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Pauline Schindler O'Neill  (b. 1865, d. 1961)
Pauline Schindler O'Neill Sewall House
Pauline O'Neill championed issues important to the women and children of Arizona as a leader of the territorial suffrage association, state women's organizations, and as a representative from Maricopa County in the Arizona State Legislature.

Region: North Central Arizona
Theme: Women in Politics and Government

Pauline Marie Schindler was the only child of Prussian immigrants, Rosalie Young and W.F.R. Schindler. Her father was an army officer, and she was born at the Presidio in San Francisco. When he was transferred to Fort Whipple, near Prescott, Pauline was nineteen, and she moved to Arizona with her parents. There she became involved with the newly formed territorial Woman's Christian Temperance Union. She also taught school in the area until she met and married local journalist and politician, William "Buckey" O'Neill, in 1886. Although Pauline had many accomplishments to her credit, she was often overshadowed by her first husband, who was Yavapai County tax assessor and sheriff, the mayor of Prescott, and died a hero, as one of Theodore Roosevelt's Rough Riders during the Spanish-American War.

In the 1890s, Pauline was a member of the Yavapai County Board of Examiners, which administered examinations for teaching certificates. She also was active in the Chautauqua Reading Circle and Catholic Church charities. In addition, she was a leader in the Women's Relief Corps in Prescott that provided financial relief to women left indigent through the illness or death of their husbands. She joined women's groups, like the Prescott Woman's Club, where she became involved in social reform efforts, and met the territory's leading politicians. Through her work in temperance, Pauline became involved with the Arizona woman suffrage movement, and historians believe it was because of her urging that her husband introduced a bill in 1897 in the territorial legislature to allow women to vote in municipal elections. Buckey died the following year, and in 1899 the Arizona Territorial Supreme Court declared the municipal suffrage law in violation of the 1862 Organic Act that created the Arizona territory.

Despite these setbacks, Pauline continued to work for suffrage, becoming the second president of the Arizona Suffrage Association (after Josephine Brawley Hughes) in 1899. When Carrie Chapman Catt, an organizer for the National American Woman Suffrage Association, who would go on to become president of NAWSA, arrived in Arizona in 1899, she traveled extensively in the state with O'Neill, campaigning for a suffrage bill. During the 1899 legislative session, they successfully moved a suffrage bill through the lower house, but it died in the upper house when a filibuster kept it from coming to a vote.

In 1901 Pauline married Buckey's younger brother, Eugene Brady O'Neill, and moved to Phoenix, where her husband served as Maricopa County representative in the House and a leader in the state Democratic Party. Pauline served as the legislative liaison for the suffrage movement, providing crucial intelligence to the movement's new president, Frances Willard Munds, who bought Pauline's former residence at 220 N. Mount Vernon.

During the successful suffrage campaign of 1912, Pauline created and led the Phoenix Civic League, a group of dedicated women who braved the 100-degree heat of Phoenix in June and July to collect more than 4,000 signatures to put a suffrage amendment on the ballot. After women won the right to vote that fall, she transformed the Phoenix Civic League into an organization for progressive reform, investigating slaughterhouses and dairies in the county, and admonishing city officials to improve and enforce sanitation codes for those businesses. She also continued her woman's club work, becoming a member of the Phoenix Woman's Club and a board member of the Central Arizona Federation of Woman's Clubs. Using her female network, she ran successfully as representative to the Arizona House in 1916, the first woman to represent Maricopa County.

During her two terms in the House (1916-1920), she continued her work to protect Arizona's women and children, introducing legislation to promote education and preventative healthcare, to prohibit alcohol consumption and prostitution, and to pass labor laws to protect women and children. In 1925 she moved to Los Angeles with her adopted son Maurice, and continued to be active with the Red Cross during World War II and with women's clubs until the end of her life.

Sewall House on Mount Vernon Street is an elegant Victorian private residence today that is a drive-by site for viewing. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and has a marker designating it as the home of both Pauline O'Neill and Frances Munds, who worked out of the home's parlor to promote the cause of woman's suffrage.

Sources: Anne L. Foster, "The Right Kind of Girl: Pauline M. O'Neill," in Rough Writings: Perspectives on Buckey O'Neill, Pauline M. O'Neill, and Roosevelt's Rough Riders, compiled by Janet Lovelady, Sharlot Hall Museum Press.

Heidi Osselaer, Winning Their Place: Arizona Women in Politics, 1883-1950.

Photo Credits:
Pauline Schindler O'Neill - Courtesy of the Sharlot Hall Museum
Sewall House - Courtesy of the Arizona State Historic Preservation Office

 

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