Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920

Biography of Charlotte Frances Thompson, 1840-1909

By Emily Steele, Student, University of California San Diego

Charlotte Frances Hay was born February 2, 1840, in Portland, Maine. She was raised alongside her six siblings by her parents, George Smith Hay and Eunice Cole Babb. According to the 1860 United States Federal Census, her father worked at a bowling alley while her mother kept the house and raised the children. Charlotte F. Hay lived in Portland, Maine her entire childhood and married Zenas Thompson, Jr., on June 2, 1862, at the age of twenty-two. Her husband was a carriage manufacturer and supported the family so that Mrs. Thompson could stay home with their children. They had four children, three daughters and one son. She spent her life being a wife, mother, and advocate for women's suffrage.

Throughout her life, Mrs. Thompson was involved in Maine's woman suffrage movement and participated in establishing suffragist clubs, which helped to advance the rights of women. Some of the first suffragist involvement that we see from Mrs. Thompson was in 1890 as a member of the Maine Woman Suffrage Association (Maine W.S.A.). As members of the Maine W.S.A. stated during an informal conference, they believed that "the enfranchisement of women will make better educational, social, and political conditions." In 1890, Mrs. Thompson was elected to serve on the Maine W.S.A. executive board as secretary. Later on, during the Maine W.S.A. annual meeting of 1899, Mrs. Thompson served on the resolutions committee as delegate to the Washington Convention. On August 15, 1900, Mrs. Thompson hosted the Maine W.S.A. at her home to celebrate Portland Day. The Portland Evening Express stated, "The suffrage women are something of a surprise to many of the visitors. These soft voiced, gracious women, trailing their handsome gowns, of an undeniably stylish make, are far removed from the pink calico boomer idea as possible."

We can see from the listings in the Annual Register of Maine that Mrs. Thompson was also the president of the Portland Equal Suffrage Club. This club was organized on February 3, 1892, and met every third Saturday of each month at the Columbia Hotel. Although the club began in 1892, it was not until 1900 that Mrs. Thompson was elected as president. According to an article posted in The Woman's Journal, the house that they met in for her election was "decorated with the American Flag and colors of the Suffrage Club." She continued to serve as an officer until at least 1905. Mrs. Thompson was also a member of the Portland Equal Franchise League, which set the groundwork for the annual convention of the State Suffrage Association to take place in Portland. The State Suffrage Association's convention in 1919 created the School for Citizenship at Bates College, which would not have been possible without the previous years of work that women, such as Mrs. Thompson, contributed to the cause. Unfortunately, Mrs. Thompson never got to see the long-lasting success of her work for the woman's suffrage movement, since she got pneumonia at the age of 69. She succumbed to the illness and died on January 3, 1909, in her hometown of Portland, Maine.

Sources: 1860 United States Federal Census. Lehi, UT, USA.

"Chapter XVII: Maine." History of Woman Suffrage, Vol. 6: 1900-1920, edited by Ida Husted Harper. New York, NY: National American Woman Suffrage Association, 1922, pp. 247 [LINK].

"Charlotte Frances Hay Thompson." Find a Grave. May 28, 2008.

Maine, and Maine. Legislature. Maine Register, State Yearbook and Legislative Manual. Portland: Hoyt, Fogg & Donham, 1904/1905, pp. 371.

"Maine." The Woman's Journal, vol. 36, no. 23, 1905, pp. 92. Gale Primary Sources.

"Maine Annual Meeting." The Woman's Journal, vol. 21, no. 48, 1890, pp. 381. Gale Primary Sources.

"New England Annual Meeting." The Woman's Journal, vol. 30, no. 23, 1899, pp. 180. Gale Primary Sources.

"State Correspondence." The Woman's Journal, vol. 30, no. 41, 1899, pp. 327. Gale Primary Sources.

"State Correspondence." The Woman's Journal, vol. 31, no. 33, 1900, pp. 264. Gale Primary Sources.

Tower, Fred L. Directory of Portland, Maine, Vol. 48, 1907, pp. 1013.

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