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Suffragist of the Month 2011

December 2011 – Matilda Hall Gardner (1871 – 1954)

Matilda Gardner

Matilda Gardner

Matilda Hall Gardner, of Washington, D.C., formerly of Chicago, was the daughter of Frederick Hall, editor of the Chicago Tribune, and wife of Gilson Gardner, Washington representative of Scripps newspapers. Educated in Chicago, Paris, and Brussels, Gardner was one of the original core of activists who worked with Alice Paul and Lucy Burns when they first came to Washington to work for the Congressional Committee. She was a member of the national executive committee of the NWP beginning in 1914. She was arrested July 14, 1917, and sentenced to 60 days in Occoquan Workhouse; and Jan. 13, 1919, and sentenced to 5 days in District Jail. She said of her first arrest that an officer came up to her and politely said, “It is a beautiful day.”  She concurred.  They carried on a conversation and after looking up and down the avenue the officer finally said, “I think the patrol will be along presently.” Mrs. Gardner didn’t realize up until that point that she had been arrested.

Source: Doris Stevens, Jailed for Freedom (New York: Boni and Liveright, 1920), 359;  Inez Haynes Gillmore, The Story of the Woman’s Party (New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1921), 466.

November 2011 – Mary Gertrude Fendall (1889 – 1971)

Mary Gertrude Fendall

Mary Gertrude Fendall

Mary Gertrude Fendall of Baltimore, Md., campaigned for the National Woman’s Party in the West in 1916 and was national treasurer of the NWP June 1917 to December 1919. She was the national organizer for the NWP in Oregon.She was a graduate of Bryn Mawr College. She holds the distinction of being the sergeant of the guard on the first day the NWP picketed the White House in January of 1917. She was often referred to as “the girl who managed the picket line” since one of her key duties while working for the NWP was enlisting women to picket.  During the demonstration of March 4th, 1917 she provided a line of nearly a thousand. She was arrested and sentenced to three days in jail, January 1919, for applauding in court.

Source: Doris Stevens, Jailed for Freedom (New York: Boni and Liveright, 1920), 358.

 

 

October 2011 – Abby Scott Baker (1871 – 1944)

Abby Scott Baker

Abby Scott Baker

Abby Scott Baker, of Washington, D.C., came from a multi-generational military family. She was one of Alice Paul’s earliest associates and helped Paul and Burns plan their first major event–the March 3, 1913, national suffrage parade on the eve of Woodrow Wilson’s inauguration. She served as treasurer of the Congressional Union for Woman Suffrage (CU) in 1914 and quickly became one of the most effective lobbyists for both the CU and its successor, the National Woman’s Party (NWP).

Baker traveled the country as part of the CU’s “Suffrage Special” train tour of western states in April-May 1916. The envoys set off with fanfare from Union Station in Washington, D.C., and Baker was in charge of handling the press for the tour. The support that she helped raise from women in states that had already granted women’s suffrage culminated in a June 1916 meeting in Chicago to form what was at first called the Woman’s Party of Western Voters, or Woman’s Party, for short (later, the NWP). When the NWP was more formally organized in relation to the CU in March 1917, Baker was elected to the NWP executive committee and served as its press chairman (1917-18) and political chairman (1917; 1919-21).

Baker was among the first demonstrators to picket the White House; she was arrested in September 1917 and sentenced to 60 days in the Occoquan Workhouse. In February-March 1919, she served as publicity manager and speaker for the “Prison Special,” a three-week lecture tour by NWP activists who spoke to packed audiences about their jail experiences in an effort to generate support for the suffrage cause.

Baker was an important lobbyist during the key years (1917-20) that the NWP pressured for passage of what became the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Known as the diplomat of the NWP, Baker was a significant presence in the organization’s ongoing tactic of asserting personal influence upon leading authorities in public and private life. When the NWP’s patriotism was challenged, she reminded critics that her three sons were fighting in World War I. In the midst of the ratification process for the 19th Amendment, Baker was among the NWP members who attended the Democratic National Convention of 1920 in San Francisco and successfully brokered a pro-suffrage plank as part of the party platform. She subsequently lobbied the presidential candidates from both political parties, James M. Cox and Warren G. Harding, to support the women’s rights cause.

After suffrage was achieved, Baker became a member of the NWP’s Committee on International Relations and the Women’s Consultative Committee of the League of Nations. She also represented the NWP at the League’s 1935 international conferences in Geneva where the issue of equal rights was discussed.

