Jessie Ames, suffragist and antilynching reformer, daughter of James Malcolm and Laura Maria (Leonard) Daniel, was born in Palestine, Texas, on November 2, 1883. In 1893 the family moved to Georgetown where Jessie entered the Ladies Annex of Southwestern University at the age of thirteen. She graduated with a B.A. degree in 1902 and moved with her family to Laredo. There in June 1905 she married Roger Post Ames, an army surgeon and friend of her father. They had a son and two daughters, the last born in 1914, the year Roger Ames died in Guatemala of blackwater fever.
Because her marriage was an unhappy one, she and her husband lived apart; he was a doctor in Central America while she and the children lived with her parents and older sister. After the death of her father in 1911, Jessie Ames helped her mother run their Georgetown telephone company. In 1916 she organized and became the first president of the Georgetown Equal Suffrage League and began to write a weekly "Woman Suffrage Notes" column for the Williamson County Sun. As the protégée of Minnie Fisher Cunningham, president of the Texas Equal Suffrage Association, Jessie Ames was elected treasurer of the state association in 1918; from this position she helped to make Texas the first southern state to ratify the Nineteenth Amendment.
In 1919 she became the founder and first president of the state League of Women Voters; she represented the national League of Women Voters at the Pan American Congress in 1923. She served as a delegate-at-large to the national Democratic party conventions of 1920 and 1924 and as an alternate delegate in 1928. She also was president of the Texas branch of the American Association of University Women and an officer of the Women's Joint Legislative Council, the Board of Education (Women's Division) of the Methodist Church, the Texas Committee on Prisons and Prison Labor, and the Texas Federation of Women's Clubs. In 1924 she became director of the Texas Council of the Commission on Interracial Cooperation (CIC), based in Atlanta. In 1929 she moved to Atlanta to become the national director of the CIC Woman's Committee; a year later, financed primarily by the CIC, she founded the Association of Southern Women for the Prevention of Lynching, a group of White women organized to fight racial violence and vigilante executions. By February 1937 eighty-one state, regional, and national organizations or groups had endorsed the antilynching platform. Jessie Ames directed the Association of Southern Women until 1942, when the CIC was replaced by the Southern Regional Council. She retired to Tryon, North Carolina, then returned in October 1968 to Texas to live with her younger daughter. The next year she presented the family library of some 1,200 books to the Cody Memorial Library of Southwestern University. She died in Austin of pneumonia on February 21, 1972, and is buried in the family plot in the I.O.O.F. Cemetery in Georgetown. In 1985 the Jessie Daniel Ames Lecture Series was inaugurated at Southwestern University, and Jessie Ames's life and work were the subject of both the university's 1985 Freshman Symposium and its 1986 Brown Symposium.