Part of the American History & Genealogy Project

Rachel Foster Avery 1858 ~ 1919


The father of Mrs. Avery was J. Heron Foster, editor of the Pittsburg Dispatch, and her mother was a native of Johnstown, New York, the birthplace of her Sunday school teacher and lifelong friend, Elizabeth Cady Stanton. From this heredity it might have been forecasted that the daughter would develop a strong, quick mentality and an advocacy for the independence of her sex. Mrs. Avery was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, December 30, 1858. When she was still a child Mrs. Stanton lectured in Pittsburgh, and shortly after a suffrage meeting was held in the Foster home, and a society was formed, of which Mrs. Avery's mother was made vice-president. Thus the young girl grew up in an atmosphere of radicalism and advanced talk, and she became a suffragist from conviction, as well as by birthright.

In 1871 the family, consisting of her mother, her sister and herself, the father having died shortly before, moved to Philadelphia, where they at once identified themselves with the Citizens' Suffrage Association in that city. When about seventeen years old Miss Foster began to write for the newspapers, furnishing letters weekly from California, and afterwards from Europe, to the Pittsburgh Leader. In the winter of 1879 she attended the eleventh convention of the National Women's Association, and this determined her career. With characteristic promptitude she began to plan the series of conventions to be held in the West during the summer of 1880, and in the spring of 1881 she planned the series of ten conventions in the different states, beginning at Boston.

In 1882 she conducted the Nebraska Amendment campaign, with headquarters in Omaha. But perhaps the act which best illustrated her ability to propagate the cause was when she engaged Governor John W. Hoyt, of Wyoming, to give a lecture in Philadelphia on "The Good Results of Thirteen Years' Experience of Women's Voting in Wyoming," had the lecture stenographically reported, collected the money to publish twenty thousand copies, and scattered them broadcast over the state of Pennsylvania. In February, 1883, Miss Foster sailed for Europe with Susan B. Anthony, and by reason of her superior linguistic attainments she served for ears and tongue in their journey through France, Italy, Switzerland and Germany. Miss Foster's management of the International Council of Women, held in Washington, D. C, in February, 1888, under the auspices of the National Women's Suffrage Association, was the crowning effort of her executive genius. The expenses of this meeting made a grand total of fourteen thousand dollars, the financial risk of which was assumed beforehand by Miss Anthony, supported by Miss Foster.

Her marriage to Cyrus Miller Avery took place November 8, 18881, the Reverend Anna H. Shaw assisting in the ceremony. But she continued her suffrage work even more ardently, and for years held the office of corresponding secretary of the National Suffrage Association and of the National and the International Councils of Women. Mrs. Foster Avery is, moreover, a philanthropist in the broadest sense, giving constantly from her independent fortune to reforms and charities.

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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