(1879–1970) Helen was President of Rochester Political Equality Club and Chair of Monroe County Woman Suffrage Association. She was also one of the founders of the Woman's City Club, a leader in women's civic activities, and served as Vice Chair of the City Manager Committee.
Named on the Democratic ticket in 1927, Helen ran unsuccessfully as the first female city council candidate of the East District of Rochester. Very active in civic and political affairs, she occupied the office of chairman of the Christmas Bureau, Council of Social Agencies, was president of the Rochester Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and served on the Board of Directors of the YMCA.
Her work in organizing the Rochester Woman's City Club attracted the attention of Miss Anne Morgan, founder and the executive director of the American Woman's Association and daughter of financier J. P. Morgan. In 1932, Helen left Rochester for New York City when Anne Morgan appointed her as the executive director of the American Woman's Association (AWA), an organization which helped women invest their own money for leisurely pursuits. Helen directed the activities for over 4,000 women of the AWA, who took part in study groups, lectures, and other activities ranging from art to music and drama.
Helen challenged women not to hide behind their roles as homemakers. She reminded women that the modern woman does not have to choose one role over the other, but to embrace the idea that she can have a career and a family. She urged women to get involved in politics and civic matters on a consistent basis and, plan to meet the challenges of modern times and modern freedom. *courtesy alexanderstreet.com
(1867–1957) Mary Jane Ashley was born in Richmond Center and died in Canandaigua, New York. She was a member of the Political Equality Club where her sister Alice Ashley was President. There were only 15 club members in 1906 when they agreed to help Harriett May Mills, the President of the New York State Women's Suffrage Association in Syracuse bring the issue of suffrage to their group in Honeoye.
Mary Jane was 41 in 1906 when the Honeoye Political Equality Club was formed. She was Captain of the First Election District of Richmond, and in 1909 served a term on the Executive Committee of the Ontario County Woman Suffrage Association. That same year she attended the State Convention as a delegate. Her daughter Theresa, at age six, was recognized in 1910 as the youngest member of the Club.
(1920–1998) Born in the Bronx, Bella predated women’s right to vote by one month. A tireless and indomitable fighter for justice and peace, equal rights, human dignity, environmental integrity and sustainable development, she advanced human goals and political alliances worldwide.
Known by her colleagues as a “passionate perfectionist,” Bella believed that her idealism and activism grew out of childhood influences and experiences. From her earliest years, she understood the nature of power and the fact that politics is not an isolated, individualist adventure.
At a time when very few women practiced law, Bella graduated from Columbia University’s law school, was admitted to the bar in 1947, took on civil rights cases and was also an activist in the Woman's Movement. Known as "Battling Bella" in the 1960s, she became involved in the antinuclear and peace movements and helped organize the Women Strike for Peace. Carrying on as a feminist advocate, in 1971, she was elected as a Democrat to the 92nd Congress and to the next two succeeding Congresses, serving until 1977. She was the first Jewish woman to be elected to the U.S. Congress and was appointed by President Jimmy Carter to co-chair the National Advisory Committee for Women, serving from 1977–79.
After leaving politics, she remained active in the feminist movement, addressed international women's conferences as well as establishing the global organization, Women's Environment and Development Organization (WEDO). As co-creator and president of WEDO, Bella galvanized and helped transform the United Nations agenda regarding women and their concerns for human rights, economic justice, population, development and the environment. WEDO represented the culmination of her lifelong career as public activist and stateswoman. Bio based on the work of Blanche Wiesen Cook and John J-Cat Griffith.
(1873–1948) Edith was an American suffragist and a Silent Sentinel, the title given to the women because of their silent protesting. She joined the National Woman's Party (NWP) led by Alice Paul, aiming to get the 19th Amendment ratified. From September 1917 to January 1919, she was arrested approximately five times for unlawful assembly at NWP protests.
Edith worked for the movement to gain suffrage in New York state in 1915. She spearheaded participation in The Torch of Liberty event where suffragists from New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania, organized events to gather more participation and awareness about the cause, and to raise funding for the suffragist movement and for the political rallies.