 

September 2011 – Sarah Tarleton Colvin

Sarah Tarleton Colvin

Sarah Tarleton Colvin

Mrs. Sarah Tarleton Colvin, of St. Paul, Minn., was a member of the well known Tarleton family of Alabama. Her husband, Dr. A. R. Colvin, was a major in the Army, and acting surgical chief at Fort McHenry during World War I. She was a graduate nurse of the Johns Hopkins training school, and worked as a Red Cross nurse in the United States during the war. She was the Minnesota state chairman of the NWP, and a member of the “Prison Special” nationwide tour of speakers in Feb-Mar 1919. She was arrested in watchfire demonstrations Jan. 1919 and sentenced to two terms of five days each.

Source: Doris Stevens, Jailed for Freedom (New York: Boni and Liveright, 1920), 357.

 

 

 

August 2011 – Catherine Flanagan

Catherine Flanagan

Catherine Flanagan

Catherine Flanagan of Hartford, Conn., was a state and national organizer for the National Woman’s Party. She was formerly secretary for the Conn. Woman Suffrage Association (CWSA). Her father came to the United States as a political exile because of his efforts in the movement for Irish freedom.  She decided to travel to Washington on her vacation and participated in the picketing at the White House in August of 1917.  During the second week, the women were attacked by the crowd and their banners were taken from them and torn apart. The women refused to disperse, were arrested for disrupting traffic and sentenced to 30 days at the Occoquan Workhouse in Lorton, Va.

While members of the Conn. Woman Suffrage Association condemned Flanagan for the picketing, CWSA member Mrs.Thomas N. Hepburn (mother of actress Katherine Hepburn) defended them. “I admire Miss Flanagan very much for being willing to go to jail for her convictions, “ said Hepburn. “It is more than most people could even conceive of doing for an ideal…If she prefers to spend her vacation working to make our own country safe for democracy…it behooves those who are less public spirited to try to comprehend her unselfish devotion.” Mrs. M. Tuscan Bennett, treasurer of the CWSA, told the Hartford Courant the same day, “We are indeed in a sad state of affairs in this country when the government uses its strong arm to protest disorderly mobs in their cowardly assault upon American women who are still fighting after 50 years for a principle which was held to be a self-evident truth nearly a century and a half ago:  namely that governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed.”

Flanagan, after arriving back in Connecticut, commented to reporters, “I am perfectly willing to go back to the picket line.  I feel that it is a little thing to do toward the accomplishment of such a great purpose, especially since it seems to be the only thing left for us to do now.” She was so revered by her fellow suffragists that when Connecticut ratified the 19th Amendment, she was asked to present the historic document to the U-S Secretary of State, Bainbridge Colby.

Sources: Excerpts from Doris Stevens, Jailed for Freedom (New York: Boni and Liveright, 1920), 359.Bridgeport  Herald,  Sept. 23,  1917.  Hartford  Courant,  Aug. 18-25  and  Sept.  13-16,  1917;  Sept. 15,  1920.  Hartford  Daily  Times, Sept.  15,  20,  1920.  Meriden  Morning Record,  Aug.  26-Sept.  21,  1920. Library of  Congress,  Records  of  the National  Woman’s  Party,  American Memory  Project.  Geer’s  Hariford Directory,  1886-1920.  Suffragist newspaper ,   Aug. -Sept .   1917. Rampant women:  Suffragists and the right  of   assembly  by  Linda  Lumsden.  Votes  and  More  for Woman:  Suffrage  and  After  in Connecticut by Carole Nicho.Collection.

July 2011 – Florence Bayard Hilles (1865 – 1954)

Florence Bayard Hilles

Florence Bayard Hilles

Florence Bayard Hilles, of Newcastle, Del., was the daughter of Thomas Bayard, American ambassador to Great Britain and secretary of state under President Grover Cleveland. She became involved in the suffrage movement after hearing Mabel Vernon speak. She realized that Vernon was saying what she believed in – yet she was doing nothing about it.  They quickly became good friends. Hilles gave her time, her money and her car – the “Votes for Women Flyer” to the cause.  She was chairman of the Delaware Branch of the National Women’s Party and member of the national executive committee. One of the “Silent Sentinels” who picketed the White House, she was arrested on July 13, 1917, and sentenced to 60 days in Occoquan Workhouse. She was pardoned by President Wilson after serving three days of her term. The library at the Sewall-Belmont House, is named after her.

Excerpts from Doris Stevens, Jailed for Freedom (New York: Boni and Liveright, 1920), 361. Portrait: 1916.  Copied from original in the collection of the Jewish Historical Society of Delaware Archives, Sally Grinns Collection.

