Anna ( Klaffke ) Laskey


Mrs. Anna Laskey. That woman has come to her own in the vigorous young State of Oklahoma is mainly due to the efforts of such able, earnest and noble representatives of the sex as this well known and highly honored citizen, whose labors in the cause of equal suffrage and for the basic principles of right and justice have been unflagging, who is recognized as a woman of exceptional intellectual power and self-reliance, whose character has been moulded through fellowship with adversity and the overcoming of formidable obstacles, and who has preserved through all the strenuous experiences of a strenuous and virtually public career, the gentleness, the kindliness and the abiding human sympathy and tolerance that denote the true gentlewoman. Though direct, vigorous and implacable in defense of a just cause that enlists her fealty, and imbued with superior mental powers, she has naught of intellectual bigotry and bends all of her energies to the conservation of the general good. She is one of the really distinguished women of Oklahoma, feared as an adversary and admired and loved as a friend, and it is a matter of much gratification to be able to present in this history of the state a brief review of her career.
Mrs. Lasky was born at Watertown, Jefferson County, Wisconsin, on the -8th of April, 1871, and is a daughter of Theodore and Florentina (Watchke) Klaffke, both natives of Germany, where they were reared and educated and where their marriage was solemnized. In 1865 the parents immigrated to the United States and after a short period residence at Haverstraw, New York, they removed to Wisconsin and established their home at Watertown. In his native land Theodore Klaffke had learned with all of thoroughness the trade of miller, and in America he found ready demand for his expert services, as he had much to do with the building, equipping and placing in operation of some of the largest Wisconsin flouring mills of the day. Prior to coming to this country he had served seven years in the German army, and he was in the prime of life at the time of his death, which occurred in 1873, at which time his daughter Anna, subject of this sketch, was but two years of age. When Mrs. Laskey was a child of eight years her widowed mother removed with the family to Floyd County, Iowa, and established her home on a farm. In that county Mrs. Laskey earnestly prosecuted her studies in the public schools, and in 1887 she was graduated in the high school at Charles City, that state. From a previously prepared and appreciative estimate are taken, with minor paraphrase, the following statements, without formal marks of quotation.
When Anna was two years old her mother was left a widow, and at the age of eleven years this devoted daughter became a mainstay to the family, managing the business of the household in the intervals out of school. She naturally developed into a self-reliant woman and a staunch advocate of equal rights for women. She has remained thoroughly and without reservation the defender of the cause of woman suffrage and her labors have been worthy of the honors accorded to those of the great pioneers in the cause, whose efforts anticipated hers. She is recognized today as one of the most effective advocates of equal suffrage to be found in the West.
At the age of seventeen years Mrs. Laskey began teaching in the district schools of her home county, where she continued her successful pedagogic work during a period of two years. She was one of the ambitious young women who came to the present State of Oklahoma in 1889, the year that marked the opening of the same to settlement and the year in which Oklahoma Territory was organized. A pioneer in the fullest sense of the term, it was but natural, with her loyalty and self-reliance, that she should become a leader in the demand for woman suffrage in the new territory. In the state organization among the women she served the same four years as auditor and treasurer. She has been active also in seeking to obtain wholesome legislation in Oklahoma and has been chosen for “third-house” duty in the Legislature from the earliest territorial period to the present time.
In 1892 when Sidney Clarke became a candidate for the State Senate from the Oklahoma City District, he was invited by the suffragists to address the state meeting of their organization, and in this address he pledged the women his loyal support in the Legislature. They aided in every legitimate way to further his election, and when the final test came they were rewarded by his receding from his promise and standing in opposition to them in a critical moment. The House had passed a bill granting equal suffrage to the women of the territory, but when the bill reached the Senate pressure stronger than that which the women were able to enlist was brought to bear, and even their pledged advocate aided in their defeat. From that time forward Clarke was a dead letter in Oklahoma politics, because of the stubborn opposition which he met at the hands of such courageous women as Mrs. Laskey and her associates.
