Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920

Biography of Katherine Blood Sumney, 1869-1958

By Thomas Dublin, Distinguished Professor Emeritus, Binghamton University

Katherine Blood was born in Illinois in 1869, the second daughter of Frank and Abby Blood, and grew up in Floyd, Illinois. Her father was a retail grocer. She completed four years of high school. In 1899 she married Herbert C. Sumney, a physician, and by 1900 the couple lived in Omaha, Nebraska, where her husband developed his medical practice for more than four decades. The couple did not have children.

The Sumneys boarded in Omaha until Herbert's death in 1935, after which Katherine lived by herself in a rented home.

The first reference to Katherine Sumney's partricipation in the woman suffrage movement came in October 1912 when she was elected recording secretary of the Equal Franchise Society in Omaha. In 1914 she attended the annual convention of the National American Woman Suffrage Association in Nashville and in 1915 she was noted as chairman of the Douglas County Suffrage organization. In 1919 she was elected vice president of the State Suffrage Association.

Her obituary described her as one of the "Big Three" suffrage leaders during World War I. She spearheaded opposition to a 1918 call for a statewide referendum by opponents of women's suffrage. She helped to demonstrate the fraud in the collection of petition signatures for the referendum and had the petition thrown out by state courts.

She continued to be active after women had secured the vote. She was a strong supporter of the League of Nations, though it was strongly opposed by the Republican party in Nebraska. In the 1930s and 1940s she often sat on the executive committee of Nebraska Tuberculosis Association.

Katherine Sumney passed away in Omaha at 89 in 1958, remembered in her obituary for her suffrage leadership.


Federal manuscript censuses for the Blood family in Illinois, 1870 and 1880 and as Katherine Sumney in Omaha censuses, 1900-1940. Accessed in Ancestry Library Edition.

Marriage record, Herbert C. Sumney and Katherine Blood, 1889 in Ancestry Library Edition.

Ida Husted Harper, et al., eds., History of Woman Suffrage, vol. 6 (1922). [LINK].

Newspaper stories:

"Nebraska Women After Mullen," Falls City (Nebraska) Journal, 8 April 1920, p. 1.

"G.O.P. Repudiates League Covenant," Hastings (NE) Daily Tribune, 19 May 1920, p. 2.

"Who They Are and What," Columbus (NE) Telegram, 8 October 1915, p. 11.

"Suffs Not Pleaed with the Campaign," Omaha Daily Bee, 4 Dec. 1914, p. 7.

"Suffragists Displeased," Lincoln Journal Star, 15 Aug. 1919, p. 1.

"Mrs. Sumney Named Chairman of County Suffrage Organization, "Omaha Daily Bee, 16 April 1915, p. 12.

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