Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920

Biography of Agnes M. Jenks, 1870-1945

By Elisa Miller, Associate Professor of History, and Tracey Jo Harrison, Undergraduate Student, Rhode Island College, Providence, Rhode Island.

Member of the Brookline Equal Suffrage Association; President of the Concord Equal Suffrage Association; Legislative Chair and Secretary of the New Hampshire Woman Suffrage Association; Legislative Chair of the Rhode Island Woman Suffrage Party; Legislative Chair and President of the Rhode Island Woman Suffrage Association and Rhode Island Equal Suffrage Association; Actress; Republican Speaker; Tax reform activist

Agnes Marie O'Leary was born in Wakefield, Massachusetts in 1870 to William Curran O'Leary and Miriam Keating O'Leary. Both parents had been widowed prior to this marriage and Agnes O'Leary had numerous siblings and half siblings. William O'Leary emigrated to the United States from England but was of Irish descent. Miriam O'Leary's maternal family had roots in colonial America but she was born in Nova Scotia, Canada and emigrated to the United States; her father was born in Ireland. The Jenks family was Catholic. Her father died in 1872, when she was two years old. William O'Leary was an industrial designer but also an amateur actor, author, artist, and musician. Her mother, Miriam O'Leary, also enjoyed amateur theater. Agnes's sister, also named Miriam, later recalled that her father enjoyed putting on plays at home with his children. Agnes O'Leary studied public speaking and both she and her sister, Miriam, worked as actresses on the stage. Miriam O'Leary became quite famous at an actress. Agnes O'Leary took the stage name, "Agnes Acres," and worked for the Boston Museum Theater Company the late 1880s and early 1890s. The Boston Globe described her as "young, pretty and ambitious, and gives promise of an artistic success of a high order."

Agnes O'Leary left acting when she got married to Barton P. Jenks in Manhattan, New York on October 23, 1892. Barton Jenks had studied at Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The couple lived in Brookline, Massachusetts, a suburb of Boston and Barton Jenks worked at an architecture firm. They had three children - Phoebe born in 1895, Barton Jr. born in 1899, and Lewis born in 1904. Lewis died of diphtheria at five years old. Barton Jenks later became a well-known silversmith and designer.

Agnes Jenks became active in the woman suffrage movement in Massachusetts. A 1912 Boston Globe article about her reported that she had started her suffrage work twelve years earlier, approximately 1900, as a suffrage "organizer at Hyde Park and other points in Boston." In 1903, Jenks used her theater experience to produce, stage manage, and act in two suffrage plays for the Brookline Equal Suffrage Association. Later, at a 1915 "suffrage symposium" held by the Rhode Island Woman Suffrage Association, Jenks explained why she became a suffragist. She stated that she joined the suffrage movement after she realized through her charity and reform work that women needed the ballot "to assure reforms for women and children" and that they were handicapped in their efforts to gain legislative changes without political power. In another account, Jenks mentioned growing up hearing dramatic stories about her family history and that "her interest in equal suffrage was probably an inheritance from a long line of independent thinkers on both sides of her family." She usually was referred to as "Agnes M. Jenks" or "Mrs. Barton P. Jenks" in her suffrage work, although her last name was often misspelled as Jencks.

Around 1905, the family moved to Concord, New Hampshire and Barton Jenks served as president of W.B. Durgin & Co., a silversmith company. In Concord, Agnes Jenks became very active in the community. She was a member of the Professional Women's Club, the Concord Woman's Club, and the Peace Society of New Hampshire. She also continued her suffrage activism; by 1908 was president of the Concord Equal Suffrage Association and developed it into one of the largest suffrage associations in New Hampshire. In addition to her suffrage work in Concord, Jenks became secretary and legislative chair of the New Hampshire Woman Suffrage Association. In New Hampshire, she became well known for her public speaking on suffrage and her legislative work. The Boston Globe claimed that "as an organizer, distributor of literature and in personal work, Mrs. Agnes M. Jenks of Concord is conceded to be second to no other leader of the suffragists of New Hampshire" and has "succeeded in arousing a large interest in New Hampshire for the cause." The article also praised her public speaking skills, reporting, "Mrs. Jenks ranks well up with the best platform speakers of the country on the suffrage questions. She has a clear voice and a magnetic convincing manner." She gave speeches at suffrage meetings, community events, and testified numerous times before the New Hampshire state legislature about woman suffrage. The article noted that Jenks provided dramatic and memorable testimony at a 1909 judiciary committee in New Hampshire in which "she, single handed, met the objections of the leading lawyers of the State."

