By Dana R. Bennett, PhD, Reno, Nevada
Born: September 17, 1884
Died: July 13, 1963
Roles in Nevada Suffrage: Secretary-Treasurer, Battle Mountain Chapter of the Nevada Equal Franchise Society, 1912-1914; Second Auditor, Nevada Equal Franchise Society, 1914
Olive “Ollie” Nevada Wise was born on September 17, 1884, in Nevada. Her father, Abraham Wise, moved his young family from Nevada to Missouri and back. By the time Ollie was 9 years old, they were living in Lovelock, Nevada, where Abraham married Sophia E. Harkamp on April 25, 1893. The Wise family – Abraham, Sophia, Ollie, her older brother Harry, and her infant half-brother Ivan – soon moved to Battle Mountain, Nevada, which became the family home.
In 1901, Ollie Wise enrolled at the University of Nevada in Reno where she was an active and popular student. Nicknamed “Don,” she played basketball in 1904 and 1905, sang in the Girls’ Glee Club, and was active in the largest co-ed society, Philomathean. In 1904, she served as treasurer for the newly created YWCA. University faculty included Jeanie Wier and Anne Martin, who later became leaders in Nevada’s suffrage movement. The only woman in her 1905 graduating class to earn a Bachelor of Science, Wise had had early aspirations of becoming a medical doctor. Instead, she took a position as a teacher in the nearby Verdi school district.
On July 24, 1907, in a much-publicized wedding at Battle Mountain’s St. Andrews Church, Wise married William Prince Catlin, whom she had met in college. Catlin had graduated in 1904 with a Bachelor of Science degree in mining engineering and, with a major 1905 discovery, was establishing an impressive professional reputation. The young couple settled into Battle Mountain and welcomed two children – Ernest Prince Catlin (1910) and Edith Harriet Catlin (1912).
Like her mother, Sophia Wise, Ollie Catlin participated in key Battle Mountain social groups. In August 1912, she joined prominent women to establish the local chapter of the Nevada Equal Suffrage Society. Catlin was elected Secretary-Treasurer; Sophia was designated an honorary President; and Catlin’s husband was named to the all-male advisory board. Nevada’s suffrage organization was particularly effective because of local and statewide male advisory boards. Battle Mountain’s suffrage chapter successfully urged the election of pro-suffrage candidates to the 1913 Legislature, which ensured that Nevada voters in 1914 would weigh in on the proposed constitutional amendment to allow women to vote. The group’s persistence ensured that the county’s male voters supported the amendment nearly three-to-one.
The Catlin family moved to Reno around 1915, and newspapers recorded Ollie Catlin’s active social life in Nevada’s biggest town. A year later, her sister-in-law, Edna Catlin Baker, was elected a State Regent and, as such, became the first woman to hold a statewide office in Nevada. It is easy to imagine that Ollie Catlin climbed aboard the “Suffrage Special,” the train that transported jubilant suffragists from Reno to the state capitol on February 7, 1920, when Nevada formally ratified the national constitutional amendment.
The Catlin family moved to Culver City, California, around 1923, and Ollie Catlin was soon employed as a teacher and later became principal of the elementary school. After her 1953 retirement, she served on the Culver City Board of Education until defeated for re-election in 1959. Olive Nevada Wise Catlin died on July 13, 1963, in southern California, and was laid to rest at Forest Lawn Memorial Park.
- Artemesia, University of Nevada yearbook, annually, 1904, 1905.
- Dana R. Bennett, All Roads Lead to Battle Mountain: A Small Town in the Heart of Nevada, 1869-1969, 2014.
- Dana R. Bennett, “Edna Nevada Catlin Baker,” online biography, Nevada Women’s History Project website. See biographical sketches at https://suffrage100nv.org/suffragist-biographies/
- Nevada State Journal and Reno Evening Gazette, various issues, 1904-1963.
- James McGee, A 20th Century Life: Travels Through the Years, Xlibris Corporation, 2008.
- Fred B. Nelson, “Silver Bow and Golden Arrow,” Desert, March 1974.
- U.S. Census and other public records, Ancestry.com.