Women's Role in Missouri History, 1821-1971

from the Official Manual of the State of Missouri, 1971-72
James Kirkpatrick, Secretary of State

Phoebe Couzins...Lawyer
Phoebe Hearst and the PTA
Susan Blow and her Children's Garden
The Cottey Sisters

Phoebe Couzins...Lawyer

There was Phoebe Couzins, the first woman to graduate from Washington University School of Law, receiving her degree in 1871.  (She has been called the first woman to practice law in Missouri although other historians give this title to Mrs. Lemma Barkelkoo.)

Even before this, Phoebe had made a name for herself.  A volunteer worker for the Western Sanitary Commission during the Civil War, she came to the conclusion that women, if possessed of political power, could prevent war.  Her belief was embodied in the Woman's Franchise Organization of 1869.

In 1876, she began lecturing on woman's suffrage and won recognition in this field.  Her father, U.S. Marshal of the Eastern District of Missouri appointed her a deputy.  When his health failed, she took over his duties and when he died in 1887, she became the first woman to serve as a U.S. Marshal.

She was also a commissioner for Missouri on the National Board of Charities and Correction and was a member of the St. Louis World's Fair board of directors, and the author of several books on politics.  It is a sad anticlimax that she is recorded to have died in poverty in St. Louis, December 6, 1913.

Phoebe Hearst and the PTA 

There was another period in which several women contributed greatly to education, and one was another Phoebe, Phoebe Apperson Hearst, philanthropist and co-founder of the National Congress of Parents and Teachers.

Born December 3, 1842, in the Whitmire settlement near St. Clair, Franklin County, she attended a log school in Salem and at the age of 17, taught school at Reeder in present Meramec State Park.  She married George Hearst, son of a neighbor who returned home after a mining speculation expedition into Nevada where he laid the foundations for his fortune.

The Hearsts made their home in San Francisco and she became a patroness of music and the arts.  Later they moved to Washington and her activities continued.  It was there, with Mrs. Theodore Birney of Georgia that she founded the National Congress of Mothers in 1897 which in 1924 became the national PTA

Returning to California after her husband's death in 1891, she was the first woman regent of the University of California at Berkeley and gave more than one million dollars for buildings, scholarship and research.  Her son, William Randolph Hearst later gave a gymnasium to the university as a memorial.  In Missouri, the replica of the log Salem school, built on the original site with funds donated by Mrs. Joseph Flint, a niece, was dedicated August 4, 1963 by the Franklin County Phoebe Apperson Hearst Memorial Association.

One of the best known women in Missouri history, Susan Blow was attending a private school while Phoebe Apperson attended the country school, but she too, made a major contribution to public education in her innovation of the kindergarten.

School Phoebe Apperson Hearst attended in Salem, Mo., now a memorial to her.

Susan Blow and her Children's Garden

The daughter of a well-to-do family living in the Carondelet area of St. Louis, Susan Blow read books by Friedrich Froebel of Germany telling of his ideas for a kindergarten (the literal translation is children's garden) where preschool age children could learn.  While traveling in Germany in the 1860s, she visited the German kindergartens to see how they were run and brought back some materials, six solid balls painted in basic colors, cylinders and cubes, kindergarten songs and games.

On her return to St. Louis, she talked to the Superintendent of Schools, William T. Harris and persuaded him to let her organize a kindergarten at Des Peres School on Michigan Avenue.  She worked without pay, having one paid teacher and two unpaid apprentices as her assistants.

The idea caught on and made educational history.

The Cottey Sisters

"The Cottey Sisters of Missouri" are the subject of a recently published book by a descendant, Elizabeth McClure Campbell.

In it, she tells the story of Alice, Dora and Kate Cottey, teachers who dreamed of starting their own college.  This dream came true, first in the establishment of Vernon Seminary, "A Home and Day School for Young Ladies," at Nevada, Mo. in 1884. This was to become Cottey College, now operated by the P.E.O. sisterhood.

A leader in the intellectual life of St. Louis and in reform movements nationally at this time was Mary Foote Henderson, the wife of General John B. Henderson.

The Henderson home contained art treasures and was the scene of brilliant gatherings in the 1870s and 1880s.  Mrs. Henderson organized The Decorative Art School, wrote books on scientific hygienic cooking, was one of the early members and president of the Woman Suffrage Association.

When her husband became a U.S. Senator, they moved  to Washington and she helped develop Sixteenth Street until it was known as Embassy Row for its stately houses.  She was famous as a hostess in diplomatic circles.

The wife of a Missouri governor had an effect on the state in her own way  during this latter part of the 19th century.  Mrs. David Francis was first lady of Missouri at the time the University at Columbia burned and much of its was destroyed.  The state considered closing the school and sending the students, home, but Mrs. Francis waged a war with the legislature to raise funds to rebuild the school and accomplished her goal.  The Quadrangle with its columns left from the fire is known as Francis Quadrangle-- after her husband.

Return to Missouri Almanac, 1971-72
Next section:    Shady Ladies