Frances S. Klock (1844–1908) was one of the first three women—along with Clara Cressingham and Carrie Clyde Holly—to serve as a state legislator in the United States. The three ran for office in 1894, one year after women in Colorado achieved the right to vote. In addition to serving as a member of the State House of Representatives in 1895, Klock also served in the Woman’s Relief Corps and the Ladies auxiliary of the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR). She was also an officer in the Colorado branch of the women’s auxiliary to the American Protective Association (APA).
Frances S. Krake was born in North Lee, Massachusetts, on January 1, 1844. In 1858 her father, Nelson Krake, was elected as a town constable. When she was fifteen years old, her family moved to Fond du Lac, Wisconsin. Around the time of the move, she married John I. Klock, who was about seven years her senior. John and Frances lived with her family in 1860. The following year, the Civil War broke out and the three men of the house—her father, brother, and husband—all enlisted for the Union. Only John Klock survived, and he was seriously injured.
Frances and John moved to Denver sometime in 1871, while Colorado was still a territory. Frances’s mother, Lucinda Krake, lived with them until her death in 1888.
Grand Army of the Republic
After the Civil War, Klock worked for the Woman’s Relief Corps of the GAR. The main purpose of the Woman’s Relief Corps was to look after the well-being of Union veterans. In January 1886, at a GAR convention in Pueblo, Klock presided over the installation of Woman’s Relief Corps officers and was selected as an alternate delegate to the group’s national convention. Her long-term dedication to taking care of Civil War veterans and to helping the organization may have played a role in her election to office. According to at least one newspaper article, “She received a heavy soldier vote.”
Unlike Cressingham and Holly, who were active suffragists, Klock was apparently not active in the women’s suffrage movement before Colorado women achieved the vote in 1893. Nevertheless, in 1894 she campaigned and won election as a state representative from Arapahoe County, which then included Denver.
In the legislature, Klock took a leadership role by chairing the Committee on Indian and Military Affairs, where she continued to support the goals of the GAR. She proposed that Colorado accept land ceded to the state by the US Congress to maintain a soldiers’ and sailors’ home at Fort Lyon near Las Animas. She also proposed a bill to pay off a debt to the National Guard. Neither bill passed, but her activities in the legislature show her ongoing interest in military and veteran affairs.
Klock’s other main activity in the state legislature involved the State Home and Industrial School for Girls. In 1887 the Colorado General Assembly passed a law creating the institution, which was intended as a reformatory school where girls who routinely got into trouble would be educated. Despite establishing the home, the state did not allocate funds for its operation. Instead, Governor Alva Adams contracted with a convent of Benedictine (Catholic) Sisters to run the reformatory in the House of the Good Shepherd, a local branch of a worldwide Catholic institution dedicated to the reform of delinquent girls and young women.
By 1895 the State Home still had no state funding. Klock introduced a bill to remedy that situation. Meanwhile, the Benedictine Sisters who ran the reformatory also had not been paid for their work, and the State House voted down a bill to reimburse them because of strong anti-Catholic sentiment. To compensate for the House’s refusal to pay the Benedictine Sisters, the State Senate amended Klock’s funding bill to not only fund the State Home in the future but also reimburse the Sisters for their costs.
The amendment created a conflict of interest for Klock. At the time, she served as president of the Colorado women’s branch of the powerful American Protective Association, a staunchly anti-Catholic group that tried to keep Catholics out of civil activities. Klock left no records beyond her actions to illuminate her own thinking on the subject. Deciding she could not violate the APA’s tenets, Klock voted against the Senate amendment to her own funding bill, which ultimately failed.
After serving a single term in the legislature, Klock did not run for reelection.
State Home and Industrial School for Girls in Practice
Despite her legislative failure, Klock was instrumental in the creation of a State Home and Industrial School for Girls to replace the one housed by the Benedictine Sisters. On June 20, 1895, after the end of the legislative session, Governor Albert McIntire appointed Klock to the home’s board, where she served as its president. Because the state still made no appropriation, each county contributed some money and Klock sought private funding for the institution. She was successful enough that it opened on September 16, 1895.
Within a few years, however, the State Home was rocked by scandal, which caused Governor Adams to ask Klock and the remainder of the board to resign in 1898. The scandal involved accusations of mistreatment of the girls, including locking them in dark basement rooms and spraying them with cold water. Contemporary newspapers reveal contradictory opinions coming from all directions about how to reform the home. Some people demanded greater strictness and others greater compassion. These contradictory recommendations for reforming the home show the difficulty that the home’s leadership faced. After the board was ousted, troubles continued and some of the girls ended up in jail.
Klock continued to apply her organizational and oratorical skills to the American Protective Association and the Grand Army of the Republic. In 1896, at the same time she served as president of the State Home and Industrial School for Girls, she was also an officer for the Ladies auxiliary of the GAR and was reelected president of the Colorado Woman’s APA. At the same time, she was elected supreme vice-president of the national organization of the Woman’s APA. In 1903–4 she served as president of the Ladies of the GAR’s Colorado Department, and later she continued to assist the leadership of the GAR’s Ladies auxiliary in the state.
On October 5, 1908, Klock died after a long, unspecified illness. She was buried in the family tomb in Denver’s Riverside Cemetery.
Klock’s election to office and her activity in the Colorado State Legislature, along with that of Carrie Clyde Holly and Clara Cressingham, were reported in papers across the country. We take women’s ability to legislate for granted now, but in Klock’s day it was revelatory, helping to open the doors for future generations of women to serve in local, state, and federal government. Yet Klock’s leadership of the anti-Catholic APA serves as a reminder that women who worked to exercise their own rights did not necessarily believe in equality for all and sometimes proved willing to restrict the rights of others based on religion or race.