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Kansas City Missouri Women's Heritage Trail
Item 6 of 26
This is a contributing entry for Kansas City Missouri Women's Heritage Trail and only appears as part of that tour.Learn More.

While Sarah Chandler Coates was born and raised in Pennsylvania, her impact was especially felt throughout Kansas City. While the city was not yet the metropolitan district it would one day become when Sarah moved to the area in 1856, her and her husband, Colonel Kersey Coates, would contribute to Kansas City's development. Sarah's passion for the women's suffrage movement encouraged her to create multiple women's associations within the area, which allowed for the expansion of certain progressive ideals in the city. Her life of service impacted many, and she was sorely missed when she passed away at the end of the 19th century. Her children would commemorate her life in an 1898 memoriam that demonstrates the many lives she touched throughout her days.

Sarah Chandler Coates was born on March 10, 1829, in Pennsylvania. The second-born in her family, she would become the only daughter among four sons. The mutual love and care between all members of the family served as an excellent support system for Sarah, and also encouraged her outspoken ways. Born to a religious mother, Sarah developed a charitable nature that would follow her throughout her life. She joined the Progressive Friends’ Society of Longwood as a young adult to properly pursue progressive ideals for the times while maintaining her Quaker faith. She attended the Young Ladies’ Lyceum of Kennett Square, and gave an address to her fellow classmates prior to her exit. Sarah’s address would, coincidentally, catch the attention of a Colonel Kersey Coates, who she would later marry in 1855. Sarah and Kersey would share a marriage filled with adventurous encounters and amazing feats. 

Shortly after their marriage, Kersey would move West for the Kansas Territory. He would be serving on behalf of the Philadelphia Emigrants’ Aid Society, which had a goal of establishing anti-slavery settlers in the Kansas territory so that it would not become a slave-state. Although Sarah was close with her family and had a supportive network in Pennsylvania, she joined her husband in 1856, also boasting an anti-slavery mindset. However, such ideology led to difficult times for Sarah and Kersey at first, as they were surrounded by Confederate supporters who could become quite hostile towards those who did not support slavery. Sarah herself had her doubts on her Westward move, best demonstrated when she said:

"How my heart sank when the thought passed through my mind, ‘And is this to be my home!’"4

While it may not have offered Sarah the best circumstances, she would make due, and the husband and wife would persist in their new home, contributing to the growth of Kansas City.

During the Civil War, the Coates’ family was thrust into the middle of dangerous territory. Sarah served as a type of nurse for injured soldiers, assisting at makeshift hospitals that sprang up around the area, including within pre-existing businesses. On top of this, Sarah and Kersey offered their home to injured Union soldiers and supporters, as well as used their cellar as an arsenal. When the War was over, Kersey Coates worked on development within the area, establishing a hotel and other ventures that would contribute to the creation of Kansas City. Sarah would also contribute to the community through the development of associations and activist work.  

Sarah’s charitable nature, and progressive tendencies, were visible through her constant work within the public. Such pursuits included that of women’s education, the suffragist movement, anti-slavery, and other pursuits to support all fellow humans. One such association was the Woman’s Suffrage Club, for whom she organized meetings at the New Coates Hotel. Her participation in activism did not end with one club, however. In fact, she created multiple women’s associations, including the Women’s Christian Association, the Equal Suffrage Association of Kansas City, and the Kansas City Woman’s Exchange. Her passion for women’s suffrage also led her to become an acquaintance of Susan B. Anthony, whom Sarah found to be honorable and inspirational until her dying day.  

Sarah was a dutiful and doting mother, and later grandmother, and held her place within her family in high regards. She kept track of the kind words or actions that others showed her, and made time to write all of her loved ones. Many such writings, especially her poems, are saved within the memorial her children composed for her after her death. Sarah Chandler Coates passed away on July 25, 1897, and her funeral was said to have been attended by enough people to fill not only the Coates’ family home, but their yard as well. Such was the impact that Sarah had on those around her within the community. While Colonel Kersey Coates is often remembered for his contributions to Kansas City’s development, Sarah Chandler Coates must be remembered for her persistence during hardship, charitable acts to those around her, her support of the community, and her passion of equal treatment between men and women. Sarah’s dutiful and charitable nature are long preserved in her own diaries as well as the memorials left behind. As Sarah herself said:

"I wish it might be said of me that I have helped even one soul to a higher sense of duty and faith in God and man."5
  1. Aycock, Rebekah. The Women’s Suffrage Movement In Kansas City, The Pendergast Years. Accessed October 21st 2021. 
  2. Barnes, Kay. Civic Housekeepers: Women’s Organizations, Civic Reform, And The 1940 Elections, The Pendergast Years. Accessed October 21st 2021. 
  3. Coates Reed, Laura. Coates, John Lindley. In Memoriam: Sarah Walter Chandler Coates. Kansas City, MO. Hudson-Limberly Publishing Co., 1898. 
  4. Coates Reed, Laura. Coates, John Lindley. In Memoriam: Sarah Walter Chandler Coates. Kansas City, MO. Hudson-Limberly Publishing Co., 1898, page 41.
  5. Coates Reed, Laura. Coates, John Lindley. In Memoriam: Sarah Walter Chandler Coates. Kansas City, MO. Hudson-Limberly Publishing Co., 1898, page 30.
  6. Hall of Fame: Sarah Chandler Coates, Starr Women's Hall of Fame. Accessed October 21st 2021. 
  7. Magerl, Barbara. Sarah Chandler Coates, The Kansas City Public Library. Accessed October 21st 2021. 
  8. Walker, Bill. Sarah Walter Chandler Coates, Find a Grave. Accessed October 21st 2021.