Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920

Biography of Ada J. Jackson Longley, 1856-1937

By Linda D. Wilson, Independent Historian

California suffragist Ada J. Jackson, the daughter of Robert H. and Adela Jackson, was born on December 19, 1856, in Ohio. Her given name was Adrian as indicated on the 1860 and 1870 censuses. In 1870 the family lived in Sandusky, Erie County, Ohio, where her father was employed as a steamboat engineer. When she married Leo A. Longley, a stenographer and court reporter in Cincinnati, Ohio, on May 26, 1880, she used the name Ada Jackson. In 1886 the Longleys moved from Cincinnati to South Pasadena, California, where his parents, Elias and Margaret V. Longley, had moved the previous year. Leo and Ada Longley adopted a daughter named Myra, who was born in 1889.

Leo Longley was mayor of South Pasadena from 1890 to 1892 and served on the first board of trustees when the town was incorporated on March 2, 1888. He continued to work as a court reporter, using the writing system developed by his father. Longley worked in the state and federal courts as well as having a private practice later in life. He was a founding member of the local Masonic lodge. On May 26, 1905, family members prepared a reception in honor of the Longleys' silver wedding anniversary.

Ada J. Longley became involved in the California suffrage movement in the early 1890s, possibly because her mother-in-law Margaret V. Longley was one of California's pioneer suffrage leaders. In October 1891 the California People's Party invited suffragists and members of women's clubs to their convention in Los Angeles. In April 1892 the Los Angeles Women's Suffrage Association appointed Margaret Longley as a delegate to the People's Party convention. The People's Party endorsed suffrage and added it to their political platform. In July 1894, Margaret Longley was elected as vice chair at the Party's convention.

In March 1892 Ada Longley attended a large gathering of women's club representatives at the request of the Historical Society. The society wanted to gather histories of the many clubs. She presented the history of the "Woman's Suffrage Society." At the annual meeting of the Los Angeles Women's Suffrage Association held in April that year, Ada was elected secretary and her mother-in-law was elected corresponding secretary.

In April 1895 suffragists of Los Angeles County held a convention to organize a central committee composed of representatives from each voting precinct. Ada Longley was chosen as secretary to record minutes of the meeting. Margaret Longley was appointed to represent the voting precinct of South Pasadena. In 1896 Ada Longley organized the Women Suffrage Campaign Club at her home. At the organization's second meeting, anti-suffragists and "doubters" were invited "for the purpose of free discussion and conversion to the truth." In 1896 suffragists diligently worked for a suffrage amendment to be added to the California constitution. The amendment failed passage in a statewide referendum in 1896 due to its unpopularity in the large metropolitan areas of Oakland and San Francisco as well as opposition from the liquor industry. Also, the People's Party did not follow through with their endorsement of suffrage.

Immediately after the 1896 defeat, President Lizzie Meserve called the last meeting of the Los Angeles County campaign committee. Financial and achievement reports were given. Ada Longley made a resolution that a permanent central committee be organized with two or more representatives from each precinct. A temporary committee was established to formulate a permanent county suffrage committee to continue and to improve future work in the campaign for a state suffrage amendment.

In April 1904 the California Woman's Suffrage Association with approximately sixty women met in session. During the election of officers, Ada Longley was elected president, Lizzie H. Meserve as vice president, and Carrie Johnson as secretary. The California Equal Suffrage Association, incorporated on May 16, 1904, eliminated the reference to women in its name so that men would join the organization.

In August 1904 Ada Longley, as president of the Los Angeles County Suffrage Association, was among the suffragists who planned the annual convention to be held in October in that city. Longley and Mabel V. Osborne welcomed convention attendees. A Los Angeles newspaper noted that many club women, who had remained indifferent regarding the ballot, declared themselves ready to work for the passage of a suffrage amendment. California suffragists utilized pamphlets and newspapers to inform the public of their desire for the ballot, working across class and party lines.

In 1906, National American Woman Suffrage Association organizer Gail Laughlin visited California to help reorganize former chapters and to institute new chapters. In How the Vote Was Won: Woman Suffrage in the Western United States, 1868-1914, historian Rebecca J. Mead states that Laughlin helped double the size of California's suffrage organizations. Buoyed by the recent win in Washington state in 1910, suffragists across the nation helped fund the California campaign. In addition to the traditional campaign methods of mass meetings and street addresses, California women employed new techniques utilizing billboards, broadsides, neon lights, and automobile caravans. They successfully gained suffrage in 1911. Support from the Socialist Party, working-class men, and rural communities helped California women gain the vote.

In addition to suffrage work, Ada Longley was active in women's clubs and civic activities. In 1890 she was president of the sixteen-member Yucca Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle. During that year the group studied Roman history and culture. In 1893 she and fifty-five other members formed the South Pasadena Lyceum that provided a reading room for the town's citizens. Books were accumulated through members' donations and fund-raising events. Eventually, the reading room became a public library. Through the years, the Longleys contributed many books from their personal library.

Ada Longley founded the Woman's Improvement Association (WIA) with fifteen members at her home on February 1, 1899. The purpose of the organization was self-improvement as well as civic projects. She served as its first president. The organization helped beautify Pasadena by creating a park near the Santa Fe depot and erecting a public fountain. In April 1901 Longley represented the WIA at the annual meeting of the Woman's Parliament of Southern California. And, in 1902 she represented the WIA at the fourth meeting of the Los Angeles Federated Women's Clubs. In March 1906, Longley and two other women visited the Detention Center and the Juvenile Court in Los Angeles. Following the trip, Ada Longley offered a paper on their findings to the WIA. The club purchased a lot in South Pasadena in 1910 and constructed a club house in 1913. At the club house dedication in October 1913, Longley gave the history of the association to the attendees. By 1914 the Woman's Improvement Association had 225 members.

In October 1903 Ada Longley, as a member of the Woman's Parliament of Southern California, gave a talk entitled "Lessons from the Myths." At the organization's 1904 annual meeting, the Los Angeles Times reported that she presented "[o]ne of the ablest papers of the day" entitled "The Need of the Hour," referring to woman's suffrage. In 1904 she was elected to the South Pasadena Board of School Trustees. Two years later Longley entertained the women teachers from the South Pasadena High School. In May 1908, Ada Longley talked about her experiences as president of the school board at a women's club meeting. During her six-year tenure on the board, the idea for a high school was orchestrated. After the central building was completed, the addition of the manual arts and household economy buildings were finalized.

Longley was also active in the Order of the Eastern Star. In October 1897 she represented the Southgate chapter at the sixth annual meeting of the Woman's Parliament of Southern California. In April 1907 she entertained that chapter. In March 1908 she organized the South Pasadena Chapter of the Eastern Star. At the Masons' annual banquet in April 1908, Ada Longley was among the women guests. As Worthy Matron she gave a brief response regarding the Eastern Star. In March 1918 she was the honored guest of the South Pasadena Chapter meeting that celebrated the tenth anniversary of her founding that chapter.

Ada's husband Leo Longley died on December 16, 1918, in South Pasadena. In May 1919, her unmarried sister Amelia, who had been living with the Longleys for more than thirty years, also died. In 1923 Ada Longley traveled to Honolulu, Hawaii. In 1934 she registered as a Republican. Ada Longley died on August 26, 1937, in Los Angeles, California. She and her husband were buried at Mountain View Cemetery and Mausoleum in Altadena, Los Angeles County, California.

The Longley house is listed on the South Pasadena Register of Cultural Heritage Landmarks. Significantly, the Women Suffrage Campaign Committee for South Pasadena and the Woman's Improvement Association were organized in that home in 1896 and 1899, respectively.


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