In these speeches, Jenks explained her ideas about suffrage and tried to win over converts. In 1913 testimony at the legislature, Jenks tried to refute criticisms of woman suffrage. She explained that, "a great many European countries have granted equal suffrage and in 11 where women vote the infant mortality is the lowest of any similar section of the world, while in this country the infant mortality is almost beyond belief." She also gave a "very vivid description of the miseries of child labor in the tenements of the large cities" and asked, "You may ask what has this to do with you, but the people living in beautiful, rural Maine owe a moral responsibility to those overworked, down trodden women and children of the tenements." She drew on maternalist ideas that women had special skills and responsibility to nurture and protect women and children and that the vote would help them fulfill this duty and improve society. She testified that "women are coming to have a larger feeling of motherhood and to realise more than ever before that they are responsible for the little ones from the time they are born until they die and they want the aid in meeting this responsibility that the ballot alone can give them. Politics interfere with women in their homes every minute of their existence." She continued that women would use the vote to help solve social problems such as child labor, prostitution, and public heath problems.

In New Hampshire, Jenks developed impressive political skills that she used throughout her suffrage career. As legislative chair of the New Hampshire Woman Suffrage Association, Jenks led extensive campaigns to lobby politicians and the public about women suffrage bills. The National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA), noted in its The History of Woman Suffrage series that Jenks "conducted an energetic campaign for the [municipal suffrage] bill," although it did not pass. Jenks wrote a 1909 report for the suffrage association about the political situation. She stated, "The legislature has been throwing sops to the women long enough and we must unite all of our efforts to getting votes." In a 1912 interview with The Boston Globe, she expressed hope that an upcoming Constitutional Convention in New Hampshire would approve woman suffrage. She stated, "we are hopeful that New Hampshire will be the first State in New England to adopt such an amendment" and that "we shall do all that we can to bring nearer the inevitable final goal - equal suffrage in the Granite State."

In addition to her suffrage work in New Hampshire, Jenks contributed to efforts in other states. She testified before the Vermont State Legislature in support of a suffrage bill. While traveling to the 1911 NAWSA convention in Louisville, Kentucky, she proposed to local leaders in Cincinnati, Ohio that they hold an open-air suffrage rally which took place and was reportedly the first open-air suffrage meeting in the state. Ohio leaders were so pleased by the turnout that they asked Jenks to return on her way home from the convention, which she did, speaking from a car to several thousand attendees along with prominent suffragists including M. Carey Thomas, president of Bryn Mawr College, and Susan Fitzgerald of Boston. Jenks also led a New Hampshire delegation at a 1912 suffrage parade in New York put on by the Women's Political Union (WPU). She also gave a speech at a WPU banquet held after the parade and had a photograph taken of her in her parade clothing, including a "votes for women" banner. Jenks also attended the famous woman suffrage parade in March 1913 right before Woodrow Wilson's inauguration. She later testified before a House hearing about the conduct of police during the parade. She explained that she was with her teenaged daughter and one or two other young women and that "the crowd did hoot and jeer and make the most insulting remarks to these girls. They tried to grab their flowers away from them, and one man stuck his foot out and tried to trip up my daughter." She discussed the behavior of policemen that she witnessed, explaining, "there were two policemen standing together that were egging the crowd on to jeer, and they themselves were making remarks to us and jeering."

She attended several NAWSA conventions and the International Woman Suffrage Conventions in Stockholm and Budapest. At the 1912 NAWSA convention in Philadelphia, Jenks gave a speech. She later became a member of the national advisory committee of Alice Paul's Congressional Union and National Woman's Party organizations. Jenks's behavior at NAWSA conventions about Alice Paul is contradictory and unclear. At the 1913 convention, Jenks made a motion that the National Board reaffirm the appointment of the Congressional Committee and appoint Alice Paul to take charge of the effort to further the Constitutional amendment. However, The Providence Journal reported that Jenks "started a heated controversy" at the 1914 NAWSA convention in Nashville "by introducing a resolution designed to limit activities of [Paul's] Congressional Committee to work for passage of a suffrage amendment to the Federal Constitution."

In 1914, the Jenks family moved to Providence, Rhode Island and Barton P. Jenks worked as a vice president of Gorham Manufacturing Company, a silversmith company that had acquired his previous employer. Agnes Jenks quickly became a leader in the Rhode Island suffrage movement, especially using the political skills that she had developed in New Hampshire. Sara M. Algeo, a leading Rhode Island suffragist and rival of Jenks, wrote about Jenks in her 1925 memoir. She stated that, "In the summer of 1914, Mrs. Agnes M. Jenks came to Rhode Island; just at the right moment for her hot-headed Irish insurgency to fan to a flame the rebellion that had been smouldering in each and all of us over the treatment of our Presidential Bill during the preceding Legislature." Historian Evelyn Savidge Sterne agrees with Algeo's assessment and argues that "as an upwardly mobile second-generation immigrant with a multinational heritage, Jenks was well-positioned to forge alliances across class and ethnic lines" in Rhode Island.

