Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Dr. Alice Mulkey, 1867-1940
By Stacey Berry, undergraduate student, Drake University. Edited by Tammie Busch, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.
Alice Claudia Martin was born in Kirkwood, Missouri in October 1867 to James M. and Susan Martin, née Eckman. Alice married John E. Mulkey, a Harrisburg, Illinois newspaper editor in 1884. Alice and John had one daughter, Shirley. Alice graduated from Forest Park College in St. Louis and eventually studied for her degree in chiropractic medicine in New York.
Alice owned a hat shop in St. Louis and spent her days working as a milliner. However, she developed a reputation as an adept public speaker when she began delivering campaign speeches across the country in support of William Jennings Bryan's 1896 presidential campaign. Alice credited her father for her interest in politics. Since her father was a Republican, Alice assumed she would also support the Republican party, but changed her mind during the Republican National Convention in St. Louis. Of McKinley, Alice said "I knew that he was a man who would rather be President than be right." She decided to support Bryan because she felt he was "a friend of the masses as against the classes."
In 1903, Alice was named president of the Missouri State Suffrage Association, a branch of the National American Woman Suffrage Association. Alice and the women leaders before her were ready for a change; however, enthusiasm for equal suffrage was low and there was not a lot of backing and support from other women. Nevertheless, Alice's pursuit of equal rights persisted. In October of 1904, at a meeting of women suffragists at the Christian Endeavor Hotel in St. Louis, Alice advocated to have the word "sex" left out of the proposed constitutions of Oklahoma and Arizona. Alice felt that leaving the word in would "forever bar them from exercising the right of suffrage in the new states." At this meeting, Alice "made a forcible talk" on equal suffrage in the two proposed states and said, "women objected most vigorously to being classed along with mental and moral degenerates, criminals and nonresidents." She went on to say that taxation without representation was the worst form of legal tyranny.
As president of the state association, Alice served as a delegate at the 37th Annual Convention of the National American Woman Suffrage Association held at Portland, Oregon, June 28th to July 5th, 1905. In the proceedings, Alice reported that due to previously low enthusiasm for suffrage work, the efforts of the association had been used to advocate for bills providing compulsory education, which had passed. Nevertheless, she believed that interest in Missouri suffrage had "moved from the frigid to the temperate zone" and she was highly gratified by the increase in sentiment and the number of articles and editorials appearing in major newspapers.
Alice was not afraid of public speaking or traveling long distances for her cause. In addition to touring the country to campaign for William Jennings Bryan in 1896, a few years later she travelled 26,000 miles as an organizer for the Women's Auxiliary of the International Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees, an organization in which she also served as president. In November of 1905, Alice traveled to the East and Canada to speak on equal suffrage.
As president of the state association, Alice recognized the importance of establishing branch societies in the larger cities and towns throughout the state. She was integral to the organization and creation of the St. Louis Equal Suffrage League in 1910. After 1910, nothing is written about Alice's suffrage work in St. Louis newspapers. An obituary in the St. Louis Globe-Democrat indicates she had been practicing medicine on Long Island and in New York beginning in the early 1920s. Nevertheless, Alice was a trailblazer for women's rights in Missouri. Alice died in 1940 in Amityville, New York.
Information about Dr. Alice Mulkey and her contributions to the women's suffrage movement can be found in newspapers such as the St. Louis Globe-Democrat, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, St. Louis Republic, and St. Louis Star and Times. Alice's report on the state of suffrage in Missouri in 1905 can be found in the Proceedings of the Thirty-seventh Annual Convention of the National American Woman Suffrage Association, Held at Portland, Oregon, June 28th to July 5th, Inclusive, 1905. [This title is a hyperlink]