the afterglow, she sent an exuberant report to the Bulletin of the state federation. "Our clubhouse fund is slowly, to our impatient minds, but steadily increasing," she wrote. "So also is our membership, which is unlimited."
Those giddy hopes soon collided with the grim realities of the world war, raging since the previous August. The Silver City Woman's Club suspended
activities for the duration, and Kinyon--the daughter of a career Army officer--threw herself into endless volunteer work, especially for the Red Cross (as chapter chairman) and successive campaigns for the Liberty Loans. At the same time, the NAWSA and the National Woman's Party finally sent organizers to New Mexico. They helped push the state into ratifying suffrage in February 1920, the 32nd of the necessary 36 states.
Like many other pre-war reformers, after 1920 Kinyon retreated from political work. She and her husband moved to a ranch five miles north of Bayard. She died in October 1935, 63 years old, of a ruptured appendix.
Bell, Cecilia Jensen, et al. A Centennial History: Western New Mexico University 1893-1993 (Silver City, NM: Western New Mexico University, 1993), p. 12.
Catt, Carrie Chapman. "Notes from the Field," National Suffrage Bulletin, November 1899.
Daughters of the American Revolution. Eleventh Report of the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution (1909). Report on Silver City chapter by Annette Ford Kinyon, p. 150.
Harper, Ida Husted, et al. History of Woman Suffrage (New York: National American Woman Suffrage Association, 1922), 6: 434-39. [LINK]
Jensen, Joan M. "'Disfranchisement is a Disgrace': Women and Politics in New Mexico, 1900-1940," New Mexico Historical Review, January 1981.
Kinyon, Annette. "Annual Report of the Silver City Woman's Club, October 7, 1913," Council Fires (New Mexico Federation of Women's Clubs), December 1913-January 1914, in "Woman's Club" folder, Vertical File, Silver City Public Library.
Kinyon, Annette. Article on the Silver City Woman's Club, Bulletin of the New Mexico Federation of Women's Clubs, December 1914, Special Collections, Branson Library, New Mexico State University, Las Cruces.
Kinyon, Annette (Mrs. J. R. Kinyon). "New Mexico State Federation," General Federation of Women's Clubs Magazine, January 1917.
Kinyon, Annette Ford, obituaries. Silver City Daily Press and Independent, November 1, 1935 and November 4, 1935; Silver City Enterprise, November 1, 1935.
Kinyon, James R., obituary. Silver City Enterprise, January 20, 1944.
Melzer, Richard. New Mexico: A Celebration of the Land of Enchantment (Layton, Utah: Gibbs Smith, 2011). Photo of spurious float on July 4th, 1911, p. 15.
Overturf, Donald S. "The History of New Mexico Western College Silver City" (PhD dissertation, University of Nebraska, 1960), p. 725. Copy in Treasure Room, Miller Library, Western New Mexico University.
Silver City Eagle, April 15, 1896.
Silver City Enterprise, 1908-1944.
Silver City Independent, 1897-1935.
Silver City Public Library. "Woman's Club" folder in Vertical File.
Silver City Woman's Club. Minutes of Monthly Meetings, April 28, 1909-October 13, 1916. In custody of the club.