Home Suffragist of the Month 2013

Suffragist of the Month 2013

December 2013 – Dorothy Day (1897 – 1980)

Dorothy Day Photo

Dorothy Day

Dorothy Day (1897 – 1980) was born in Brooklyn, NY, and lived in San Francisco with her parents until the 1906 earthquake, and then in Chicago. Her father was a Journalist, and she was an avid reader. She moved to New York City as a young adult. From NYC, she went to Washington DC to work with the National Woman’s Party on women’s right to vote.

She participated in the NWP group that protested the treatment of their leader Alice Paul, then imprisoned in DC. With the others, she was sent to prison in the Occoquan Workhouse on November 14, 1917, and experienced the “night of terror.”

On that night “. . . two men brought in Dorothy Day, –a very slight, delicate girl; her captors were twisting her arms above her head. Suddenly they lifted her, brought her body down twice over the back of an iron bench. One of the men called: ‘The damned Suffrager! . . . I will put you through hell!’” [Irwin]. Her arm was cut. [Stevens]

She became a famous leader as a pacifist, a social activist, and for her work to improve the lives of the poor. She wrote for The Call and The Masses, and co-founded The Catholic Worker.

Sources: Irwin, Up Hill with Banners Flying, Traversity Press, Penobscot Maine, 1920, p 280-281. Stevens, Jailed for Freedom, 1920.  Photo: Courtesy of the Library of Congress


November 2013 – Camilla Gertrude Whitcomb (1860 – 1949)

Camilla Whitcomb

Camilla Whitcomb

Camilla Gertrude Whitcomb (1860 – 1949) from Worcester, Massachusetts was a suffragist in her hometown and in DC with the National Woman’s Party.  She was the newly added Corresponding Secretary of the Worcester Equal Franchise Club, which was formed in 1913, and its President in 1915.  For the National Woman’s Party, she was chairman for the 4th Congressional District of Massachusetts.  She participated in NWP action in Washington DC and in Boston Massachusetts.   In protest of authorities holding NWP leader Alice Paul as prisoner in DC, on Nov. 10, 1917, she was among the 41 pickets who marched to the White House in five groups.  All were arrested.  She was sentenced to 30 days in the Occoquan Workhouse, which was part the DC Prison in Lorton Virginia.

On February 24, 1919 when President Wilson returned from Europe landing in Boston, a huge welcome parade was arranged for the public.  Alice Paul personally organized NWP participation in the parade and demonstration to greet him. NWP marched with a banner that read

“Mr. President, you said in the Senate on September 30, ‘we shall not be trusted . . . if we do not enfranchise women.’  You alone can remove this distrust now by securing the one vote needed to pass the suffrage amendment before March 4.”

Against police orders they marched in front of the reviewing stand.  Camilla Whitcomb was politely arrested with all other NWP marchers for “loitering more than seven minutes.”  Later that day the NWP demonstration included a watch fire on the Boston Common, burning the President’s speech that he was making at Mechanics Hall at the same time.  The NWP group continued speaking all afternoon on the Common [Irwin, p 420-421].  Camilla Whitcomb later worked on the Equal Rights Amendment with the NWP.

Sources: Inez Haynes Irwin, Up Hill with Banners Flying (Penobscot Maine, Traversity Press, 1964), Karen Board Moran, from City Directories at the Worcester Historical Museum.


October 2013 – Doris Stevens (1888 [1892?] – 1963)

Doris Stevens

Doris Stevens

Born in Omaha, Nebraska, Doris Stevens graduated from Oberlin College in 1911. She worked as a teacher and social worker in Ohio and Michigan before she became a regional organizer with the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA). In New York, she was friends with leading members of the Greenwich Village radical scene, including Louise Bryant and John Reed. In 1914 Stevens became a full-time organizer, as well as executive secretary, for the Congressional Union for Woman Suffrage (CU) in Washington, D.C. After working on the East Coast, including in Newport, Rhode Island, in 1913-14, she moved west to Colorado (1914), and then to California (1915). She organized the first convention of women voters at the Panama Pacific Exposition in San Francisco in 1915 and the NWP election campaign in California in 1916.