Jenks first became active in the Rhode Island Woman Suffrage Party (RIWSP), a NAWSA-affiliated organization that focused on political organization and lobbying. She organized a speakers' bureau Jenks became the legislative chair of RIWSP in 1914, continuing her role from New Hampshire. She later became legislative chair of both a joint committee of various suffrage organizations in Rhode Island and the Rhode Island Woman Suffrage Association (RIWSA). As legislative chair, Jenks focused on a campaign for a presidential suffrage bill that would allow women to vote in presidential elections. Rhode Island suffragists had been advocating for presidential suffrage since 1892. Jenks explained that presidential suffrage was just a step toward the real goal - full woman suffrage. She explained that presidential suffrage was just "the camel's nose, and we expect the camel to make room in the tent for full suffrage."

When no president was elected of RIWSA at the end of 1914, Jenks was appointed president by its executive committee. In 1915, RIWSP, RIWSA, and the College Equal Suffrage league joined forces as the Rhode Island Equal Suffrage Association (RIESA). Jenks had advocated for and helped organize the amalgamation, arguing that having many different organizations in a tiny state "represented dissipation of strength as well as weakness of aim" and that "in unity there is strength." Jenks also participated in parades and campaigns in other states and cities, and she spoke at a United States House hearing on woman suffrage along with luminaries such as Anna Howard Shaw, Alice Stone Blackwell, and Carrie Chapman Catt.

In her campaign for the presidential suffrage bill, Jenks utilized many different tactics to apply pressure and gain support from the public and politicians. She explained that her goal was to focus on the legislative issue in order to raise woman suffrage to "a status where it could not [sic] longer be ignored." She led a committee to train suffragists in public speaking to advance the cause with the public and legislature. She established a practice to have several suffragists present at the Rhode Island State House every day the Assembly was in session. She led an effort by legislative committee to interview every legislator in the Rhode Island House and Senate about the suffrage bill. She arranged for high-profile speakers, including U.S. Senator John D. Works from California and U.S. Congressman Frank W. Mondell from Wyoming, to testify in favor of presidential suffrage bill at a Rhode Island legislative hearing. Jenks sent letters to every legislator about the presidential suffrage bill and provided talking points and statistics and refuted criticism of woman suffrage. For example, she explained that "the presidential bill is politically sound and has been upheld by the Supreme Court of Illinois in test case" and that there had been "a million and a half votes cast in four great Eastern States for full suffrage. This is a very large proportion of the electorate and when the vast army of women who worked for the campaigns is added, we have an immense army of citizens who have plainly shown their wish that women should be enfranchised."

In the presidential suffrage campaign, Jenks described women as worthy of the vote and a "loyal, law-abiding, patriotic people." She argued that they would be an improvement on the quality of voters and that "statistics show that the women who would be brought to the polls by the enactment of this bill would bring into the body politic a class of voters superior to any other class that could be enfranchised." At times she expressed offensive ideas about men from other races and ethnicities in her suffrage efforts. She showed contempt for having to appeal to people she saw as inferior to white Americans but acknowledged that the suffrage movement needed to court them. In 1915, she explained, "It makes me indignant to think that we must go out and ask Italians, negroes and drunkards who don't know what we are saying or who don't understand us to give us their support." Jacob Eaton was a Rhode Island legislator and opponent of woman suffrage. Jenks criticized Eaton's opposition to suffrage and linked it to his ethnic background; Eaton was an immigrant from Romania. She claimed that, "Mr. Eaton was born in a country where women are more or less despised, and the women of the common people are as dirt under foot."

During the presidential suffrage campaign, Jenks attempted to refute anti-suffrage ideas held by the public and politicians. She claimed that, "The objection to woman suffrage is not logical but psychological. All are tainted with the fear of change and yet there is no progress without change." At a 1915 Rhode Island Senate committee hearing, Jenks challenged anti-suffragists' claims and "provided the committee with a prepared list of statistics relating to the progress of the movement in other States." In testimony in 1916, Jenks described anti-suffragist women as:

a small number of well-bred, conservative women who seem to be rather firmly convinced that conservatism is a distinct and special virtue, instead of remembering that conservatism is merely an attitude toward life and often hindrance toward real progress. These women also fear that to free all women politically might in some way infringe on their own rights and privilege and let [in]...a group of undesirables... In plain words, these women do not believe in our American ideal of democracy.

