Part of the American History & Genealogy Project

Prominent Suffragists

 

The biography of every officer, great or small, in the nation's army would be a prodigious task, but hardly less is that of giving in detail the work of every American woman actively interested in reform movements. It would take volumes to give at length the work of all the women now interested in the enfranchisement of women and in the temperance field. There was a time in our history when the question of women's suffrage, unless it threatened the immediate community in which we lived, was a matter to which the majority of us in America, whether men or women, were, if not indifferent, still somewhat neutral. Now, I think it would be safe to say the majority have the most ardent convictions pro et contra. It is, therefore, with such deep regret that I find it possible to offer at length only the biographies of the pronounced leaders in suffrage and temperance, that I have appended merely a roll-call of notable names. Even this, I fear, can only approximate the number of women dedicating their lives to the work of their sex.

Among those who have done distinguished work for suffrage we find such names as these:

Mrs. Eleanore Munroe Babcock is well known throughout the East for her work in organizing in New York State.

Mrs. Elizabeth Boynton Barbert, who succeeded in inducing the Republicans of Iowa to put into their state platform a purely women's plank, thus being the first woman to design a women's plank and secure its adoption by a great political party in a great state.

Mrs. Emma Curtis Bascom, descendant of Miles Standish, is a charter member of the association for the advancement of women in Massachusetts, and for many years was one of its board of officers. When her husband, a professor at Williams College, was deprived of the use of his eyes during a long period, she shared his studies and rendered him every assistance in reading and writing. This training she has found of great 'advantage in her work for women suffrage in her state.

Mrs. Emma Beckwith was a candidate for the mayoralty of Brooklyn. The campaign, of ten days' duration, resulted in her receiving fifty votes, regularly counted, and many more thrown out among the scattering, before the New York Tribune made a demand for the statement of her vote. Mrs. Beckwith after-wards compiled many incidents relating to that novel campaign in a lecture, which she used with telling effect from the suffrage platform.

Mrs. Marietta Bones, daughter of the noted Abolitionist, succeeded in making the social question of temperance a political question in Dakota.

Mrs. Mary Barr Clay is the daughter of Cassius M. Clay, a noted advocate for freedom and the emancipation of the slave in a slave state. Through her sympathy with his views, his daughter gained the independence of thought and action necessary to espouse the cause of women's political and civic freedom in that same conservative community.

Miss Mary Crew has preached the rights and equality of women from her pulpit in the Unitarian Church, since in that church there is no distinction based on sex.

Mrs. Martha E. Sewell Curtis, descended from Chief Justice Samuel Sewell, of witchcraft fame and, on the mother's side, from Henry Dunster, first president of Harvard College, has delivered brilliant lectures at the meetings of the Women's National Suffrage Association in Boston, proving her worthy of her distinguished ancestors. For years she edited a weekly woman's column in the News, of Woburn, Mass., and was president of the Woburn Equal Suffrage League.

Mrs. Emma Smith Devoe distinguished herself in a brave fight for suffrage in South Dakota, making her home in Huron headquarters of the workers throughout the state.

Mrs. Priscilla Holmes Drake, a lifelong friend of Lucretia Mott, worked with Robert Dale Owen during the Indiana Constitutional Convention of 1850-57 to remove the legal disabilities of women, and before the sections of this instrument, which worked such benefit to women, were presented to the Assembly, they were discussed line by line in Mrs. Drake's parlor.

Mrs. Miriam Howard Du Boise wrote brilliant arguments arguing for the cause while vice-president for the Georgia Women's Suffrage Association.

Mrs. Caroline McCullough Everhard is a public-spirited daughter of Ohio, who proved herself well equipped for the office of president of the Ohio Women's Suffrage Association. She had the honor of organizing the Equal Rights Association of Canton, Ohio, the home of the martyred President McKinley.

Mrs. Ellen Sulley Fray is an adopted daughter of the United States who, after marriage had brought her to America, formed suffrage clubs in several different states and in Canada, and became one of the district presidents of the Ohio Women's Suffrage Association.

Mrs. Jean Brooks Greenleaf, successor to Lillie Devereux Blake as president of the New York State Woman Suffrage Association.

Mrs. Rebecca N. Hazard, who, as early as 1867, formed the Woman Suffrage Association of Missouri.

Mrs. Josephine Kirby Williamson Henry, who has lectured and labored and stood for office in a state where the popular prejudice is against "Women's Rights."

Mrs. Eliza Trask Hill, one of the active leaders in the battle for school suffrage for women in Massachusetts, and later editor of a paper, which is cared for by a stock company of women.

Mrs. Mary Emma Holmes, the earnest and brilliant worker who represented the National American Suffrage Association in the World's Fair at Chicago in 1893.

Mrs. Mary Seymour Howell, who has lectured in behalf of women's suffrage in many of the towns and cities of the North and West, as well as repeatedly pleaded the cause of woman before committees of state legislatures and of Congress.

Mrs. Sarah Gibson Humphreys, of Louisiana and Kentucky, who has served on a board of road directors, a unique position for a woman in the South, and has worked all her public life to secure the vote for women.

