Born in 1872, Grace Gallatin was the daughter of Albert and Clemenza Gallatin of Sacramento, California. Among other accomplishments, Albert was a wealthy businessman who founded the Sacramento Electric Power and Light. The mansion he built in Sacramento later became the California Governor’s Mansion. After her parents divorced, she moved east with her mother.
Grace Gallatin and her mother met Seton on a transatlantic voyage in July 1894. A month later, they met again in Paris and started their courtship. They married on June 1, 1896, in New York, where she introduced Seton to her friends, which included publishers, other writers, and artists. These acquaintances were important to Seton’s success.
In the early years of their marriage, Grace was quite involved with Ernest’s career, taking on several roles, including book designer, scheduler, and assistant in developing the Woodcraft Indians. She traveled with him to explore the western United States. Her first two books, A Woman Tenderfoot and Nimrod’s Wife chronicled these trips. She was also a co-founder and early officer of the Camp Fire Girls and the first secretary of the Girl Guides/Girl Scouts of the United States.
She had a vibrant and varied career as a suffragist, traveler, author, community leader, and patriot. She was also mother to their only child, Ann, born in 1904. She was active in New York City social circles. The couple maintained a pied-á-terre in the city after moving first to Cos Cob and Greenwich.
Grace was a staunch suffragist, playing a leadership role at both the state and national levels. She became a leading advocate of women’s rights. Ironically, when the Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified in 1920, Grace could not vote! Under the Expatriation Act, passed in 1907, women citizens lost citizenship when they married a non-citizen. Ernest had not become a naturalized citizen at that point (which was a major issue concerning his relationship with the Boy Scouts of America). Thus, Grace was officially not considered a citizen. This was a big surprise to Grace and other similarly situated suffragists. This was resolved, at least partially, with the passage of The Cable Act of 1922, also known as the Married Women’s Independent Nationality Act.
Due to Ernest’s name changes, Grace was known variously as Grace Seton-Thompson, Grace Thompson Seton, Grace Gallatin Thompson Seton, or simply Grace Seton.