The Woman’s Suffrage Centennial

Suffragists in Greenwich

In the Progressive Era, a period of increased social activism and political reform, women in Connecticut may have supported different social causes, but many were united as suffragists, recognizing that the vote would help them obtain the reforms they championed. In 1910 Katharine Houghton Hepburn, a young, energetic, well-educated woman from Hartford, took the reins of the Connecticut Woman Suffrage Association (CWSA). Hepburn surrounded herself with strong, capable women who would be instrumental in the final battle for the 19th Amendment. CWSA leadership incorporated several prominent Greenwich women, including Grace Gallatin Seton, Caroline Ruutz-Rees and Dr. Valeria Parker. 

The leaders of the CWSA grew the organization from 50 members in 1906 to more than 32,000 by 1917. They promoted the cause through public displays such as parades and rallies. Members frequently belonged to national suffrage organizations as well, either the National American Woman Suffrage Association, the more traditional wing of the suffrage movement, or the more radical National Woman’s Party. Despite the different approaches of these national groups, the methods each employed would be the successful formula for ratification of the 19th Amendment. 

Portrait of Katharine Houghton Hepburn
Katharine Houghton Hepburn (1878-1951) 1920
Library of Congress
Letter to Greenwich Equal Franchise League
Letter to Members of The Greenwich Equal Franchise League, October 3, 1910
Greenwich Historical Society, Anya Seton Papers

Grace Gallatin Seton

Born in California, Grace Gallatin Seton (1872-1959) was a writer, world traveler and suffragist. During a trip to Europe she met Scottish-born naturalist Ernest Thompson Seton. They married and settled in Greenwich, having one child, Ann – better known to many as the historical fiction writer Anya Seton.

Seton served as vice president of the Connecticut Woman Suffrage Association. In 1914 she designed the state organization’s banner and was in charge of the design of the floats and banners for the Hartford Suffrage Parade. 

During World War I, suffragists became divided over the war. Alice Paul and the National Woman’s Party protested President Wilson’s fight to defend democracy in Europe, when women were barred from participating in the U.S. Grace Gallatin Seton, on the other hand, was active in the war effort, organizing a female ambulance unit in France. She also worked actively on the Liberty Loan campaigns and was among the women in Washington, D.C., in 1917 who raised more than $3,000,000 for the war effort. 

Following ratification of the 19th Amendment Seton worked as a member of the Republican National Committee. However, because she was married to Ernest Thompson Seton, who was not a naturalized citizen of the U.S., she was not able to vote until 1923. The passage of the Cable Act allowed a woman to keep her American citizenship regardless of the citizenship of her husband.

Connecticut Woman Suffrage Association Members in Front of Banner, 1917
RG 101, State Archives, Connecticut State Library

CWSA President Grace Gallatin Seton appears at center in white. Fellow Greenwich women Valeria Parker and Helena Hill Weed are also present the far left and right in academic robes.

Connecticut Woman Suffrage Association, “Grand Automobile Tour,” Litchfield County, Connecticut, August 1911
RG 101, State Archives, Connecticut State Library

In 1911 Seton participated in a month-long car tour of Litchfield County, with the goal of creating local chapters of the state suffrage association.

“The Disfranchised,” 1907
Greenwich Historical Society, Anya Seton Papers

A postcard from the personal and family papers of writer Anya Seton, Grace Gallatin Seton’s daughter. “The Disfranchised” was a common theme in suffrage marketing materials.

Women Writers’ Suffrage League, 1909
Greenwich Historical Society, Anya Seton Papers

A postcard from the personal and family papers of writer Anya Seton, Grace Gallatin Seton’s daughter.