With suffrage in New York secured, Edith rallied for national voting rights for women. On November 10, 1917, she and Eleanor Calnan were two of 33 suffragists arrested after stationing themselves in peaceful protest in front of the White House in Washington, D.C. They carried a sign that read, "How Long Must Woman Be Denied a Voice in a Government Which is Conscripting Their Sons?" Edith and other suffragists were sentenced to 60 days in jail at the Occoquan Workhouse in Lorton, Virginia, for Unlawful Assembly. She was given solitary confinement while others endured torture. The event has been named the Night of Terror.
On August 15, 1918 at the Watch Fire Demonstrations in Lafayette Square, members of the NWP burned copies of President Woodrow Wilsons speeches in urns. Edith was the first to light her urn.
(1870–1963) Margaret became president of the Woman's Municipal League. She founded the Churchwoman's Club, a suffrage club; headed the Law Enforcement League, and was treasurer for the Woman's Suffrage Party in New York. In 1917, she was elected president of the Protestant Episcopal Women's Suffrage Association.
When she met Susan B. Anthony, she asked her advice for a suffrage speaking engagement in Albany. Anthony told her, "Always address the farthest man on the farthest bench. Some of those in between are agreeing with you." She is noted as one of Carrie Chapman Catt's capable officials in the campaign for suffrage in New York State.
(1838–1920) An article appeared in the Geneva Daily Times on Saturday, October 25, 1913 stating that a political equality club had been formed with the assistance of Mrs. Lewis and Mrs. Beard from Geneva. Mrs. Nellie (Nettie) Aldrich was chairman. If you know more about her, you can help us tell her story. Please use our Add a Suffragist form to submit your information.
(1848–1940) Zobedia she served multiple terms as an officer in the Cayuga County Political Equality Club, was a delegate to the State Suffrage Convention, and was the state chair of the School Suffrage Committee of the NYS Woman Suffrage Association (NYSWSA).
At the age of 90, Zobedia was still active in community affairs, giving, according to newspaper accounts, a “pleasing senior program” at a meeting of the Sherwood Orange Grange No. 1034, which described her as the oldest Granger in Cayuga County.
A side note: Her obituaries misspelled her last name as Allerman; a mistake that perhaps helped to obscure her legacy in the movement. (Ruth Bradley April 2020 auburnpub.com)
(1851–1946) Lucy was a founding member of the Easton Political Equality Club in 1891. She was president of the club during its most active years. Here is her quote from 1910 regarding the women of the PEC:
"The majority of us are farmers' wives here in Easton and our husbands are perfect - we are so well-housed, so soft-bedded, and so loving cared for that our tendency is to forget that Easton isn't the whole world, that there are other women not as we are. Yet industrial [economic] conditions are open to some slight criticism even in this paradise of Easton.
First of all, we want to get rid of this fallacy that marriage is a state of being supported. Since our men are mainly the gatherers of money - we mistakenly assume that they are the creators of wealth. They are not. The man gives his daily labor toward earning board and clothes, but what he receives cannot be eaten or worn. It is nothing till he puts it into his wife's hands and her intelligence, energy, and ability transforms the raw material. Until this is done no man can receive anything worth having. He begins and she completes the making of their joint wealth.
The man turns his labor into money, the woman turns the money into usable material. Their dependence is mutual. She supports him exactly as he supports her." (Information and quote from Strength Without Compromise, Teri Gay 2009)
(1819–1888) Hannah signed a petition to urge voting against Leslie Russell, NYS Attorney General, who opposed women's rights and whose recommendation was blocking women's rights legislation in New York State.
(1793–1880) Lucy attended the Rochester Woman's Rights convention in August 1848 and signed the Declaration of Sentiments. She supported her husband's temperance and abolitionist activism, as well as Susan's reform work and decision not to marry.
Miss Anthony eulogized her mother. "My mother always said, Go and do all the good you can."