Jenks also countered the anti-suffragists' argument that suffrage would hurt women's role in the home. She testified, "The antis say that we belong in the home. We know that. They do not have to tell us that for a moment" and explained she believed that women's vote would be used to support issues of the home and "human life . . .and it is my strongest reason for wanting to see the 'mother-half' part of the Government."

Jenks gave speeches about woman suffrage at Rhode Island political conventions, open-air rallies, and at state legislative hearings. She and other suffragists "invaded" the Rhode Island Republican convention in 1914 to urge the party to include suffrage on their party's platform. She gave a speech at the convention, explaining that, "We want the Republican party to understand that it cannot slip and slide around in dealing with us." She continued:

As I came here this morning and heard the band play 'My Country, 'Tis of Thee,' I felt that it is really, after all our country as well as yours. We want to share your privileges, your opportunities, your responsibilities. We are not asking to enjoy the privileges alone; we are willing to share your burdens as well....[we want to] help you all we can in the affairs of the country.

Jenks then issued a political threat. She used a map of the United States and pointed to states where women had suffrage and the electoral college votes represented by these women. Jenks "warned her hearers that no party could afford to disregard this fact."

In both the 1914 and 1916 elections, she issued more explicit threats to Rhode Island legislators and promised that the suffragists would actively campaign against any politicians who did not support the suffrage bill. Jenks explained that:

she and the women whom she represented were tired of going to the Legislature year after year and not even getting favorable treatment...What will we do if we are not given the consideration we are entitled to in the halls of this Legislature, where we have been coming year after year without the attention we have the right to demand? I am not here to instruct or threaten you, but if we are not given fair play we will fight it out in the political arena, and strike right and left, no matter whom we hit.

Jenks and the legislative committee followed up on this threat and campaigned against suffrage opponents in the Rhode Island Assembly. At open-air rallies in 1914 in Providence, Jenks led a group of suffragists that spoke at various open-air meetings attacking specific Republican candidates "who they deem unfit for public office" and distributed hundreds of handbills denouncing those candidates. In one of these speeches, Jenks stated, "there are thirty-five men serving in the State Legislature who are not fit to represent a community of cats, say nothing of a community of men and women."

Despite this elaborate campaign, the presidential suffrage bill did not pass in the 1914-1916 legislative sessions. Jenks was disappointed by the lack of success but remained focused on the end goal. In an essay about the history of RIESA, Jenks described politics in Rhode Island as a frustrating and confusing arena, marked by "overlapping of personal interests, the low ethics, the high art and clever trickery." She said that the suffragists had been opposed by "corrupt politics, Big Business, vicious interests, native conservatism, foreign immigration, scholasticism and illiteracy." Despite these obstacles, though, Jenks argued that "the brightest and best of suffrage workers, are not only holding aloft the standard of political equality, but also actually making appreciable advance toward that goal." She ended with a forceful statement that, "We shall neither delay nor rest until the cause is won."

In addition to the NAWSA organizations, in 1915 national and local suffragists expressed interest in having a branch of the Congressional Union (CU), Alice Paul's splinter, more militant organization, in Rhode Island. Many Rhode Island suffragists, including those in RIWSA, were already members and supporters of the national CU. Agnes M. Jenks, president of RIWSA, also served on the CU national advisory committee. In 1915, Jenks met with Alice Paul, and told her that she was "desirous of having a branch of the Union in Rhode Island, and would [do] everything possible to aid in the arrangements for [a Congressional Union] convention" in the state. A Congressional Union branch in Rhode Island was created in 1916. The Rhode Island CU occasionally collaborated with RIESA but Jenks was not an active member and disliked and distrusted the Rhode Island CU leaders.

Nationally and in Rhode Island, the Congressional Union eventually transitioned into the National Woman's Party (NWP). Agnes Jenks served on the national advisory board of the NWP as she had in the CU. In May 1917, Rhode Island suffragists hosted a National Woman's Party conference to create an NWP branch in the state. Mildred Gilbert, a national organizer of the party, spoke at the event about the NWP and also met with RIESA leaders and requested their cooperation in the campaign for the federal suffrage amendment. After the meeting, Agnes M. Jenks announced that the RIESA board supported "working in perfect harmony with both national associations [NAWSA and NWP]" and the importance of a federal suffrage amendment. This note of collaboration between the RIESA and Rhode Island NWP was a departure from the contentious relationship that existed between NAWSA and NWP nationally as the leaders clashed on suffrage tactics. Jenks echoed some of these concerns, explaining that RIESA decided not to affiliate formally with the NWP because RIESA members and leaders had reservations about the wisdom of the NWP's militant tactics, most notably the "present picketing of the White House, which, in this serious national crisis seems extreme action that serves no end, and which conservative Rhode Island women are not prepared to indorse."

