“A Leading Spirit & Hard Worker” Elizabeth Prentis Mack

by Kristine Schmucker, HCHM Curator

In 1927, a group of twenty-four women posed in front of the home of Mrs. J.W. Inghram at 205 Allison Street in Newton. Many of these women had been active in the last decade and a half promoting community causes including women’s suffrage.

First row (front) left to right – Mrs. O. B. Hildreth ( Mary), Miss Kate Murphy, Mrs. Fox Winne (Mary), Mrs. A. R. Glazier (Adelaide), Mrs. A. B. Gilbert (Lovina).
Second row, left to right – Mrs. J. W. Inghram (Jennie), Mrs. J. B. Heffelfinger (Lucile), Mrs. J. T. Ray (Hannah), Mrs. Clarence Spooner (Mary), Mrs. F. L. Abbey (Florence), Mrs. J. C. Mack (Elizabeth), Mrs. A. H. Morrison (Cora), Mrs. J. W. Patterson (Eva), Mrs. Emma Smolt, Mrs. Bernard Warkentin (Mina), Mrs. E. G. Hudson (Virginia), Mrs. John Reese (Harriet), Mrs. H. B. Lantz.
Third row, seated – Mrs. D. H. Switzer (Fannie), Mrs. Ray Guy (Emma), Mrs. J. C. Nicholson (Lottie Hart), Mrs. W. R. Murphy (Sarah), Mrs. R. A. Goerz (Martha), Mrs. J. T. Axtell (Lucena).
Fourth row, standing – Mrs. W. C. Plummer (Hattie), Mrs. Oscar Nelson (Ethel) [?], Mrs. J. L. Napier (Flora), Mrs. Oscar Nelson (Ethel) [?], Mrs. A. O. Haury (Hermina), Mrs. L. T. Smith (Edith).

They were all members of the Ladies Reading Circle a women’s club that had started in 1880.

Ray’s Tea Room, Women’s Suffrage & the Ladies Reading Circle

The ladies of the Reading Circle were involved in many community activities and causes. Several were also active in women’s suffrage.

Carolina (Mrs. Noble L.) Prentis.

In October 1912, over 100 ladies from Harvey County gathered at the Methodist Church to hear Mrs. Noble L. Prentis discuss women’s suffrage. She noted:

“the amendment will carry if the women want it. . . It is up to the women to arouse from an indifferent state and show that the ballot needs her.  Not so much in questions of political matters, not for finance or tariff, but on the great moral questions of the day.”

She gave several examples of  “great moral questions” including “white slave traffic,”better wage earning laws,” and prohibition which had “thousands of dollars as a fund to back them up in the work to agitate the question of re-submission of the prohibitory law.”

Mrs. Prentis concluded  stating: “If the ballot is given to women, that will put an end to any attempt to resubmit that law to the voters of the state.”

Following the speech, Mrs. Ella Welsh presided over a meeting organizing volunteers to assist in polling different section of the city.   A central meeting place was also need and it was reported that Mr. Ray had “kindly offered a space” for suffrage headquarters at Ray’s Tea & Coffee House at 506 Main, Newton. (Evening Kansan Republican 14 October 1912) James Ray’s wife, Hannah, was active in the Ladies Reading Circle and several other women’s groups and no doubt influenced the decision to make the space available.

During the early 1900s, tea rooms had become a popular way for women to gather in public. The Tea Room, often  a store front operated by a woman, was one of the first acceptable places for women to eat in public alone.  Typically, the shops would be decorated for home-like comfort, and like for the Suffrage Movement, Tea Rooms were often the headquarters for various community projects.

Ray’s Tea Room was likely run by Hannah Ray as a store front with her husband’s grocery business in the rest of the building.

Hannah Hurst Ray, 1927.

One of the women in the crowd that October evening was Mrs. Prentis’ daughter, Elizabeth Prentis Mack.

Elizabeth inherited her parents passion for writing and reporting as the daughter of  famed Kansas  newspaper editor, Noble L. Prentis.  Lizzie, as she was more often called,  was born in Clark County Missouri on April 14, 1870. In 1887, the Prentis family moved to Newton, Kansas.

NHS Class of 1888

Lizzie made her mark early. For Kansas Day in 1888 she played the organ while a “select choir” sang “The Song of the Kansas Emigrant.”  She later presented “Kansas Men” and overview of Kansas statesmen, including Gov Charles Robinson, and “literary lights” like Wilder.

At the same Kansas Day, a classmate, Hattie Hildreth spoke of “Kansas Women” during which she

 “begged her hearers to remember that the first school superintendent in Harvey county was a woman; that the first school bonds in Darlington township were voted by women, and women would carry the bonds to build new schools houses in Newton; that more girls than boys had graduated in the Newton High school, and that the first baby toted through the streets of Newton by fond parents was a girl.”  (Weekly Republican 3 February 1888)

Harvey County seemed progressive indeed.

