Originally posted at Alexander Street as part of Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920.
By Joanna Tebbs Young, MA/MFA, independent historian
Biography of Frances (Fanny) Hawley (Mrs. John E.) Rastall, 1844-1920: National American Woman Suffrage Association: congressional chair for the state of Vermont & legislative superintendent (Manchester, Vermont), Milwaukee (WI) Sentinel: writer; Kansas Woman’s Christian Temperance Union: president; Kansas Industrial School for Girls: co-founder; Women’s Temperance Publishing Association: business manager; Entrepreneur; Bennington County (VT) WCTU: speaker & secretary
Frances (Fanny) Hawley Rastall, born in Leicestershire, England in 1844, emigrated to the U.S. in 1861 with her mother Elizabeth after her father, William, a dry goods merchant, died. Settling in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, at the age of 18, Fanny took a job at the Milwaukee Sentinel becoming one of the first “girl compositors in the United States.” When she became “indignant” at her editor’s views on women’s suffrage, she adopted a pseudonym in order to debate the unwitting man in his own column.
In 1868, Fanny married John E. Rastall, a Milwaukee abolitionist and veteran of the Kansas Free State Army. In 1877, they settled in Kansas where Fanny raised their five children (one son died in infancy) and John published the Osage County Chronicle.
Both active prohibitionists, John served in the state legislature beginning in 1881 and Fanny became state president of the Kansas Woman’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU), a position she held from 1885 to 1891. Despite being told by the Kansas Attorney General that she was leading women out of their “legitimate sphere,” during her tenure she lobbied successfully for laws to be passed that required teachers to educate on the dangers of alcohol and narcotics (1885), increased the age of consent from ten to 18 (1887), allowed for municipal women’s suffrage (1887), and banned the sale of tobacco to children under 16 (1889). In 1889, she helped establish the first Industrial School for Girls in the U.S. in Beloit, Kansas.
At the request of Frances E. Willard, suffragist and president of the National WCTU, Fanny became the business manager of the Women’s Temperance Publishing Association in 1890, a position which required the Rastall family to move to Chicago. Beginning in 1893, after being fired for using the association’s newspaper for self-promotion, she ran her own business (possibly in real estate) until her retirement in 1908.
At some point during this time, Fanny’s husband moved to Washington, D.C. to work in the U.S. Government Printing Office, a position he held until he retired in the late 1910s. In 1912, Fanny moved without her husband to live with her eldest child, a sister suffragist, Frances Rastall Wyman in Manchester, Vermont. Here, she immediately became politically and socially active, joining Manchester’s First Congregational Church and the Monday Club, and volunteering for the Red Cross.
She was the principal speaker at the Bennington County WCTU convention on May 28, 1912. That same year Fanny was appointed as congressional chair by the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA), for which she organized a congressional committee in every county of Vermont. In 1914, Fanny was appointed to the position of legislative superintendent at the State Convention in Burlington, and in 1916, she planned a state conference where the NAWSA national president, Carrie Chapman Catt, gave an address. The following year, Fanny spoke at the Vermont Federation of Labor convention, whose members unanimously endorsed woman suffrage. Elected Secretary of the Bennington County Convention WCTU in 1918, she was also appointed superintendent of Christian Citizenship.
In the spring of 1920, Fanny became ill, not improving “as rapidly as her many friends would wish.” She died that October having “lived to see the enactment of the prohibition and suffrage amendments, for which she and her husband had labored.”
Chronicling America, Library of Congress, chroniclingamerica.loc.gov
The Barre Daily Times. (Barre, Vt.), October 31, 1914
The Bennington Evening Banner. (Bennington, Vt.), June 24, 1920
The Bennington Evening Banner. (Bennington, Vt.), May 28, 1912
The Bennington Evening Banner. (Bennington, Vt.), November 03, 1914
Evening Star. [volume] (Washington, D.C.), July 25, 1926
The Manchester Journal. (Manchester, Vt.), February 18, 1915
The Manchester Journal. (Manchester, Vt.), February 22, 1917
The Manchester Journal. (Manchester, Vt.), May 09, 1918
The Manchester Journal. (Manchester, Vt.), October 12, 1916
The Manchester Journal. (Manchester, Vt.), October 21, 1920
The Saline County Journal. (Salina, Kan.), April 22, 1886
The Topeka State Journal. (Topeka, Kan.), November 03, 1904
Grace, Fran. Carry A. Nation: Retelling the Life. Indiana UP, 2004.
John E. Rastall Papers, Archives UM. Digital Collections at the University of Maryland
McCarthy, Susan. “Tired of Dorothy and Toto? Three Nineteenth-Century Icons of Kansas.” Kansas History: A Journal of the Central Plains, 2013, p. 36, www.kshs.org/publicat/history/2013spring_mccarthy.pdf.
The New Era. 1885, books.google.com/books/about/The_New_Era.html
Stanton, Elizabeth C, et al. The History of Woman Suffrage: Vol. 6. National American Woman Suffrage Assn., 1922. [LINK]
Willard, Frances E. Writing Out My Heart: Selections from the Journal of Frances E. Willard, 1855-96. Champaign: University of Illinois Press, 1995.