Meeting through their mutual involvement in women’s clubs and the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, Frances Willard Munds and Pauline O’Neill worked together to lead the campaign for women’s suffrage in Arizona and served as some of the first women in Arizona’s state legislature.
In the late nineteenth century, Frances Willard Munds and Pauline Schindler O’Neill both moved to Prescott, Arizona, where they began a lifelong friendship and partnership in fighting for women’s suffrage and political rights. Munds and O’Neill met through their mutual participation in women’s clubs and Arizona’s branch of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union. The WCTU, which advocated for the prohibition of alcohol as well as for social issues like public health and prostitution, provided an avenue for women to get involved with social reform initiatives outside of the home. This led many women, including Munds and O’Neill, to join the women’s suffrage movement.
Pauline O’Neill and Frances Munds were influential leaders of the women’s suffrage movement in Arizona. O’Neill became the second president of the Arizona Equal Suffrage Association in 1899, succeeding Josephine Brawley Hughes, who had also been the president of the WCTU in Arizona. Munds acted as the association’s secretary, and the two women spent many long hours strategizing in the parlor of O’Neill’s home in Prescott along with other suffrage leaders. When O’Neill moved to Phoenix in 1901, she sold her house to Munds. The Victorian-style house, now known as the Sewall House, still stands in Prescott and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Both women continued their suffrage work and political lobbying from different cities. Pauline O’Neill took advantage of her husband’s position as state representative to serve as the suffrage movement’s legislative liaison. Frances Munds took over as president of the Arizona Equal Suffrage Association, and led the suffrage campaign until its successful end in 1912.
Although the women of Arizona had campaigned for the right to vote for decades, it wasn’t until 1912 that they were successful. Arizona became a state in 1912, but without a provision for women’s suffrage in the new constitution. Under the leadership of Frances Munds and Pauline O’Neill, the Arizona Equal Suffrage Association lobbied the new state legislature to pass a bill allowing the men in Arizona to vote on women’s suffrage, but when the bill failed by one vote, the women took the issue into their own hands. In the intense heat of an Arizona summer, Munds and O’Neill led the suffragettes in a statewide effort to collect over 3,000 signatures on a women’s suffrage petition, which allowed for the issue to be placed before the voters as a constitutional amendment in the next election. For four months, Munds, O’Neill, and the rest of the Arizona Equal Suffrage Association waged a campaign to raise support for women’s suffrage, drawing on support from Mormons, newspapers, labor unions, Populists, and Progressive reformers. They carried out rallies, parades, and speaking events across the state, while local suffrage groups campaigned door-to-door. Munds and O’Neill also led the Arizona Equal Suffrage Association in political lobbying and maneuvering, obtaining endorsements from the different political parties by leveraging the potential power of the female vote in future elections. When the election came in November of 1912, women’s suffrage in Arizona passed by a margin of 13,452 votes to 6,202.
Thanks to the leadership and political efforts of Frances Munds and Pauline O’Neill, women’s suffrage passed in Arizona in 1912. However, this was not the end of their political involvement. Pauline O’Neill served two terms in the Arizona House of Representatives, where she supported legislation to help women and children, and worked in women’s clubs and social reform movements for the rest of her life. Frances Munds went to Budapest, Hungary in 1913 to represent Arizona at the International Woman Suffrage Alliance, served as a member of the Arizona Senate, and continued in to work in politics. Munds and O’Neill demonstrated that women’s role in politics extended beyond just voting to holding political office. In their work for women’s suffrage and their political leadership, Frances Willard Munds and Pauline O’Neill helped expand the possibilities for political participation for women in Arizona.