In May, both Hattie Hildreth and Lizzie Prentis were two of ten students in the third class to graduate from Newton High School in 1888. The class included another talented member, Anna A. Perkins who, along with Cena Axtell, graduated from the College of Physicians & Surgeons in Kansas City in 1897.


These women carried their civic spirit with them to adulthood and were involved in various groups including the Women’s  Christian Temperance Union (W.C.T.U.) which was also involved in suffrage.

At the 1915 meeting of the W.C.T.U. in Newton a new yell was composed.


Throughout her life Lizzie  found ways to contribute to the community by involvement in club like the W.C.T.U. and church activities at the Congregational Church.

Elizabeth Prentis Mack, ca 1896-99

Married Life

In 1892, Lizzie married John C. Mack a rural school teacher.

For a short time, John worked as postmaster at Hesston, Ks where the newlyweds lived for several years. In 1895, a son, Noble Prentis Mack, named for his grandfather, was born.

In 1896 J.C. Mack joined with others and purchased interests in the Kansan.  The Kansan Printing Company was incorporated in 1907 with J. C. Mack in a leadership role. In 1928, “he completed the handsome building . . .now the home of the company” the Kansan Printing Company.

In 1899, tragedy struck when their only child, Noble Prentis Mack, died just days before his fourth birthday. Described as:

“more than an ordinary child. He was a favorite in the office and his bright sayings and winning ways made his visits always welcome. . . . his presence was a ray of sunshine.” (Newton Kansan, 2 June 1899)

Elizabeth Prentis Mack, 1927

“His Passing Leaves a Void Deepest & Most Intimate”

January 29, 1930, J.C. Mack died of a stroke. J. C. Mack was praised as “public-spirited and liberal citizen” that “gave his time, and energy and his rare practical judgement to this city and county and state freely.”

The author of his obituary, probably Mrs. Lizzie Mack, noted;

 “John Mack was a good man, a true friend, a genial companion, a square partner, a thoughtful, attentive husband . . . his passing leaves a void deepest and most intimate, save the heart of the home companion of his mature life among those in the newspaper office, to whom he affectionately referred to as “my family.”

Elizabeth Prentis Mack to Themian Club, Newton, 23 February 1930.

Evening Kansan Republican

Following the death of her husband, Mrs. Lizzie Mack stepped into the role of General Manager for the Evening Kansan Republican, continuing the tradition of her parents, Mr. & Mrs. Noble L. Prentis and her husband, John C. Mack. She assumed the responsibility of business management, editorial policy and general supervision of the company. Under her leadership, the newspaper was able to continue to operate during the difficult Depression years  and through the Second World War.

In 1948, Lizzie suffered a stroke and by July 1949 she had taken an apartment at the Ripley Hotel due to failing eye sight.  Her health continued to decline and in July 1950 she  moved to the hospital and received care there  until her death on February 1, 1951.

Her obituary concluded with the note that “for many years she was a leading spirit and hard worker.” Her steady, behind the scenes influence, first in various women’s organizations and then as the manager of the Evening Kansan Republican cannot be measured.

19th Amendment Quiz – Harvey County Style

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Behind the Scenes: Mrs. C. F. Walden

For August we are celebrating! On August 26, 1920 the 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution giving women the right to vote nationally was adopted. In Kansas, women could vote in state elections since 1912.

For the next several weeks, we will highlight some of the women of Harvey County that worked on suffrage for Kansas.

Sometimes it is a challenge to put the pieces of their lives together to get an idea of who these women were beyond the name, which was often their husband’s.

The first woman we will feature is Mrs. C. F. Walden. Her name appears in connection to suffrage. Although her name appears, the story of Mrs. C. F. Walden. is not is not a straight forward one, and ends up spanning several communities and two marriages.

Elizabeth Porter, or Lizzie, was born in Peoria County, Ill October 9, 1868 to Irish immigrants John and Sarah Porter. The 1870 U.S. Census lists five children for the family.  By 1880, her father had died and her mother had remarried a man by the name of John Coleman.  The family continued to live in Millbrook, Ill. Information on her life is scarce for the next nineteen years. Sometime between 1880 and 1899, she found her way to Miami County, Kansas where she met a widower, Ralph Tomlinson.

Farm of 80 Acres

Lizzie married Ralph Tomlinson on January 17, 1899.  The couple made their home on a farm six miles southwest of Paola, Ks in Stanton Township. Ralph had a son, Clifford, from a previous marriage and the couple had one son together, Raymond.  The extended Tomlinson family had settled in the area in the 1870s and Ralph  was known as “a hard-working man, had no bad habits, was honest and reliable, a man in whom dependence could be placed at all times.”  However, in 1906 he was “afflicted with kidney trouble, which affected his brain.” He went to the Osawatomie State hospital for treatment and was deemed cured in June 1906 and returned home.

Tragedy struck the Tomlinson farm after the new year.  After lunch on Monday, February 22, 1907, Lizzie Tomlinson dropped her youngest son off at a neighbor so she could go to Paola to “do some trading.” When the eldest son returned home from school, he completed some of his chores and went to the barn “and found his father dead.” The  Miami Republican later reported the findings of the coroner “Ralph Tomlinson, a well-known farmer committed suicide by hanging in the barn on his farm.”