Over the years, Stevens held several important NWP leadership positions, including membership on the executive committee. She served as vice chairman of NWP’s New York branch, spearheaded the NWP Women for Congress campaign in 1924, and worked in states where female candidates were among contenders for office. She also served as Alva Belmont’s personal assistant.

Stevens was arrested for picketing at the White House in the summer of 1917 and served three days of her 60-day sentence at Occoquan Workhouse before receiving a pardon. She was arrested again in the NWP demonstration at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York in March 1919. Stevens published the quintessential insider account of imprisonment of NWP activists, Jailed for Freedom, in 1920.

Stevens clashed with Alice Paul and led an unsuccessful attempt to challenge the leadership of Paul’s successor, Anita Pollitzer. She was part of an internal dispute over the NWP’s emphasis on the World Woman’s Party and international rights rather than domestic organizing. During these tensions, a dissenting faction of NWP members tried to take over party headquarters and elect their own slate of officers, but Pollitzer’s claim to leadership was supported by a ruling of a federal district judge. Stevens parted ways with the NWP in 1947 and turned instead to activity in the Lucy Stone League, another women’s rights organization. In the 1950s she was a supporter of McCarthyism and anti-communism. In her last years, Stevens supported the establishment of feminist studies as a legitimate field of academic inquiry in American universities.

September 2013 – Margaret Fay Whittemore (b. 1884)

Margaret WhittlemoreMargaret Fay Whittemore from Detroit Michigan was a devoted suffragist worker since 1914.  Her Grandmother, a Quaker, started suffrage work in Michigan.   The daughter of a leading patent attorney, James Whittemore, Margaret Fay started her suffrage work in Michigan in 1914 becoming an organizer for the Congressional Union for Woman Suffrage.  She led the Congressional Union’s and National Woman’s Party’s (NWP) federal election campaigns in Seattle, Washington in 1914 and 1916; and worked in Oregon and Idaho as well.  In the 1918 federal election campaign she was in charge of the NWP’s efforts in Idaho.  She first asked Idaho voters to pressure Senator Borah to vote for the suffrage amendment, but once he voted against it and failed to publically endorse the amendment, her efforts were unsuccessfully turned to defeating his re-election.

Continuing her strong suffrage support in the NWP in DC, she was in the group that picketed the White House on July 4 and was arrested and imprisoned 3 days at the Occoquan Workhouse.  She participated in early 1919 when the suffragists kept watch fires in front of the White House to burn the President’s speeches on democracy.  Suffragists were arrested.  In one case, when a suffragist being tried alone was brought into the Court room, there was sustained applause.  When the Judge unsuccessfully ordered the applause stopped, Margaret Fay Whittemore and two others were charged, sentenced, and served 24 hours in the DC jail.

Sources:  Inez Haynes Irwin, Up Hill with Banners Flying (Penobscot Maine, Traversity Press, 1964), 392, 408; Doris Stevens, Jailed for Freedom (Lexington Kentucky, Hard Press, 1920), 281.  Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress.

August 2013 – Joy Young

Joy Young

Joy Young

Joy Young, of New York City, formerly of Washington, D.C. was Assistant Editor of “The Suffragist,” the weekly organ of the National Woman’s Party and the Congressional Union for Woman Suffrage.  She was also an organizer for the National Woman’s Party in various parts of the country.
Representing the Congressional Union for Woman Suffrage, on May 1, 1916, Joy Young presented President Wilson with a basket of flowers in which was contained messages from women voters of the West.  One of the notes read: “Theodore Roosevelt has come out for national woman suffrage.”  (The photo shows her on the way to the White House.)

She was on the first picket line at the White House on January 10, 1917.  She was arrested for picketing at the White House on July 4, 1917 and sentenced and served five days in the District Jail.

Sources: Stevens, Jailed for Freedom, Hard Press, 1920; New York Times, May 2, 1916; Photo Courtesy of the Library of Congress.


July 2013 – Mary Winsor

Mary Winsor

Mary Winsor

Mary Winsor was from Haverford, Pennsylvania and came from a family of pioneer Quaker descent.  She was educated at Drexel Institute of Philadelphia, at Bryn Mawr, and abroad.  At the request of the American Academy of Political and Social Science she made a survey of the English Suffrage movement.  She was Founder and President of the Pennsylvania Limited Suffrage Society and was active with the National Woman’s Party.