 

June 2011 – Maud Younger (1870 – 1936)

Maud Younger

Maud Younger

Maud Younger was among the NWP leaders who came from upper-class circumstances but identified with working-class life. She was an independently wealthy socialite in San Francisco when, at age 30, she witnessed effective settlement house work in New York City and became a convert to the power of grassroots reform. She also worked briefly in New York as a waitress to acquire personal experience in the service sector. Younger returned to California, where she organized San Francisco’s first waitress union (1908) and was instrumental in the passage of the state’s eight-hour-day work law.

Since Younger viewed working and voting rights as closely related issues, she helped found the Wage Earners’ Equal Suffrage League for Working Women, spoke on the vote in union halls around the state, and encouraged men to support the women’s cause. A master of showmanship, she created publicity for state suffrage with a Wage Earner’s Equal Suffrage League float in the 1911 Labor Day parade in San Francisco. In that year she helped lobby for passage of a woman suffrage amendment to the California constitution.

In 1913 Younger brought her considerable organizing experience to the Congressional Union of Woman Suffrage (CU) and later the National Woman’s Party (NWP). Working closely with Alice Paul, she soon emerged as one of the NWP’s most effective orators and was a leading presence at several major NWP events. She was a keynote speaker at the NWP’s founding convention in Chicago in June 1916, and later that year spoke at the memorial service for Inez Milholland. In 1917 Younger traveled throughout the nation to speak about the NWP’s picketing of the White House and the arrest and imprisonment of demonstrators. She chaired the NWP’s lobbying committee (1917-19) and legislative committee (1919), and described her experiences in a 1919 McCall’s Magazine article “Revelations of a Woman Lobbyist.” After 1920 Younger worked with the Women’s Trade Union League and then focused her activism on the NWP campaign for the Equal Rights Amendment. She served as congressional chairman of the NWP from 1921 until her death.

 

May 2011 – Anne Kelton Wiley (1877 – 1964)

Anne Kelton Wiley

Anne Kelton Wiley

Anna Kelton Wiley was born in Oakland, California in 1877. She graduated from George Washington University, Washington, DC, in 1897 and worked in various government offices. She married Dr. Harvey W. Wiley, Chief of the Bureau of Chemistry, in 1911; they had two children, Harvey, Jr. and John P.

Anna Wiley was active in various Washington organizations for fifty-five years. As a suffragist she was arrested for picketing the White House on November 10, 1917, and sentenced to 15 days in District Jail; she appealed her case and it was later upheld by a higher court. She served as Chairman of the National Woman’s Party (1930-1932, 1940-1942) as well as editor (1940-1945) of its periodical, Equal Rights. She belonged to over forty organizations, as diverse as the Daughters of the American Revolution and the Consumers’ League. Using her knowledge of and interest in politics, she lobbied for legislation on behalf of many of these organizations. Anna Kelton Wiley and Rheta Childe Dorr led a delegation of women to a meeting with President Wilson.  Mr. Wilson again said he supported leaving suffrage to states and became annoyed when the women pressed him about the possibility of a Constitutional Amendment.  The exchange reportedly fueled the growing view that women in the Congressional Union were “hecklers” and “women howlers.”

Source: Doris Stevens, Jailed for Freedom (New York: Boni and Liveright, 1920), 370.

Photo Source: Studio portrait of Anal Kelton Wiley, seated, in embroidered apron, with sons John Preston Wiley (1914-1998) and Harvey W. Wiley, Jr. (1912-1951), in sailor suits.

April 2011 – Sue Shelton White (1887 -1943)

Sue Shelton White

Sue Shelton White

Sue Shelton White, of Jackson, Tenn., was state chairman of the National Woman’s Party and one of the editors of The Suffragist weekly newspaper. She was a court and convention reporter for ten years and in 1918 was appointed by the Governor of Tennessee to the State Commission for the Blind. She was active with the United Daughters of the Confederacy and the Daughters of the American Revolution, as well as the Federation of Women’s Clubs and the Parent Teachers’ Association. She was arrested Feb. 9, 1919, and served five days in District Jail for participating in a watchfire demonstration. She soon after participated in the NWP’s “Prison Special” tour of the United States.  She is largely credited with helping win ratification of the 19th Amendment by helping win passage in the Tennessee legislature- the 36th and clinching state for ratification. Shelton eventually earned her law degree in 1923 and helped to draft the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). She soon left the NWP after being discouraged by President Hoover’s failure to support the Amendment.

Source: Doris Stevens, Jailed for Freedom (New York: Boni and Liveright, 1920), 370.Photo Source: Sue Shelton White, Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, (mnwp 158006). Photographer: Harris&Ewing [c. 1920] 

March 2011 – Lucy Burns (1879 – 1966)

Lucy Burns

Lucy Burns

Lucy Burns was a versatile and pivotal figure within the National Woman’s Party (NWP). With distinctive flame-red hair that matched her personality and convictions, she was often characterized as a charmer and a firebrand–and the crucial support behind her friend Alice Paul’s higher-profile leadership.