Educating the New Woman

In the late 19th century Greenwich was home to 2 famed private schools for young women: Rosemary Hall and The Ely School.  Rosemary Hall was overseen by British-born Caroline Ruutz-Rees (1865-1954), who held a Ph.D. from Columbia University and was headmistress of Rosemary Hall from its founding in 1890 until her retirement in 1938. Ruutz-Rees developed a challenging curriculum for her students and advocated participation in student government and sports. A naturalized citizen, she was passionately committed to the suffrage movement, serving as a member of the Executive Committee of the Connecticut Woman Suffrage Association, vice president of the American Woman Suffrage Association, founding member of the Greenwich Equal Franchise League and founder of the National Junior Suffrage Corps. 

Sisters Mary, Elizabeth and Sarah Ely founded The Misses Ely’s School in Manhattan. In 1907 they relocated the school to Ely Court in Greenwich, having hired the architects Carrère & Hastings, who also designed the New York Public Library, to build their new school. Mary and Elizabeth Ely were active suffragists, serving as founding members and officers of the Greenwich Equal Franchise League, participating in the 1912 suffrage parade in New York City and possibly Hartford, and attending the international meetings of the Woman Suffrage Alliance.

Caroline Ruutz-Rees, ca. 1890 Choate Rosemary Hall Archives
Elizabeth and Mary Ely From The Babbler, yearbook of The Ely School, 1912 Greenwich Historical Society

Caroline Ruutz-Rees, an executive member of the CWSA, appears in this photograph in the front row, second from left. CWSA president Katharine Houghton Hepburn of Hartford is next on the right, dressed in white.

Executive Board of Connecticut Woman Suffrage Association, ca. 1909-1917
RG 101, State Archives, Connecticut State Library

Dr. Valeria Parker, M.D.

Valeria Parker (1879-1959) was born in Chicago, Illinois, where she also attended medical school. After her marriage to Dr. Edward Oliver Parker the couple moved to Greenwich. As a physician, Parker was a prominent advocate for what was known as “social hygiene,” a Progressive Era movement aimed at reforming attitudes and policy around venereal disease, regulating prostitution and promoting broader access to sexual education.

Parker served as an officer in the Connecticut and American Social Hygiene Associations and lectured widely on topics relating to women’s health, societal reform, and prison reform. Through these interests she became close with Katharine Houghton Hepburn of Hartford – president of the Connecticut Woman Suffrage Association (CWSA). 

During WWI Parker became the first female member of the state police in the United States and held the role of Supervisor of State Policewomen in Connecticut.

The Greenwich Equal Franchise League was founded at Parker’s home on East Putnam Avenue in August 1909. Dr. Parker also served as press officer for the CWSA and was a popular speaker on suffrage. 

In 1916 Parker sued for divorce from her husband, alleging cruelty. Her husband did not protest the charges; he had been against his wife’s work in the suffrage movement and preferred that she remain home with their daughter.

Parker was appointed Greenwich’s first female probation officer in 1913. She would later go on to serve as the director of the Connecticut State Farm for Women, an early experimental reformatory prison. Parker was especially concerned about the welfare of women and children as it related to the penal system. Over her lifetime she became a noted authority on prison reform and dedicated reformatories for women.

Dr. Valeria Parker, ca. 1920 
Greenwich Historical Society, Photograph Collection
Travel Medical Kit belonging to Dr. Valeria Parker
Courtesy of the Family of Valeria Parker
Probation Officer’s Pin belonging to Dr. Valeria Parker, ca. 1913

Valeria Parker and the Interdepartmental Social Hygiene Board

This news clipping (from an unidentified newspaper) reports Dr. Parker’s appointment as executive secretary of the United States’ Interdepartmental Social Hygiene Board in August 1922. The Board was established under of the Chamberlain-Kahn Act of 1918, aimed at combating the spread of venereal disease among American servicemen during World War I. Prior to her appointment, Parker had served on the staff of the American Social Hygiene Association and was a believer in treating and rehabilitating women who engaged in sex work. 