At its Draftee Parade on September 4, 1917, she was arrested at the age of 44 and sentenced to 60 days at the Occoquan Workhouse.  On August 6, 1918, she was again arrested at the Lafayette statue in D.C.  At the trial on August, 15, 1918, for “holding a meeting on public grounds” the arrestees refused to participate in their trial.  Mary Winsor said “it is quite enough to pay taxes when you are not represented, let alone pay a fine if you object to this arrangement.” She was sentenced with the others to 10 days in the D C. Jail.  She had worked and spoken for suffrage in many parts of the country and participated on the “Prison Special’ speaking tour in February 1919.

Sources: Stevens, Jailed for Freedom, Hard Press, p282. Irwin, Up Hill with Banners Flying, Traversity Press, Maine, 1964. © NWP, p368. Photo courtesy of Library of Congress.

June 2013 – 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.

May 2013 – Mrs. 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.




April 2013 – Mary H. Ingham

Mary H. Ingham

Mary H. Ingham

Mary H. Ingham of Philadelphia, PA and graduate from Bryn Mawr College in 1903, was Chairman of the Pennsylvania Branch of the National Woman’s Party (NWP), and was arrested three times for picketing the White House. The Bryn Mawr Alumnae Quarterly of November 1917 commended the sacrifice she made in picketing the White House and serving her term in the Occoquan Workhouse in Lorton, Virginia. At a meeting at her house after her release from prison over $8,000 was raised for the NWP suffrage campaign.

She was dedicated to the suffrage cause and the NWP as her consistent participation shows. Besides picketing in 1917, she spoke at the event in Lafayette Park on December 16, 1918, when the NWP burned President Wilson’s speeches on democracy to show his hypocrisy towards democracy for women. Mary Ingham burned a speech in which he said, “There is nothing in liberty unless it is translated into definite action in our lives today.” She commented as she tossed the speech into the flame, “In the name of the women of Pennsylvania who are demanding action of the President, I consign these words to the flames.” She participated in the continuing watchfire demonstrations in front of the White House burning the President Wilson’s words, which began shortly after the event in Lafayette Park. On February 9, 1919, two days before a date set for a vote on the 19th Amendment in Congress, Mary Ingham was at the front of a procession of 100 women near the White House, and with Mrs. John Rogers carried a banner which read: “. . . For more than a year the President’s Party has blocked suffrage in Senate. . . . The President is responsible for the betrayal of American Womanhood.” She was arrested that day along with many others. Shortly afterwards, she was part of the nationwide speaking tour by those imprisoned. This train tour, known as the “Prison Special,” was designed to build pressure on the Senate to pass the Amendment.

After the 19th Amendment was passed by Congress, Mary Ingham in her role as NWP Pennsylvania state Chairman was a leader in the ratification campaign in that state. The difficult campaign enlisted the aid of the Governor to help persuade opponents, and every legislator was lobbied. She effectively applied the forces of the Pennsylvania NWP, using press bulletins to keep newspaper attention, and drawing crowds at meetings and legislative sessions. The tri-color badges of the NWP could be seen everywhere in the Capitol. Following the Pennsylvania ratification vote, a celebratory parade of the tri-color banners marched through the capital city, Harrisburg.

But Pennsylvania was not her only ratification venue; she participated in a protest at the 1920 Republican National Convention in Chicago to bring pressure through the Party to persuade the Republican governors of Vermont and Connecticut to ratify. Her banner read: “The Republican Party has the power to enfranchise women. When will it do so?” Following the nomination of Senator Warren G. Harding as the Republican Presidential nominee, she and others met with him to urge pressure on Republican states to ratify, but to no avail.

She was active in the Women’s Trade Union League and an investment broker.

Sources: Bryn Mawr library exhibits, “Bryn Mawr on the Picket Lines, the Radicals and Activists;” Up Hill with Banners Flying, Irwin, NWP, 1964; and Jailed for Freedom, Stevens, 1995.