In early 1917, success on the continuing effort for a presidential suffrage bill seemed possible. Jenks sent out a letter to all RIESA member urging them to write to their state representatives. She pleaded, "Please write IMMEDIATELY to your Representatives asking them to be sure and vote in favor. This is the most important action we have asked of you this year. Get AT LEAST 3 other IMPORTANT men and women to write IMMEDIATELY. Quick action is absolutely necessary." Soon after, in April 1917, the state legislature passed the presidential suffrage bill, which Rhode Island suffragists had been campaigning for since 1892. The Providence Journal interviewed Jenks about this major victory for the Rhode Island suffrage movement and she declared:

I am overjoyed. This bill called forth more interest from all sections of the State, than any other bill this year. I wish to thank the loyal men and women in our organization and in both parties in the General Assembly, for their support. We found great support on all sides from men in public life from the congressional delegation down. I am very glad indeed that our 12th hour enemies failed in their attempts to prevent the enactment of the bill...I am overjoyed. I felt sure that we would win, but the actual winning is too joyous for words."

When Governor Beeckman signed the suffrage bill, Jenks, her daughter, Phoebe, and a handful of other Rhode Island suffragists attended and were featured in a photograph of the signing.

Jenks gave a speech about the presidential suffrage victory at the 1917 NAWSA convention. Sara Fittz, a leading Rhode Island suffragist, wrote articles about the presidential suffrage bill for both The Providence Journal and The Woman's Journal, the NAWSA newspaper. She gave Jenks much credit for the legislative success. She explained that in 1914, when Jenks became president of RIWSA that she determined that "all sentiment, artillery and resources must now be aimed at the Rhode Island Legislature" and launched a "big, irresistible legislative drive." She "prepared women speakers, lobbyists, organizers, canvassers, chairmen of committees to command and understand the situation and harnessed every available opportunity that might have a remote bearing on our ultimate triumph." Fittz concluded that Jenks was "gifted beyond description with qualities that make for political leadership." Elizabeth Upham Yates, Jenks's predecessor at RIWSA president concurred with Fittz and said that "Mrs. Agnes M. Jenks worked indefatigably for [the presidential suffrage bill's passage throughout the whole term of the Legislature."

Jenks continued her political lobbying after the presidential suffrage achievement. In October 1917, she sent out a report to RIESA member urging them to contact their U.S. Senators and congressmen, and members of the Rhode Island legislature about the federal suffrage amendment. She told them to circulate petitions for the suffrage amendment, work that NAWSA and its leader, Carrie Chapman Catt, had requested from the state organization. Jenks explained, "The petition work in Rhode Island is especially important, as we are the only Eastern States that has gained a measure of suffrage." She dramatically stressed to the members, "DON'T FALL DOWN ON THIS WORK. DO YOUR SHARE." Jenks also urged suffragists to engage in war voluntarism, such as with the Red Cross, Americanization efforts for immigrants, and food conservation, to support the United States during World War I. NAWSA embraced voluntarism and patriotism in the war effort as a means of gaining support for woman suffrage. Jenks served as a member of the executive committee of the Red Cross in Rhode Island and as chair of publicity of the Rhode Island Division of the Woman's Committee of the Council of National Defence.

In 1918, as the federal amendment gained support in the U.S. Congress, Jenks reflected on the process. She had spent some time in Washington, D.C. lobbying politicians about the amendment with NAWSA. She said that "We do not consider that President Wilson's generous and patriotic approval of the amendment, the night before it was to be voted upon in the House, really affected the result there. The caucusing that had been done in both parties had already foreshadowed what was bound to happen." However, she continued in support of Wilson, stating that his "generous" and "unqualified" support "will be the means of bringing over a number of doubtful Democratic members of the Senate." Jenks said that as soon as the amendment passes the Senate as well, that the Rhode Island suffragists would begin lobbying to get the state legislature to ratify the amendment. She stated that "We are so confident that the amendment will prevail that we are educating the women of Rhode Island how to take advantage of the rights it will confer upon them." In this vein, RIESA created a civics course with the slogan "Prepare for Good Citizenship."