Born in Brooklyn, New York, to an Irish Catholic family, Burns was a brilliant student of language and linguistics. She studied at Vassar College and Yale University in the United States and at the University of Berlin in Germany (1906-8). While a student at Oxford College in Cambridge, England, Burns witnessed the militancy of the British suffrage movement.

Burns set her academic goals aside and in 1909 became an activist with Emmeline and Christabel Pankhurst’s Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU). She perfected the art of street speaking, was arrested repeatedly, and was imprisoned four times. From 1910 to 1912 she worked as a suffrage organizer in Scotland.

Burns met Alice Paul in a London police station after both were arrested during a suffrage demonstration outside Parliament. Their alliance was powerful and long-lasting. Returning to the United States (Paul in 1910, Burns in 1912), the two women worked first with the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) as leaders of its Congressional Committee. In April 1913 they founded the Congressional Union for Woman Suffrage (CU), which evolved into the NWP. Burns organized campaigns in the West (1914, 1916), served as NWP legislative chairman in Washington, D.C., and, beginning in April 1914, edited the organization’s weekly journal, The Suffragist.

Burns was a driving force behind the picketing of President Woodrow Wilson’s administration in Washington, D.C., beginning in January 1917. Six months later, she and Dora Lewis–targeting the attention of visiting Russian envoys–attracted controversy by prominently displaying a banner outside the White House declaring that America was not a free democracy as long as women were denied the vote. When Burns participated in a similar action with Katharine Morey later the same month, they were arrested for obstructing traffic. The banners displeased President Wilson and escalated the administration’s response to the picketing.

Burns was arrested and imprisoned six times. Declaring that suffragists were political prisoners, she was among those in the Occoquan Workhouse who instigated hunger strikes in October 1917 and were subsequently placed in solitary confinement. Jailed again when protesting the treatment of the imprisoned Alice Paul, Burns joined Paul and others in another round of Occoquan hunger strikes. Burns was in Occoquan for what became known as the “Night of Terror” on November 15, 1917, during which she was beaten and her arms were handcuffed above her head in her cell. Particularly brutal force-feeding soon followed. After her release, Burns commenced nationwide speaking tours. Unlike Paul, who remained active in the NWP until her death, Burns retired from public campaigns with the success of the 19th Amendment. She spent the rest of her life working with the Catholic Church.

 

February 2011 – Rheta Childe Door (1868 – 1948)

Rheta Childe Door

Rheta Childe Door

Born in Nebraska, Rheta Childe Dorr earned a reputation as a disobedient child, sneaking out of the house to attend a suffragist rally held by Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony when she was 12.  Her parents discovered her actions only after reading in the paper the list of women who had joined the National Woman Suffrage Association. She had used her only silver dollar to pay dues. She later pursued journalism, but was shocked to learn that editors refused to put her on the staff simply because she was a woman. While covering the coronation of a new king in Norway, she became acquainted with prominent British suffragists. She later decided to go underground to learn and write about the experiences of everyday workers, later learning that her stories were given a male byline. In 1910 she wrote, “What Eight Million Women Want” about suffrage clubs, trade unions, and consumers leagues in Europe and the United States. That led her to assisting British suffragist, Emmeline Pankhurst, in writing Pankhurst’s autobiography, “My Own Story.” She was selected to be the editor of the new weekly suffrage newspaper, “The Suffragist,” the first of which appeared on November 15, 1913.  It was the official publication of those trying to influence national legislation for the cause.  She once explained that the idea of the paper was to bring to the attention of women all over the country that they may have a voice in government by making it a political issue and electing men who are favorable to equal suffrage.  She eventually quit her position as editor over frustration over suffragist Alice Paul’s autocratic manner.

January 2011 – Alison Turnbull Hopkins (1880 – 1951)

Alison Turnbull Hopkins

Alison Turnbull Hopkins

Alison Turnbull Hopkins of Morristown, N.J., was New Jersey state chairman of the National Woman’s Party and a member of the NWP executive committee in 1917, as well as president of various women’s clubs. Her husband was a supporter of  President Woodrow Wilson and he served on the Democratic National Committee in 1916. She was arrested July 14, 1917, for picketing the White House, and sentenced to 60 days in the Occoquan Workhouse. She was pardoned by President Wilson after three days at the request of her husband. Hopkins, however, claimed that Wilson had acted only to save himself political embarrassment and stood alone at the White House gates with a sign reading, “We ask not pardon for ourselves but justice for all American women.”

Source: Doris Stevens, Jailed for Freedom (New York: Boni and Liveright, 1920), 361-62.