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Anderson, Katherine Finnigan (1867–1951)

Katelyn Thompson Biography Entry

Katherine Finnigan Anderson, suffragist and published poet, was born in Brownsville, Texas, on June 16, 1867, to Irish immigrants John C. Finnigan and Katherine (McRedmond) Finnigan. Their father was a prosperous merchant and hotel owner with business interests in Houston, Brownsville, and New York City. His success provided Katherine and her younger sisters, Annette Finnigan and Elizabeth Finnigan (later Elizabeth Finnigan Fain), with financial stability, higher education, world travel, and access to leisure social class long after his death in 1909. The family frequently moved between Houston and New York City.

While in Houston, Katherine, her sisters, and her mother may have belonged to the Ladies’ Reading Club, a local women’s club that campaigned to have a library that was comfortable for both men and women. Traditionally libraries in the nineteenth century were male spaces until Progressive era movements pushed for gender-segregated spaces within these public places. After a successful campaign by many of the city’s women’s clubs, the new Houston Lyceum library (see HOUSTON PUBLIC LIBRARY) opened in 1897. During the opening ceremony, Katherine read one of her poems, calling the library a “sequestered world of thought,” and invited her fellow women to “[e]nter these portals and in peace abide!”

In 1900 the family lived in Manhattan, New York, where Katherine later married Lewis Anderson on May 28, 1901. After having her first child, Marcus, in 1902, she returned to Houston with her family and began her work for woman suffrage in Texas. In 1903 Katherine and Elizabeth aided their sister Annette in the creation of the Texas Woman Suffrage Association (TWSA), which eventually became the Texas Equal Suffrage Association. Through their work, TWSA organized suffrage groups across Texas prior to her having her second child, John, and her sisters’ return to New York in 1908 to look after their father’s business there.

In the 1910 census, Katherine, her husband, two sons, and her sister Annette, were listed as residents of the Brazos Hotel in Houston. John Finnigan had owned the hotel, known for its modern and luxurious amenities, and left it to his daughters and wife when he died in 1909. According to American consul records in Germany, however, she and her sons spent most of 1910 and 1911 in Berlin for health reasons. Her husband remained in Houston and managed the hotel, then located across from the city’s Grand Central Station, until January 1, 1917. During this time, Katherine remained active in the woman suffrage movement. She wrote passionate letters to local newspapers to protest their “misleading and unfair” coverage about the passage of woman suffrage in other states and explained the positive changes that had resulted.

Katherine and Lewis Anderson’s marriage seemed to be a turbulent one. In the 1920 census, Katherine was listed as single and the head of the household with her two sons and her sister Annette in San Diego, California. In February 1922, however, Katherine and Lewis remarried in Berkeley, California. The new marriage certificate, signed by a rector of a Protestant Episcopal church, showed that they had previously divorced. Despite this rekindling, Katherine and Lewis lived in different states in the 1930 and 1940 census records. Katherine lived in Concord, Massachusetts, and Lewis lived in Santa Cruz, California. Both were listed as married.

Throughout her lifetime, Katherine published multiple poems, including “Alone with God” in the Christian Science Sentinel in 1915, and a book of her poetry, The Seer of Concord and Other Poems, in 1928. Katherine Finnigan Anderson died in February 1951 and was buried in the Finnigan family plot in Glenwood Cemetery, Houston, Texas.

Catalogue of Copyright Entries Part 1, Group 1: Books, Including List of Renewals, vol. 26 (Washington: United States Government Printing Office, 1930). Sam W. Haynes and Cary D. Wintz, eds., Major Problems in Texas History: Documents and Essays (Boston: Cengage Learning, 2017). Suzanne Hildenbrand, ed., Reclaiming the American Library Past: Writing the Women In (New Jersey: Ablex Publishing Company, 1996). Houston Daily Post, February 15, 1906.

Categories:

  • Education
  • Activism and Social Reform
  • Advocates
  • Peoples
  • Irish
  • Journalism
  • Writers, Authors, Publications, and Literature
  • Authors and Writers
  • Politics and Government
  • Women
  • Activists
  • Women's Clubs
  • Literature
  • Poets
  • Suffragists and Antisuffragists

Time Periods:

  • Late Nineteenth-Century Texas
  • Progressive Era
  • Texas in the 1920s

Places:

  • Houston
  • Upper Gulf Coast
  • East Texas

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Katelyn Thompson, “Anderson, Katherine Finnigan,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed December 04, 2020, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/anderson-katherine-finnigan.

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