In the fall of 1918, Jenks stepped down as RIESA president as she prepared to travel overseas to participate in war relief work. RIESA made her an honorary president of the organization. Jenks was one of the leaders of the Rhode Island campaign for Armenia that had been devastated during World War I by Turkish occupation, oppression, and violence. She spent six months in Armenia doing relief work with the American Relief Commission for the Near East. She explained the mission as:

We are going back to the oldest Christian nation of the world to save it from extermination by starvation. We are going to get back the hundreds of Armenian girls now in Turkish harems and the hundreds of children between the ages of five and fourteen whom the Turks stole from the Armenians and took into their country as slaves under Moslem rule.

While there, Jenks gave a speech on woman suffrage to the students at Constantinople in Turkey. NAWSA highlighted the Armenian relief work of Jenks and Gertrude E. Knox, another Rhode Island suffragist, and their connections to the suffrage movement in its 1919 handbook.

Jenks returned home to Rhode Island in time to witness the Rhode Island state government officially ratify the nineteenth amendment in January 1920. As with the presidential suffrage bill in 1917, Jenks attended the official signing by Governor Beeckman. He awarded her one of four pens used in the ceremony in recognition of her efforts and importance in the Rhode Island suffrage movement. The Providence Journal interviewed Jenks about the suffrage victory and she stated, "Rhode Island led the New England States by granting presidential suffrage and leads in 1920 in the final act toward complete victory. It is a fine New Year's present for Rhode Island women." She gave a speech at the ratification celebration thrown by the suffrage association. A month after the Rhode Island ratification success, Jenks and other leading Rhode Island suffragists attended NAWSA's annual convention in Chicago in February 1920. The convention was intended to celebrate the progress made toward the suffrage amendment, mark the transition of the national organization to the League of Women Voters, and set goals and strategies for continued activism. She helped lead in a RIESA event in May 1920 that marked the organization's "demise" after the ratification of suffrage. RIESA members marched from the headquarters to the Rhode Island State House where they deposited their records in the state archives to preserve them for posterity.

Later in 1920, Jenks and her husband moved, first to Manhattan, New York and then to Queens, New York. After the suffrage ratification, she became active in party politics. Jenks participated in an effort to create a new Progressive Party in 1924. By 1928, she was a member of the Republican Party's Speakers Bureau and was an early and prominent supporter of Herbert Hoover's Republican campaign for president. Jenks claimed that America "is facing the most important election in its history and that the selection as President of Herbert Hoover is necessary for a continuance of prosperity." She helped establish the first four "Hoover-Curtis Clubs" in the country. She drew on the political organizing skills she developed in the suffrage movement to campaign for Hoover. She said that his election "depends upon the district organizers and campaigners" and that advocates should use "conferences and street corner meetings" to drum up support for the campaign. She spent much time in the fall of 1928 campaigning for Hoover in Rhode Island and after the election, he wrote her a letter thanking Jenks for her efforts to get him elected.

By the mid 1930s, Jenks became active in tax reform efforts. She feared that middle class taxes were getting too high, that the wealthy had too many tax exemptions, leading to the possibility of "economic revolution." She testified at Congressional government hearings on tax and regulation bills in 1935 and 1941. In 1935, she stated that she "had elected herself a committee of one "to represent the financial middle class" and that "warned that too many economic hard blows while the nation is very sick would go far toward ending our democracy." Agnes Jenks and her husband may have separated. She was listed in the 1930 census living in Boston with her son and his family and Barton Jenks lived by himself in Manhattan, New York. They were both still classified as married, though. In the 1940 census, Agnes Jenks was listed as living as a lodger without Barton, but still married, in Manhattan. In 1941, Barton P. Jenks died. Agnes M. Jenks died in Boston, Massachusetts on May 9, 1945. She is buried in Mount Hope Cemetery in Boston.


"Our Favorites; Famous Boston Actresses and Their Work," The Boston Globe, September 1, 1889.


Agnes Jenks photographed at the New York suffrage parade, 1912. Agnes Jenks, Bain News Service Publisher. Agnes Jenks [No Date Recorded on Caption Card] Photograph.


"Suffragists on the Common," The Boston Globe, May 16, 1915


Rhode Island Governor Beeckman signing the presidential woman suffrage bill, April 18, 1917. Left to right: Unidentified woman (most likely Ethel W. Parks), Helen R. Parks, Mabel E. Orgelman, Senator Henry B. Kane, Agnes M. Jenks, Governor R. Livingston Beeckman, Elizabeth Upham Yates, Anna G. Smith, Nettie E. Bauer, Representative Richard W. Jennings, Mildred Glines. Jenks' daughter, Phoebe, is in the photograph but obscured behind Smith in the back.