(1820–1906) Susan was the driving force behind the 19th Century women’s rights movement. She was born in 1820 in Adams, Massachusetts to Quaker parents, who believed in abolition, temperance, and the equality of men and women.
Susan's work in women’s rights began in 1852, when she co-founded the Woman’s New York State Temperance Society. Their goal was to advocate for state legislation to regulate the sale of alcohol, allow women to divorce their husbands for drunkenness, and permit women the right to vote.
For the next half century, Susan labored ceaselessly for women’s rights on the state, national and international levels. She founded the National Woman’s Suffrage Association and the International Women’s Council and lectured throughout the United States and lobbied lawmakers for women’s property rights, divorce laws favorable to women, and women’s suffrage. In fact, Susan drafted the language of the 19th Amendment first introduced to Congress in 1878. She voted illegally in the 1872 federal election for which she was fined $100 but did not pay.
In 1906, Susan gave her last speech, where she concluded with her famous quote “Failure is Impossible.” She passed away one month later at the age of 86. It would be another fourteen years before the passage of the 19th amendment. Nonetheless, her efforts laid the foundation for its enactment.
Two organizations that she founded exist today and are carrying out her legacy. The National Woman Suffrage Association became the League of Women Voters. The International Council on Women serves in a consultative capacity to the United Nations.
In 1921, Susan was commemorated with a statue of her, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Lucretia Mott, which is on display in the U.S. Capitol Building. In 1979, the Susan B. Anthony dollar was issued making it the first coin with a woman’s likeness. The Cathedral of St. John the Divine in Manhattan has a sculpture honoring four spiritual heroes of the twentieth century: Martin Luther King, Albert Einstein, Mohandas Gandhi, and one woman—Susan B. Anthony. "
(1827–1907) The youngest surviving sister of Susan B. Anthony, Mary was an American women suffragist who played a strong role during the women's rights movement in the 19th century. Anthony was a teacher who was promoted to the position of principal; she was the first woman known to receive equal pay with males in this position in the Rochester City School District in Western New York.
She grew up in a Quaker family and became involved in several suffrage and other progressive organizations, such as the New York Women's Suffrage Association, the Women's Christian Temperance Union, and the National Woman Suffrage Association. Anthony founded the Women's Political Club, later renamed in 1880 as the Political Equality Club.
(1861–1919) A devoted Socialist, suffragist, and feminist, Jessie was the daughter of a railroad magnate and descended from the Mayflower. She sought to use her resources to make the country more just. Jessie bridged worlds: she was national treasurer of the very mainstream National American Woman Suffrage Association while also an active member of the International Workers of the World (the Wobblies) - not a common combination.
Jessie was a 1902 graduate of NYU Law School, and she encouraged the handful of elite women who were gaining traction in the clubby world of New York lawyers. At the same time she was devoted to labor: she was a mainstay of support for striking workers in New York and beyond, notably women striking in Lawrence & Lowell, Massachusetts to Patterson, New Jersey.
Her suffrage and feminist activities began with leadership of the College Equal Suffrage League and continued with co-founding, with Margaret Sanger and Ida Rauh, the National Birth Control League in 1915. She was arrested for violating the Comstock Law distributing literature about birth control at a rally in Union Square. In her memoirs, Anarchist Emma Goldman called Jessie Ashley a “valiant rebel.”
(1829–1891) Harriett graduated from Mary Gove Nichols American Hydropathic Institute in 1851. Because mainstream medical schools did not admit women, she and the other women physicians of the era had to seek training at such irregular institutions. Harriett and her contemporaries saw the water cure as the basis for a larger reform movement.
They were attempting to expand the role of women in society and improve their status in the public sphere by bolstering their health, through hygienic regimens and reformed modes of dress that minimized restriction of movement for women. At Our Home, female patients wore an American costume that Austin designed: a tunic or shortened dress, with hem landing at the knee, worn over loose pants. It was called American costume as a rhetorical contrast with the fashionable, restrictive French costume that the dress reform movement sought to eradicate. The garments were designed to minimize restrictions on women's movement and promote health and hygiene.