Mrs. Laskey was the first woman in the state to make the race in the democratic primary for the office of county clerk. This was in Oklahoma County, in 1912. She ran a neck and neck race with two men opponents and many believed that she had won, but the election board gave the certificate to one of her opponents, who later assumed the office but who lost the same after a contest following the general election. During the campaign of 1910, when the question of woman suffrage was submitted as a constitutional amendment, Mrs. Laskey gave all of her time and expended much of her own money to further the cause. She was really the first woman of prominence in the state to take a firm stand for woman suffrage and in 1890 she applied to the national organization for assistance. Immediately upon the receipt of her letter this national organization sent Miss Laura Gregg into the territory and wrote Mrs. Laskey to meet her and join her in the work, which she did gladly. Through these early efforts the Territorial Legislature in 1890 granted the women suffrage in school matters throughout the territory.
When Oklahoma was admitted as a state and the election was called to choose delegates to the constitutional convention, Mrs. Laskey decided that she would insist upon her right to vote for delegates. In the Daily Oklahoman, soon after the election, the following letter from Mrs. Laskey was given a place at the head of the editorial page of that great state paper and with the following prefatory comment: “Sometimes an argument is made so strong as to stagger one. The Oklahoman is in receipt of a communication of that classification and deems it eminently worthy of reproduction and consideration. Then followed the text of the letter written by and bearing the signature of Mrs. Laskey and its perpetuation in this article is a consistent action from a logical and also historical standpoint:
“ Editor Oklahoman: Some of your women readers may be interested in my experience in trying to vote for the constitutional delegates. I told my husband several weeks prior to the election that as I had been a pioneer in Oklahoma, a tax-payer and a school teacher, that by all the laws of justice I should be entitled to vote for the delegates who were to draft the constitution under which I must live. No man could have a greater interest at stake than I. So I determined to try to vote my opinions. My husband believes as I do, that wives and mothers in Oklahoma, who have faithfully shared the hardships of the territorial days, are entitled to all the rights and privileges of men. We drove to the school house where the election was held. On entering, I met the pleasant faces of my neighbors and friends, two of whom were the clerks. One was a former pupil of mine and of whom I have the kindest and happiest recollections, for he was always a diligent student. I said pleasant faces,–I meant surprised faces, when they found out my intentions to vote. The clerk said, ‘We are not going to give you a ballot.’ I replied, ‘ I have not asked you for one.’ But I proceeded to take one which lay on the desk. The clerks were nonplussed. I entered the booth at the rear of the room and stamped my ballot. Then folding the ballot, I walked toward the ballot box. This was guarded by a naturalized resident, and this foreign-born guardian told me, an American-born woman, that he would arrest me if I attempted to deposit my ballot. I answered that I would be proud to be arrested in the cause of justice and right.
“I wonder whether there will be as vigorous a protest against me when I go to pay my taxes as when I asked for representation as a taxpayer! It is a poor rule that will not work both ways. Queer sort of protection that makes women pay taxes but denies us our right to express our opinions. I laid my ballot beside the box and drove on to the house of a friend, where I took dinner. My host came in later and said he left the men who were in charge of the polls discussing what to do with my ballot. One suggested its destruction, another called it a mutilated ballot, still another termed it an illegal ballot: all agreed that it could not be destroyed, as all ballots must be accounted for.
“ I returned home, and as I passed the school house the clerks grasped the ballots from the desk and sat on them, while with a determined hold on the seats of the desk they securely held down the ballots until I was out of sight. To the credit of the men at the polls be it said that the majority were in favor of woman suffrage. Where is the justice of depriving intelligent women of a share in public affairs which are so vital to the homes of Oklahoma? How much would the American man feel that he was protected if the right of the ballot were denied him and he was promised privileges instead ?”
Mrs. Laskey still retains the deepest interest in public affairs in Oklahoma and is actively identified with organizations and enterprises tending to advance the general welfare and to conserve good government in all departments of state, county, city and village service. Her pleasant home, on Capital Hill, Oklahoma City, is known for its gracious hospitality and for its pervading atmosphere of culture and high ideals.
At Nevada, Iowa, on the 25th of September, 1889, was solemnized the marriage of Edward A. Laskey to Miss Anna Klaffke, he having been born at Belvidere. Illinois, on the 15th of June, 1852. The one child of this union is Glenn Eugene, who was born on the 28th of August, 1894, and who is now a member of the class of 1917 in the University of Oklahoma, at Norman. He has achieved prominence not only as a bright and ambitious student but also as one of the best all-round young athletes of his native state, he having already won many medals in state and national field-day sports, principally in collegiate circles.