Lizzie Tomlinson was the mother of two with a 80 acre farm to care for.  Clifford, at 18, could provide a great deal of help and no doubt  Ralph’s extended family also lent a hand but by 1909, Lizzie was ready to move from the farm.

The Miami Republican  reported that Mres. Lizzie Tomlinson purchased “a modern residence property of nine rooms at 2115 Tennessee street, for which she paid $4,500. . . and will remove to Lawrence soon afterwards, to educate her sons.”

In September 1909, she put the farm up for rent and held a sale of personal property.

The Miami Republican, 17 Sept. 1909.

While in Lawrence, Mrs. Tomlinson operated a boarding house for University of Kansas students at 2115 Tennessee.

Lawrence Daily World, 29 September 1909

College Romance

In the winter of 1910, there were several young men from Newton attending KU that had rooms with Mrs. Tomlinson and over the course of the semester she became acquainted with their parents.

One of the students was Forest Walden. Later, it was observed that “it seemed that Forest Walden was especially favored by paternal calls. Mr. Walden’s motives may have been merely fatherly interest, but recent events lead one to think otherwise.” There seemed to be a different kind of “college romance” developing. Forest’s father, Charles F. Walden and Mrs Lizzie Tomlinson  married on June 28, 1910 at the home of Rev. C.H. Woodward.

Evening Kansan Republican, 29 June 1910

Charles F. Walden had come to Kansas with his first wife, Hattie, shortly after their marriage in 1885. They settled in the Walton area and had four children, two of which died in infancy. By 1903, the Walden family had moved to a home in Newton at 901 E 7th. In March 1908, Hattie, who seemed have suffered for some time from “declining health and strength and had been for several months confined to her room” died “not unexpectedly” at the age of 51. (Newton Kansan,  12 March 1908) She was survived by her husband Charles, and two sons, Francis and Forest. So, just like Mrs. Tomlinson, Mr. C.F. Walden was in search of a companion.

The story of the “College Romance” concluded that“Mrs. Walden is not so well known to Newton people but there is no doubt she will soon find as good friends as she has in the boys who were with her last winter.”

Mrs. Lizzie (C.F.) Walden, ca. 1930.

We Have the Right to Blow Our Horn

She did indeed get involved in various women’s groups including those working for suffrage, notably  the Women’s  Christian Temperance Union (W.C.T.U.). Perhaps better known for their interest in prohibition, the W.T.C.U.was also active in promoting suffrage.

Soon after her marriage and move to Newton, Mrs. Walden became involved in the W.C.T.U.  In 1912, she served as the superintendent for suffrage for the W.C.T.U.  Mrs. Walden was the county president in 1916 and 1920.

At the 1915 meeting of the W.C.T.U. in Newton a new yell was composed.

“Kansas wheat, Kansas corn

We have the right to blow our horn,

Prohibition and suffrage, too,

Kansas W.C.T.U.

Hurrah Hurrah Hurrah!”

Jan 20, 1922 sixty members of the W.C.T.U. met at the home of Mrs. C. F. Walden to celebrate National Prohibition.  The guest of honor was Mrs. F. L. Greer who worked with the Prison Welfare association.  She commended the Newton union for the work done in cooperation with the Parent Teachers’ associations and organizing Loyal Temperance Legions. (Newton Kansan 20 January 1922)

Mrs. C.F. Walden was also active in the Themian Club.

Themian Club, October 1930

Like many other women of the time, Mrs. C. F. Walden was active behind the scenes. Her name, cloaked by her husband’s, appeared when she served in an official capacity, but otherwise she is one of the nameless many who worked for suffrage in Kansas.

The Walden’s continued to live at the 901 E 7th residence until 1944.  At that time, Mrs. Elizabeth Walden, once again a widow, moved to Texas. She died January 1948 at the age of 79 and was buried with her first husband Ralph Tomlinson in the Paola Cemetery, Miami County, Ks.

Additional Sources:

  • Lawrence Daily World: 29 September 1909, 27 September 1909, 4 January 1910.
  • Miami Republican: 2 February 1907, 20 August 1909, 1 September 1909.
  • Newton Kansan: 29 November 1901, 6 December 1901, 23 January 1903, 12 March 1908,  1 July 1909, 1 July 1910, 19 September 1912, 23 September 1915,  14 September 1916, 15 October 1920,  20 January 1922.
  • Walden, C. F. to Tomlinson, Lizzie 28 June 1910 Marriage Certificate Collection HCHM Archives
  • Newton City Directories: 1905, 1911, 1913, 1919, 1931, 1934, 1938, 1940, 1943, 1946.
  • Find A Grave: Elizabeth Porter Tomlinson (1868-1948); Ralph Tomlinson (1860-1907); Hattie I. Farmer Walden (1857-1908).
  • U.S. Census: 1870, 1880, 1900, 1910,
  • Kansas County Marriages 1855-1911.