From A. G. Spencer, History of the Rhode Island Woman Suffrage Association, Providence Public Library, Providence, RI.


"Educating Women to Be Intelligent Voters," The Providence Journal, February 24, 1918. From the John Hay Library, Brown University, Providence, RI.


Harper, Ida Husted, ed. The History of Woman Suffrage, Vol. 6: 1900-1920. New York: J.J. Little & Ives Company, 1922. (Chapter 28: Maine; Chapter 38: Rhode Island).

"Address by Mrs. Jenks." The Newport Daily News (Newport, Rhode Island), December 7, 1914.

"Agnes Acres Married." The Hartford Courant (Hartford, Connecticut), February 11, 1893.

Agnes Jenks, Bain News Service Publisher. Agnes Jenks [No Date Recorded on Caption Card] Photograph.

"Agnes Marie O'Leary Jenks," Find a Grave.

"A Hard Worker in the Cause of Equal Suffrage." The Boston Globe, May 12, 1912.

Algeo, Sara M. The Story of a Sub-Pioneer. Providence, RI: Snow & Farnham Co., 1925.

"Asks Why League Indorsed Sumner." The Providence Journal, November 1, 1914.

"Committee of 48 Plans NY Convention in May." The Boston Globe, March 19, 1924.

Constantinople College, Bulletin; President's Report 1918-1919.

Converse, David. "The World of To-day." Boston Home Journal 59, No. 14 (April 4, 1903), 6.

"Educating Women to Be Intelligent Voters." The Providence Journal, February 24, 1918,

"Elections Please State Suffragists." The Providence Journal, November 3, 1915.

"Federal Suffrage Work is Planned." The Providence Journal, April 21, 1917.

Fittz, Sara. "How Rhode Island Won." The Woman's Journal 48, No. 16 (April 28, 1917): 97-98.

Forty-Fourth Annual Report of the National-American Woman Suffrage Association Given at the Convention Held at Philadelphia, PA. November 21 to 26 (inclusive), 1912. New York: National-American Woman Suffrage Association, 1912.

Forty-Third Annual Report of the National-American Woman Suffrage Association at the Convention held at Louisville, KY, October 19 to 25, 1911. New York: NAWSA, 1911.

"Governor Beekman, Prominent Woman Suffrage Workers and General Assembly Leaders Laud Passage of Bill by Rhode Island Legislature." The Providence Journal, April 18, 1917.

Hand Book of the National American Woman Suffrage Associationand Proceedings of the Forty-Eighth Annual ConventionHeld at Atlantic City, N.J. September 4-10, 1916. New York: National American Woman Suffrage Association, 1916.

Hearings before a Subcommittee of the Committee on the District of Columbia, United States Senate. Sixty-Third Congress. Part 1, March 6-17, 1913. Washington: Government Printing Office, 1913.

"Heltzen Refuses to Run for Mayor." The Providence Journal, September 14, 1928.

"'How We Won Suffrage:' 'Inside Play' of Rhode Island's Long Campaign Described by One of its Leaders." The Providence Journal, April 29, 1917.

"Hoover Thanks Women of State for Support; President-elect Writes to Mrs. Agnes M. Jenks." The Providence Journal, November 18, 1928.

"In Armenia." The Wichita Daily Eagle (Wichita, Kansas), March 9, 1919.

"In Rhode Island 25 Years Ago." The Providence Journal, November 12, 1939.

Jenks, Agnes M. "A Brief History of Woman Suffrage in Rhode Island." 1916, Box 1, Folder 1, League of Women Voters Records, Rhode Island Historical Society, Providence, Rhode Island.

Jenks, Agnes M. "Local Suffragists Now Plan to Help Massachusetts." The Providence Journal, April 25, 1915.

Jenks, Agnes M. "No One Openly Opposed to Suffrage at Hearing." The Providence Journal, February 27, 1916.

Jenks, Agnes M. "Strong Suffrage Sentiment in Rhode Island," in The Story of a Sub-Pioneer. Providence, RI: Snow & Farnham Co., 1925, 207-210.

"Keeping up with Suffrage." The Woman Citizen 2, No. 14 (March 2, 1918), 268.

"League of Women Voters, at First Convention, Attend 'Honorable Demise' of Suffrage Association." The Providence Journal, May 18, 1920.

Leonard, John William, ed. Women's Who's Who of America: A Biographical Dictionary of Contemporary Women of the United States and Canada, 1914-1915. New York: The American Commonwealth Co., 1914.

"Local Delegates to Victory Convention." The Providence Journal, February 8, 1920.

"Local Woman Writes of Work of Relief Expedition in the Near East."The Providence Journal, September 7, 1919.