March 2013 – Katharine Rolston Fisher

Katharine Rolston Fisher

Katharine Rolston Fisher

Katharine Rolston Fisher, Washington, D. C., native of Massachusetts. Great-great granddaughter of Artemas Ward, ranking Major General in Revolutionary War. Teacher, social worker and later employee of U. S. War Risk Bureau. She was a prolific writer of prose and verse  on suffrage and feminist topics. She was arrested picketing Sept. 13, 1917, and sentenced to 30 days at the Occoquan workhouse.

Examples of her verse:
I watched a river of women

Rippling purple, white and golden,
Stream toward the National Capitol

Along its border,
Like a purple flower floating
Moved a young woman, worn, wraithlike.
All eyes alight, keenly observing the marchers
Out there on the curb, she looked so little, so lonely,
Few appeared even to see her,
No one saluted her.

Yet commander was she of the column, its leader,
She was the sprin whence arose that irresistible river of women
Streaming steadily towards the National Capitol.


Evening at Occoquan. Rain pelts the workhouse roof .

The prison matrons are sewing together for the Red Cross.
The women prisoners are going to bed in two long rows.
Some of the Suffrage pickets lie reading in the dim light.
Through the dark, above the rain, rings out a cry 

We listen at the windows (Oh those cries from punishment cells!)

A voice calls one of us by name.

“Miss Burns! Miss Burns! Will you see that I have a drink of water?”
Lucy Burns arises; slips on the coarse blue prison gown.
Over it her swinging hair, red-gold, throws a regal mantle.

She begs the night watch to give the girl water.
One of the matrons leaves her war bandages; we see her hasten to the cell.
The light in it goes out.
The voice despairing cries: 
“She has taken away the cup and she will not bring me water.”
Rain pours on the roof. The Suffragists lie awake.
The matrons work busily for the Red Cross.

Katherine Rolston Fisher The Suffragist October 17, 1917

February 2013 – Ernestine Hara Kettler (b. 1896)

Ernestine Hara (Kettler)

Ernestine Hara (Kettler)

Kettler was a young Romanian who lived in New York City. She was arrested for picketing Sept., 1917, and sentenced to 30 days in Occoquan workhouse. She remained an ardent feminist her entire life and had a long history of labor and socialist activism. Her involvement with the suffrage struggle, although brief, was an outgrowth of both her feminist beliefs and her ties to political and bohemian circles in New York that began in her teen years. After she was arrested for picketing and spent 30 days in jail, she was tempted to go back on the picket line, but could not stand the thought of going back into the Occoquan Workhouse. She said the food was especially bad and that’s why several women tried to starve themselves. When visiting a fellow suffragist, Peggy Johns, who became sick from the food and was hospitalized, she found Johns dressed and ready to be transferred to a psychopathic facility in Washington, D.C. Kettler quickly gathered other women and they forced their way into the prison superintendent’s office. Kettler says Superintendent Whittaker tore the phone from the wall to keep them from dialing for help, and then called in other prisoners to beat them.

In an interview in the 1970’s Kettler recalled visiting a friend who believed that the picketers were ineffective in getting women the vote. Kettler argued that the picketers did make an impact on government officials because many of the women who were arrested and jailed were the mothers, sisters, wives, or relatives of congressmen and other prominent men in Washington, DC. She remembered how those who were jailed were really “beaten up” and physically injured as a result of their picketing efforts.

(Excerpts taken from “From Parlor to Prison: Five American Suffragists Talk About Their Lives.” Edited by Sherna Gluck)


January 2013 – Miss Virginia Arnold

Virginia Arnold

Virginia Arnold

Miss Virginia Arnold, of North Carolina, was one of six pickets arrested in June of 1917 and was sentenced to three days in District jail after refusing to pay $25 fines for obstructing traffic. They were the first women to serve time for suffrage activities. Her sign scandalized many by comparing President Woodrow Wilson with the German ruler during the First World War. She was one of the organizers for the Congressional Union for Woman Suffrage, serving at one point as the National Executive Secretary. She was in charge of planning conventions and establishing state branches in Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Washington and North Dakota. Prior to engaging in suffrage work, she was a student at George Washington University and Columbia University.