College Awards Posthumous Degree to Anna Howard Shaw at Commencement

May 14, 2014

The Rev. Dr. Anna Howard Shaw, former president of the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA), was posthumously awarded an honorary doctorate from Albion College, her alma mater, during the College's May 10 Commencement exercises.

"Anna Howard Shaw is an important figure in American history, and in Albion history," Albion College Interim President Mike Frandsen noted. "We owe a debt of gratitude to Dr. Trisha Franzen for reminding us of that through her new biography of Shaw. With that inspiration, the College chose to recognize Dr. Shaw's achievements, perhaps something we should have done long ago."

A Michigan pioneer girl who put herself through college, seminary and medical school, Shaw (1847-1919) rose to the national stage as an eloquent champion for universal suffrage. A protégé of Susan B. Anthony, Shaw expanded NAWSA's influence by targeting college-aged women and working women to join. The thousands of speeches Shaw made across the country advocating for women’s right to vote were critical in obtaining final passage of the 19th amendment.

Anna Howard Shaw: The Work of Woman Suffrage, by Trisha Franzen (2014)Shaw also headed President Woodrow Wilson's Women's Committee of the Council of National Defense, earning her the first Distinguished Service Medal awarded to a woman. She toured on behalf of the League of Nations with former President William Howard Taft. Eleanor Roosevelt was a public admirer of Shaw's achievements, and the U.S. Navy named a Liberty cargo ship in Shaw's honor during World War II.

Albion College women's and gender studies professor Trisha Franzen is the author of the definitive 2014 biography Anna Howard Shaw: The Work of Woman Suffrage (University of Illinois Press; cover pictured at right). Franzen accepted the honorary doctor of humane letters degree on Shaw's behalf during the Commencement ceremony.

Franzen’s biography casts a new light on Shaw and her achievements.

"Anna Howard Shaw was far ahead of her times," Franzen said. "She led her life as if she already had all the rights that she was fighting to extend to all women. Only by reintegrating the lessons from Shaw's life into women's history, and U.S. history, can we understand the barriers women faced then and since, and the resourcefulness women have employed to create their own opportunities."