Miller, Elisa. "Uncovering the Lives of Ordinary Rhode Island Suffragists, The Bridge: A Joint Edition of the Journals of Newport History and Rhode Island History (Fall 2020): 19-45.

"Miriam O'Leary." The Life & Times of Joseph Haworth.

"Miriam O'Leary at Home." The Boston Globe, May 17, 1891.

"Mrs. Agnes M. Jencks [sic] Talks to Suffrage Workers Here." The Providence Journal, July 4, 1914.

"Mrs. Jenks Laud's Hoover's Candidacy." The Times Union (Brooklyn, New York), July 29, 1928.

"No Opposition to Suffrage Act." The Bangor Daily News (Bangor, Maine), February 13, 1913.

"Philadelphian Leads Fight of Holding Firms." The Pittsburgh Press, March 19, 1935.

Proceedings of the Forty-Fifth Annual Convention of the National-American Woman Suffrage Association, Held at Washington, D.C. November 29 to December 5 (inclusive), 1913. New York: National-American Woman Suffrage Association, 1913.

"Private Theatricals in Brookline." The Boston Evening Transcript, March 11, 1903.

"Program for the Great Washington Convention." The Woman Citizen 2, No. 1 (December 1, 1917), 9.

"Providence Woman with Relief Unit in Prinkipo." The Providence Journal, May 25, 1919.

Revenue Revision of 1914; Hearings before the Committee on Ways and Means. House of Representatives. Seventy-Seventh Congress, First Session on Revenue Revision of 1941. Revised. Volume 1.

"Rhode Island Assembly Ratifies Woman Suffrage Amendment; House Votes 89-3, Senate 38-1 on Resolution." The Providence Journal, January 7, 1920.

Rhode Island Equal Suffrage Association Records, 1868-1930. Rhode Island State Archives, Providence, Rhode Island.

"Rhode Island Ratification Day." Woman Citizen 4, No. 27 (January 24, 1920): 762-763.

Spencer, A.G. History of the Rhode Island Woman Suffrage Association. Providence Public Library, Providence, Rhode Island.

Stapler, Martha G., ed. The Woman Suffrage Year Book, 1917. New York: National American Woman Suffrage Publishing Company, Inc., 1917.

"State Democrats Name Candidates and Pledge Support to be President," The Providence Journal, September 24, 1918.

"State Suffragists Celebrate Jubilee." The Providence Journal, December 12, 1918.

Sterne, Evelyn Savidge. Ballots and Bibles: Ethnic Politics and the Catholic Church in Providence. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2004.

"Suffrage Leaders Invade Convention." The Providence Journal, October 8, 1914.

"Suffrage Measure Debated by Women." The Providence Journal, March 17, 1915.

"Suffragist Hits Eaton and Sumner." The Providence Daily Journal, October 27, 1914.

"Suffragists Hurl Political Defiance." The Providence Journal, February 24, 1916.

"Suffragists Begin Legislative Work," The Providence Journal, February 2, 1916.

"Suffragists on the Common." The Boston Globe, May 16, 1915.

"Suffragists Vote Not to Affiliate with Nationals." The Providence Journal, May 3, 1917.

"Suffragists Will Fight for Plank." The Providence Journal, October 7, 1914.

"Suffragists Will Prepare Speakers for Campaign." The Providence Journal, September 19, 1914.

"Suffrage Workers Celebrate Victory." The Providence Journal, January 7, 1920

"The Day's News in Pictures." The Dayton Herald (Dayton, Ohio), May 2, 1941.

"The National Woman's Party." The Suffragist 8, No. 1 (February 1920), 2.

"The Political Sisterhood Lines Up." The Providence Journal, July 20, 1919.

"Vice President from Portsmouth." The Portsmouth Herald (Portsmouth, New Hampshire), November 12, 1909.

Wilson, Justina Leavitt, ed. Handbook of the National American Woman Suffrage Association and Proceedings of the Jubilee Convention (1869-1919). New York: National Woman Suffrage Publishing Company, Inc., 1919.

Woman Suffrage Convention Here," The Providence Daily Journal, May 28, 1915.

"Woman Suffrage Clubs Affiliate." The Providence Daily Journal, June 11, 1915.

"Woman Suffrage Leaders Watching Signing of Rhode Island's Ratification." The Providence Journal, January 8, 1920.

"Women Speakers Urged to Prepare." The Providence Journal, September 22, 1928.

Yates, Elizabeth Upham. "Rhode Island's Suffrage Prestige." The Woman Citizen 1, No. 3 (June 16, 1917), 50.

back to top