The Movement Comes of Age

Anna Howard Shaw to Erminia Folsom, March 15, 1910

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Anna Howard Shaw was born in England in 1847. Her family emigrated to America when she was four, eventually settling in a one-room cabin on the Michigan frontier. When Anna was 12, her father returned East and her mother suffered a mental breakdown, leaving the girl in charge of the family. She managed to attend school and became a teacher herself at the age of 15. She also became a preacher, earning money to support the family and finance her education. In 1880, she became the first woman to be ordained as a Methodist minister. In 1886 she graduated from Boston University with a medical degree.

Though Shaw worked both as a minister and a physician, she achieved her greatest fame as a speaker. She traveled the country on the lecture circuit, speaking on prohibition and women's rights. She became a devoted friend of the elderly Susan B. Anthony and expected to become head of the National American Woman Suffrage Association when Anthony retired in 1900, only to see the job go to a rival, Carrie Chapman Catt. Catt had to resign in 1904 to attend to her ailing husband, and Shaw had her chance.

Unfortunately, Shaw's genius as a speaker and dedication to the cause did not translate into administrative ability. Throughout her tenure as NAWSA's leader, the organization was plagued by infighting and lack of direction. She resigned in 1915.

In later years, Shaw published her autobiography, The Story of a Pioneer, headed the Women's National Defense Council during World War I, and campaigned for the League of Nations. She died in 1919.

1 | 2 | Portrait of Anna Howard Shaw | Back to exhibit

Anna Howard Shaw to Erminia Folsom, 1910

1 | 2 | Portrait of Anna Howard Shaw | Back to exhibit

Anna Howard Shaw to Erminia Folsom, March 15, 1910, Erminia Thompson Folsom Papers, Archives and Information Services Division, Texas State Library and Archives Commission.


Page last modified: August 24, 2011