Noted women's suffragist and social reformer - she had important ties to Georgetown and Williamson County.
Jessie Daniel Ames, who was a leader in the women's suffragist movement, had important ties to Williamson County. Jessie Harriet Daniel was born on November 2, 1883, in Palestine, Anderson County, Texas, a child of employee James Malcolm Daniel and his wife, Laura Maria (Leonard). In 1893, the Daniel family relocated to Georgetown, where Jessie completed her high school education and entered Southwestern University in 1897. In 1904, two years after her graduation, her father accepted a railroad company position in Laredo, and she joined her family there.
Jessie met a young army surgeon, Dr. Roger Post Ames, of Laredo, whom she married in 1905. He was a veteran of the Spanish American War. Dr. Ames helped in important medical experiments to isolate the causes of yellow fever and malaria. Following his death in 1914, Jessie returned to Williamson County and joined her mother in operating the Georgetown Telephone Company. Jessie and her mother built the operation into a successful company serving a growing city and county.
Jessie was an active member of several civic groups, including the Georgetown Woman's Club; Mrs. Ames became a champion for women's rights. She organized the George-town Equal Suffrage League and directed an eleventh-hour Williamson County voter drive that registered over 3,000 first-time women voters, in just seventeen days, for the 1918 election. She was a leader in several statewide organizations, including the Texas League of Women Voters, the Texas Committee on Prisons and Prison Reform, and the state affiliate of the American Association of University Women. She also served as a delegate-at-large to the Democratic National Conventions of 1920 and 1924.
Jessie Daniel Ames learned of important programs in a Dallas meeting of women social reformers in 1922, conducted by the Commission on Interracial Cooperation. In 1930 as an employee of the commission led her to form the affiliated Association of Southern Women for the Prevention of Lynching (ASWPL). Her organization used both education and direct action in programs to eradicate racially motivated killings. It specifically targeted individuals who claimed to promote lynching as legitimate means for defending chivalry and womanhood.
Despite fierce opposition and threats of personal violence, Mrs. Ames persevered. She continued to work with the ASWPL and its successor, the Southern Regional Council, until the time of World War II.
Jessie Daniel Ames retired from the Commission on Inter-racial Cooperation in 1944 and moved to a Tryon, North Carolina cottage she called Wren's Nest. From there she participated in Methodist Church activities, black voter registration drives, and a women's study group on world politics. Later, in frail health, she returned to Texas, to live with a daughter, Lulu Daniel Ames. She died in Austin on February 17, 1972, and is buried in the IOOF Cemetery in Georgetown, the city where she began her life as an active leader of progressive social reform.
Special thanks to the Mood-Heritage Museum for their help - please feel free to visit the Southwestern University to see the wonderful donation of 1,200 books that she donated to the University.