(1873–1946) Maude lived in Gorham for the duration of her life. Along with additional Babbitt family members, she joined the Ontario County League of Women Voters in 1919. If you know more about her, you can help us tell her story. Please use our Add a Suffragist form to submit your information.
(1850–1931) Hannah was born in Canada. Her husband was a minister at the Gorham Presbyterian Church and Hannah was active in church affairs until her death. Hannah, along with her daughter and daughter in law, were members of the Ontario County League of Women Voters in 1919.
If you know more about her, you can help us tell her story. Please use our Add a Suffragist form to submit your information.
(1882–1980) From the time she graduated from Barnard College in 1904, Caroline Lexow Babcock was committed to woman's rights. She was a leader in the long campaign to extend voting rights to women, in the National Women's Party, which fought for the Equal Rights Amendment, and in peace movements. When she died at age 98 in 1980, she was wearing an ERA button.
Caroline Lexow was born in 1882 in Nyack, New York; after college she became active full-time in the suffrage movement, as Executive Secretary assisting Harriot Stanton Blatch in running the Women’s Political Union, and as President of the National College Equal Suffrage League of New York. “On the day of my graduation,” she told audiences while touring as a suffrage organizer in 1909, "I became actively interested in suffrage work and a member of the League, and I expect to devote the most of my time to the cause until it wins."
In 1921, Caroline was one of the members of the Women’s Peace Society who left to start the Women’s Peace Union. In that same year, she chaired a Women’s Peace March in New York City. Caroline and Elinor Byrns drafted a constitutional amendment calling for the power to declare or prepare for war to be removed from the powers of the U. S. Congress. She included the Boy Scouts among her targets, calling scouting a “kindergarten for war”.
Caroline was on the Executive Committee and Board of Directors of the Birth Control Federation of America.
Her life is explored in a book published by the Historical Society of Rockland County entitled: “Ladies Lib: How Rockland Women Got the Vote” by Isabelle Keating Savell (Historical Society of Rockland County 1979).
(1852–1934) In 1889, Elnora helped to found the Political Equality Club of Dunkirk and was voted its first president. She was later elected president of the Chautauqua County Political Equality Club. Under her leadership, the county suffrage club expanded to more than 1,400 members, making Chautauqua County the best organized county in the nation for women’s suffrage. Babcock also was noted for convincing the Chautauqua Institution’s management to “proclaim the one day a year that they devoted to discussions of political rights as Political Equality Day.”
In 1894, she was instated as the New York State suffrage association’s Chairman for Press Work and in 1899 she rose to the position of Superintendent of Press Work for the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA). In announcing her appointment to the national post, a NAWSA publication pointed to the “wonderful results” she had achieved in her parallel responsibilities in the “conservative state” of New York. It also extolled her “courage, persistence, consecration, tact and level-headed judgment.” *Compiled by Sara Kibbler
(1823–1898) Mary was a director of the Association for the Advancement of Women; she represented New York State in this national organization and attended the 13th Annual Congress in October, 1885.
Without a doubt, Mary "did the work", fighting for equality in her time. And yet her story is still untold. If you know more about Mary Elizabeth, you can help us tell her story. Please use our Add a Suffragist form to submit your information.
(1869–1912) Edith's suffrage work included a stint as the acting president of the Equal Franchise Society, a home for upper-crust women who were uncomfortable with the increasingly public, rabble-rousing suffrage work that was coming into fashion in New York. Though Edith came from wealth, she was drawn to more vigorous public organizing.
In 1909, she spoke at a rally at Madison Square, introduced by Harriot Stanton Blatch. In addition to publishing other works, Edith wrote a tract called "Some Ideals of Suffrage." Her speech at the 1909 rally gives a clue to her suffrage politics: [Suffragists are housekeepers who] do not want to confine our housekeeping to our own homes. We feel that there is housekeeping for us in the streets, in the prisons, and on our school boards. There are old and young bachelors on the school boards, and there ought to be a mother or two."