Frances Munds & Suffrage

Looking back on the recent election, and the large number of female voters, it's hard to imagine a time when women weren't allowed to cast a ballot.

Frances Munds

By Andrea Crandall

In the early 20th century, women in Arizona were treated like second-class citizens at the voting booth. Frances Willard Munds wasn't comfortable with that, and she made it her mission to do something about it.

The former schoolteacher's fight for women's suffrage began in Prescott, where she joined the Arizona Women's Christian Temperance Union. In addition, she became a member of the Arizona Equal Suffrage Association in 1903, later serving as its president. Munds even petitioned the Territorial legislature numerous times and spoke at the Arizona Constitutional Convention.

Though her efforts initially failed, Munds, along with other advocates, continued to fight, and, finally, their determination paid off. In 1912, the same year that Arizona became a state, Munds managed to convince male voters to support an initiative that would put the issue of women's suffrage on the ballot. The initiative passed, and Arizona's female citizenry won the right to vote — almost a decade before the passage of the 19th Amendment.

Two years later, Munds became a senator for Yavapai County in the second Arizona legislature. She was 48. Through her achievements, Munds secured her place in history not only as a game-changer in the women's suffrage movement, but also as the first female state senator — only the second in the United States. Munds died on December 16, 1948, at the age of 82. She was inducted into the Arizona Women's Hall of Fame in 1982.

Photo: Frances Munds led the fight to give Arizona’s women the right to vote. | Courtesy Library of Congress