Anna Maria Penn Ireland, the wife of Texas governor John Ireland, was born on July 7, 1833, in Henry County, Virginia. She was the daughter of Christopher Columbus and Frances (Rives) Penn. Christopher Penn and his family left Virginia in the early 1850s and spent a few years in Mississippi before arriving in Texas and settling in Rutersville in Fayette County in 1855. John Ireland’s first wife, Matilda Caroline Wicks Faircloth, had died in 1856, and he and Anna Maria Penn were married in 1857. John and Anna Ireland settled in Seguin, Texas, where John had a law practice. John Ireland had a daughter, Matilda, and two stepchildren, Platt Lewis and Sarah, with his first wife, and he and Anna Ireland had four daughters—Mary, Katherine, Rosalie, and Alva.
When the Civil War began, John Ireland raised a company of volunteers from Guadalupe County and set off to patrol the Texas Gulf Coast. Anna Ireland took her children and followed her husband’s camp and served as a nurse to sick and wounded soldiers during the conflict. She was a lifelong devout Methodist, so much so that she did not attend her husband’s inauguration to avoid the ostentation of the festivities and possibly dancing at the ball; she chose to stay at the family home in Seguin instead. A close personal friend, prominent society and clubwoman Rebecca Fisher, wrote to her and urged her to come, but offered, “If you do not, I will represent you in the grand march,” to which Anna replied: “If you represent me, you will stay at home; that is what I am doing.”
Anna Ireland was renowned for her charitable work, and she was a member of the University Methodist Church during her time in Austin. She was principally involved in the Women’s Missionary Society and twice served as president of the Texas chapter of that organization, attended their national conventions, raised money for mission purposes in Mexico, and took “great interest” in and frequently checked on the welfare of that group’s Rescue Home in San Antonio. After her husband’s terms as governor (1883–87) ended, the family moved back to Seguin.
Towards the end of her life, having outlived her husband and many of her children, Anna Ireland moved to Georgetown and Austin to be near to her grandchildren. She suffered from chronic bronchitis for about two years and spent more than two months “in the Austin Sanitarium under rigid treatment.” It was believed her health was improving when she succumbed to the disease on May 28, 1911, a few weeks shy of what would have been her seventy-eighth birthday. The flags at the Capitol were flown half-staff in her memory, and services in Austin were attended by several prominent clergy and citizens, including the sitting governor of Texas, O. B. Colquitt. Following the Austin services, her remains were taken by train to Seguin, where interment and regular services were conducted the next day. She was buried in the Ireland family plot in Riverside Cemetery in Seguin, Texas.