Rose Edwards Sower (1878-1930) Frankfort suffragist

Randolph Hollingsworth (she/her) Discussion

Rose E. Edwards Sower was an active member of the Franklin County Equal Rights Association, and she held many different offices in the Kentucky Equal Rights Association. In 1916 she was appointed the Kentucky member of the Publicity Committee for the National American Woman Suffrage Association. She was also a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution.


Rose E. Edwards was born in Pleasureville, Shelby County, Kentucky on August 22, 1878. She was the second daughter of Josephine Ecton (1853-1884) and James S. Edwards (1852-1889). Her older sister was Mary Imogene Edwards Wills (1876-1963). Rose, called Rosa in her youth, married John Rodman Peter Sower (1877-1937) of Frankfort at the Church of Good Shepherd on 23 November 1898. John Sower was at the time working for his father at a retail hardware story. He was also a member of the Ancient Order of Hibernians which organized a company of Hibernias Rifles in Frankfort that year. After his marriage, he became very involved in civic, benevolent and church organizations and eventually became a city councilman. They had three children: John Peter Leonard Sower (1899–1943) who became a lieutenant in the U.S. Navy; Mary Anita Sower Smith (1902-1947); and, Frank William Sower (1910–2012) who also served as an officer in the Navy in World War II, took up his father's retail hardware store, and became mayor of Frankfort.

Rose Sower became most involved in the suffrage movement in 1915. She was appointed that year to a committee within the Franklin County Equal Rights Association to organize "a permanent suffrage window in the city, in which literature and other suffrage advertising matter would be displayed." This committee included Mary Rogers Newman and Adele Gaines Murray. She was also appointed chair of the statewide association's ways and means committee which was to work on revenue raising for organizers, literature and speakers. Clearly she was successful since in the KERA President's Report for 1915-1916, the prominent speakers brought to Kentucky that year included: Carrie Chapman Catt and Beatrice Forbes Robertson Hale of New York, Senator Helen Ring Robinson of Colorado, Ethel Snowden of England, Florence Lee Brown Cotnam of Arkansas, Millie R. Trumbull of Oregon, Florence Wattles of Indiana, and Walter J Millard of Cincinnati.

The following year Sower was appointed co-chair of the Kentucky Equal Rights Association (KERA) Literature Committee with Amelia Weitzel of Frankfort -- a large task since the KERA president that year, Christine Duncan Bradley South, was determined to get the state legislature to act on raising statewide woman suffrage rights from just voting in school board elections to full voting rights for that year's presidential elections. Sower served also as the chair of the State Publicity Council on which she worked with Abbie Meguire Roach and Rebecca R. Judah of Louisville, and Annie S. Baird of Paducah. A big honor that year was that she was appointed as the Kentucky member of the Publicity Committee for the National American Woman Suffrage Association for 1916.

In addition to the state and national work, Sower served as corresponding secretary for Franklin County ERA in 1916. She reported to the state convention that Franklin County had had a very active year, having enrolled 250 new members. Their local league hosted the out of town suffrage advocates Ethel Snowden of London, England, and Walter Millard, the suffrage orator from Cincinnati who had spoken in Lexington for the May celebration of National Suffrage Day. They also hosted Senator Sue Helen Ring Robinson of Colorado in March when she spoke in the Kentucky Senate and Beatrice Forbes-Robertson Hale of New York who spoke in the House of Representatives.

KERA President South also reported that in 1916 ten county fairs included suffrage tents. Sower was on the Franklin County ERA committee, together with Christine Bradley South and Elizabeth Flynn Poole, that put up the suffrage tent at the Franklin County Fair August 29 through September 1, 1916. They circulated literature, distributed streamers and sold supplies - and organized an automobile delegation during the fair's parade festooned with "Votes for Women" banners.

Sower did all this while her children were young, and her husband registered to serve in World War I in 1917. Eventually her husband's civic duties, including serving as president of the Catholic Welfare Council, began to take over the family's time. Her name is not found in the KERA documents after 1916. At the age of fifty-one, after a brief illness, Rose Sower died in the hospital on November 29, 1930, and she is buried in the Frankfort Cemetery.

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