Mrs. Theresa A. Jenkins, daughter of one of the pioneers of Wisconsin, herself became a pioneer as a champion of suffrage in the literary field over that portion of the country, and even farther West. In April, 1889, she contributed to the "Popular Science Monthly" a striking paper, entitled "The Mental Force of Women." She became Wyoming correspondent of the Women's Tribune, the Union Signal and the Omaha Central West. She was a recognized power in Wyoming in bringing about the absolute recognition of the equality of the sexes before the law.

Mrs. Laura M. Johns, of Kansas, was six times president of the State Suffrage Association in that state, and her great work was the arrangement of thirty conventions beginning in Kansas City in February, 1892, and held in various other important cities of the state, and for these meetings she secured such speakers as Rev. Anna H. Shaw, Mrs. Clara H. Hoffman, etc.

Mrs. Marrilla M. Kicker's success at the bar and as a political writer has demonstrated so conclusively the intellectual quality of women that her advocacy of female suffrage has influenced as only a concrete object lesson can.

Mrs. Jane Amy McKinney, who, as president of the Cook County Equal Suffrage Association, effectively furthered the cause in Illinois.

Mrs. Cora Scott Pond Pope was invited by Mrs. Lucy Stone to help organize the state of Massachusetts for women suffrage, and continued the work, organizing eighty-seven women suffrage leagues, arranging lectures, speaking in the meeting, and raising the money to carry on the state work for six years. In 1887 she organized a Woman Suffrage Bazaar, which was held in the Music Hall in Boston for one week, and which cleared over six thousand dollars. In 1889 she originated the National Pageant, a dramatic arrangement of historic events, to raise more money for state work for suffrage. This pageant, given in Hollis Street Theatre, May 9, 1889, played to a crowded house, at two dollars a ticket, and over one thousand dollars was cleared at a single matinee performance. Afterwards it was produced in other large cities of the country with equal success. In the Chicago Auditorium, at the time of the Exposition, in one night six thousand, two hundred and fifty dollars was cleared.

Mrs. Lizzie B. Read dedicated her marked ability as a journalist to the suffrage cause, becoming publisher of a semi-monthly journal called the "Mayflower," and devoted to temperance and equal rights. She worked up for this paper a subscription list reaching into all the states and territories. Later, when her marriage to Dr. Read had taken her to Algeria, Iowa, she published the paper Upper Des Moines, into which she infused much of women's rights. She also published a series of articles on the status of women in the Methodist Church, and later became associate editor of the Women's Standard, of Des Moines. While residing in Indiana she was vice-president of the State Women's Suffrage Society and president of the Iowa State Society.

Mrs. Martha Parmelee Rose's writings on the sewing women and on other laboring questions brought to light the frauds and extortions practiced upon her sex without the vote.

Mrs. Elizabeth Lyle Saxon, of New Orleans, has literally spent her lifetime carrying out a promise made to her father on his deathbed, "Never to cease working for unfortunate women so long as her life should last." For years she has been in demand as a lecturer on universal suffrage, temperance, social purity and kindred subjects. Her keen, logical and yet impassioned style of oratory fairly takes her audiences by storm, and has won for her a national reputation as a public speaker. Her great work, however, has always been for the most degraded and downtrodden of her sex.

Mrs. Rosa L. Segur, though born in Hesse, Germany, came to the United States when a child, and when quite young began contributing stories and sketches to the Toledo Blade, always expressing herself a staunch supporter of movements in favor of women's suffrage. To her belongs much of the credit for obtaining the repeal of obnoxious laws in regard to the status of women in the state of Ohio.

Mrs. Cornelia Dean Shaw is a woman alert in all the movements of the enfranchisement of women, and a tower of strength to the Woman Suffrage Association in Ohio and Illinois.

Mrs. Estelle Terrell Smith's famous "Mothers' Mass Meetings," held in the large city hall in Des Moines, have accomplished much good, especially in banishing from her city disreputable posters, cigarettes, cards and other evils. Through those meetings a bill regulating the property rights of women was drafted and presented to the state legislature.

Mrs. Adeline Morrison Swain, of Iowa, was, for her prominence in the women's suffrage cause in 1883, unanimously nominated by the Iowa State Convention of the Greenback party for the office of superintendent of public instruction. Being one of the first women so named on an Iowa state ticket, she received the full vote of the party. In 1884 she was appointed a delegate, and attended the national convention of the same party, held in Indianapolis, Ind., to nominate candidates for president and vice-president. Mrs. Swain was, more-over, for many years editor of the Woman's Tribune.

Mrs. Minnie Terrell Todd is one of Nebraska's staunchest woman suffragists, is also a member of the State Board of Charities, and prominent in every reformative and progressive movement.

Mrs. Anna C. Wait is editor of the Beacon, a reform paper started by her in Lincoln, Kan., in 1880, and every page is devoted to prohibition, woman's suffrage and anti-monopoly. To her more than to any other person does the cause of woman's enfranchisement owe its planting and growth in Kansas.

Women of America

Source: The Part Taken by Women in American History, By Mrs. John A. Logan, Published by The Perry-Nalle Publishing Company, Wilmington, Delaware, 1912.

 

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