Biographical Sketch of Martha "Mattie" Phillips Atkinson

Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920

Biography of Martha "Mattie" Phillips Atkinson, 1876-1942

By Amanda Ritter-Maggio, Associate Professor of English, Texarkana College, Texarkana, TX

Corresponding Secretary, Indian Women's Woman Suffrage League of Indian Territory

Martha "Mattie" Phillips was born on August 13, 1876 in Corinth, Mississippi, the oldest daughter of Thomas Jefferson Phillips and Mary Eliza Bourland Phillips. Her father was a Confederate veteran who served with Company D of the 25th Regiment of the Mississippi Infantry. When Mattie was a toddler, her parents migrated from Mississippi to Indian Territory (present-day Oklahoma) and settled near the town of Chickasha. She had six brothers and one sister.

On November 26, 1895 in Chickasha, Mattie married Clarence Elisha Atkinson, who was born in Wayne, Indiana. In the 1910 census, Clarence is listed as a farmer; by 1920, he was working as a traveling salesman in the coffee industry. The couple farmed near Chickasha and later moved to McAlester, Oklahoma. They had seven children: Sue, born in 1897; Virginia, born in 1904; Catherine, born in 1906; Mary Joe, born in 1908; Nellie Jane, born in 1911; Clarence Junior, born in 1913; and David, born in 1916.

According to newspaper reports, Mattie served as Corresponding Secretary for the Indian Women's Woman Suffrage League of Indian Territory in 1907. At the time, she was living in Chickasha, which was the site of the second Oklahoma woman suffrage convention in October of 1905. Minutes of the Proceedings of NAWSA's 42nd Annual Convention in 1910 listed her as a representative of Indian Territory to the Peace and Arbitration Committee of NAWSA. In 1911 she served as Recording Secretary of the Indian Women's Suffrage Committee. She later joined the Stonewall Jackson Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy and was a guest speaker with the Choctaw chapter of that organization in 1919. The History of Woman Suffrage, Volume 6 lists her as having been an Oklahoma state suffrage organization officer.

Around 1928, the Atkinsons moved to Texas, where Clarence worked as a salesman in the roofing industry and daughter Sue worked as an accountant. Sometime in the 1930s, Clarence and Mattie separated. The 1940 census finds Clarence, listed as divorced, living in Marshall, Texas with daughter Mary Joe and her family, while Mattie is found in Amarillo with Sue and David. Mattie Phillips Atkinson died on June 1, 1942 in Dallas, where she was living with Sue. She was buried in Oak Hill Memorial Park Cemetery in McAlester, Oklahoma. Clarence Atkinson died in 1948 and is buried in Marshall, Texas.

Sources: 1910 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Lehi, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2006. 1930 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2002. U.S., City Directories, 1822-1995 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2011.

"Calendar. The M'Alester News-Capital 02 December 1919.,

Find a Grave, database and images ( : accessed 15 May 2021), memorial page for Martha "Mattie" Phillips Atkinson (13 Aug 1876-1 Jun 1942), Find a Grave Memorial ID 161454739, citing Oak Hill Memorial Park, McAlester, Pittsburg County, Oklahoma, USA ; Maintained by Choctaw Journeys (contributor 47251652).

Find a Grave, database and images ( : accessed 15 May 2021), memorial page for Thomas Jefferson Phillips (17 Mar 1839-19 Nov 1907), Find a Grave Memorial ID 23830239, citing Rose Hill Cemetery, Chickasha, Grady County, Oklahoma, USA ; Maintained by Dale Donlon (contributor 46835564) .

"Local Intelligence." The McAlester Capital 05 December 1895.,

The History of Woman Suffrage vol. 6. Ed., Ida Husted Harper. New York: Little and Ives, 1922. [LINK]

Proceedings of the Forty-Second Annual Convention of the National-American Woman Suffrage Association, Held at Washington, D.C., April 14 to 19 (Inclusive), 1910. Accessible online at

"ha pe kana Chahta micha Chikasha aeina ma," 1911, accessible online at

"Oklahoma, County Marriages, 1890-1995," database with images, FamilySearch ( : 1 December 2014), image 1 of 1; various county courthouses, Oklahoma.

"Prominent Suffragist Replies to News Article Recently Published." New-State Tribune 31 January 1907.,

"Texas Deaths, 1890-1976," database with images, FamilySearch ( : 22 July 2014), Death certificates, 1942, Vol 050-056, certificates 024501-028000, Jun, Anderson-Navarro counties, image 1030 of 3628; State Registrar Office, Austin.

"United States Census, 1920." Database with images. FamilySearch. : 4 March 2021. Citing NARA microfilm publication T625. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.

"United States Census, 1940," database with images, FamilySearch ( : 29 July 2019), Clarence E Atkinson in household of Anis V Logan, Ward 2, Marshall, Justice Precinct 3, Harrison, Texas, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) 102-8, sheet 17A, line 12, family 379, Sixteenth Census of the United States, 1940, NARA digital publication T627. Records of the Bureau of the Census, 1790 - 2007, RG 29. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 2012, roll 4057.

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