By Dana R. Bennett, PhD, Reno, Nevada
Role in Women’s Suffrage: Honorary President, Battle Mountain Chapter of the Nevada Equal Franchise Society
Sophia E. Harkamp was born in Germany on November 6, 1869, and immigrated to the United States in 1889, arriving in New York on April 13, apparently alone. By 1893, she was living in Lovelock, Nevada, where she married Abraham Wise, 17 years her senior and the father of two children, Harry and Ollie, on April 25. Their son, Ivan Ernest Wise, was born in 1894 and died in 1909 or 1910.
By 1900, the Wise family was living in Battle Mountain where Sophia (sometimes called Sophie) was an active member of the community. She participated in prominent Battle Mountain social groups, such as the Pythian Sisters. Her husband, Abraham, was active in Republican politics and served as a county delegate to at least one state convention and an attaché at two legislative sessions.
In August 1912, Sophia was named an Honorary President of the local chapter of the Nevada Equal Suffrage Society. Her daughter, Ollie Wise Catlin, was elected Secretary-Treasurer, and her son-in-law, Prince Catlin, was named to the all-male advisory board. Nevada’s suffrage organization was particularly effective because of local and statewide advisory boards consisting of well-known and respected businessmen. 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.
Sophia E. Harkamp Wise died of uterine cancer on October 13, 1926, at her son Harry’s home in Sparks and was buried in Battle Mountain. Stricken with pneumonia after transporting his wife’s remains home, Abraham died a month later and was also buried in Battle Mountain. Both were remembered for their prominent positions in this small Nevada community.
- Dana R. Bennett, All Roads Lead to Battle Mountain: A Small Town in the Heart of Nevada, 1869-1969, 2014.
- Reno Evening Gazette, October 14, 1926 and November 18, 1926.
- James McGee, A 20th Century Life: Travels Through the Years, Xlibris Corporation, 2008.
- U.S. Census and other public records, Ancestry.com.