Frances Willard Munds (1866-unknown)
Like most educated women of her day, Frances Willard Munds began her career as a teacher. Born in California in 1866, she would traverse the continent before settling down in Prescott, Arizona. Educated in Maine, she graduated in 1885 and taught school until marrying John L. Munds in 1890; in 1893 they moved to Prescott.
By the turn of the century, Frances Munds was the top suffrage leader in the Arizona Territory. Women ran strong campaigns for the tentative right to vote and almost won in 1899, but the issue would not pass until after statehood. Arizona became a state on February 14, 1912, and women got the vote in Arizona the following November. Frances Munds' political ability is reflected in the referendum's total: women won by 13,442 to 6,202 and carried every county in the state. This was eight years prior to the 19th Amendment that granted women the vote nationwide.
In 1913, she traveled to Budapest, Hungary for what turned out to be the last meeting of the International Suffrage Alliance; it effectively ended when World War I began later that year. Munds' personal career, however, took off, as she was elected to the Arizona Senate in 1914. She was the second female state senator in the nation: Utah had set the precedent by electing the first woman to its state senate in 1910.
Munds rose to chair the Committee on Education and Public Institutions and used the position to work for increased school funding; she also fought corporate abuses and sponsored tax exemptions for widows. After four years as a senator, she ran for secretary of state and lost.
Along with other Arizona pioneers, Frances Munds was posthumously commemorated in the Sharlot Hall Museum’s Territorial Women’s Memorial Rose Garden in Prescott, Arizona.
Image credit: Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, LC-B2- 3300-10.