Mrs. Parker’s Appointment,” August 1, 1922
Courtesy of the Family of Valeria Parker

For Daughters and Mothers

Parker wrote this book as a guide to assist women and their daughters in discussions of common health topics – including then-taboo subjects such as menstruation and sex education. Its accessible style was meant to be engaging for both adolescent and adult women.

Valeria Hopkins Parker, M.D., For Daughters and Mothers, 1940
Courtesy of the Family of Valeria Parker

Bishop Medal

Parker was awarded the Bishop Medal in 1938 by Miami University in recognition for her service during the Flu epidemic of 1918. The Bishop Medal is awarded to Miami University alumni who have distinguished themselves in service to humanity. Parker was an 1898 graduate of Oxford College for Women, which was absorbed by Miami University in 1928.

Bishop Medal awarded to Valeria Hopkins Parker for Meritorious Public Service, 1938 (verso)
Courtesy of the Family of Valeria Parker
Bishop Medal awarded to Valeria Hopkins Parker for Meritorious Public Service, 1938 (recto)
Courtesy of the Family of Valeria Parker

Parker’s Lecture Career

In addition to her work as a physician and suffragist, Dr. Parker was committed to spreading public awareness about social welfare and civic improvements to American society. She offered public lectures to a variety of audiences on topics that aligned with the ideals of the social hygiene movement such as parenting, nutrition, sex education, and prohibition. 

Many of the lecture topics outlined in this pamphlet speak to the enlightened attitudes of the Progressive Era. However, certain subjects embraced by many progressive scientists and social workers at the time – such as the practice of eugenics and attitudes toward treatment of sex workers – have been justly criticized in decades since for their underlying racism and discriminatory enforcement.

Pamphlet advertising Lecture Topics offered by Valeria Parker, M.D.
Courtesy of the Family of Valeria Parker

Louisine Havemeyer

Louisine Havemeyer with Liberty Torch, 1919
Courtesy of the Havemeyer Family

In 1913 Louisine Elder Havemeyer (1855-1929), a 58-year-old widow, philanthropist and art collector, joined the suffrage movement. Her close friend, artist Mary Cassatt, encouraged her to embrace the suffrage cause. Mentored by Harriot Stanton Blatch, the daughter of Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Havemeyer became a confident public speaker and a seasoned campaigner. She marched in the 1913 suffrage parade in Manhattan, spoke at the 100th birthday celebration for Stanton at Seneca Falls and toured New York State on speaking tours, carrying the “Liberty Torch” at some events and the “Ship of State,” an electrified version of the Mayflower, at others.

In 1919 Alice Paul of the National Woman’s Party asked Havemeyer to come to Washington, D.C. to participate in White House protests, knowing Havemeyer and other suffragists would be arrested. News stories of the grey-haired 64-year-old socialite, thrown in an abandoned jail with 39 other militant suffragists, elicited the response Paul had hoped for – Americans were shocked at how the suffragists were treated. Once released from prison, Havemeyer and 29 other formerly imprisoned suffragists embarked on the “Prison Special,” a train speaking tour that traveled to 13 states in 29 days. Havemeyer helped underwrite the expense of the trip. 

Passing of the “Liberty Torch” from New York to New Jersey, ca. 1915
Courtesy of the Havemeyer Family

Harriot Stanton Blatch choreographed this elaborate event for the press – the “transfer” of a symbolic Liberty Torch between suffragists from New York to suffragists from New Jersey, which took place on a boat in the middle of the Hudson River. Louisine Havemeyer was selected to give a speech and pass the torch. The event was covered in the press and in newsreels shown in theaters across the country.

Louisine Havemeyer Being Greeted by a Police Officer, 1919
Courtesy of the Havemeyer Family

In this photograph taken during the “Prison Special” cross-country tour, Louisine Havemeyer and other suffragists are greeted by a police officer in Syracuse, New York.

Louisine Havemeyer Speaks on Women’s Suffrage, 1915
Courtesy of the Havemeyer Family

Harriot Stanton Blatch, daughter of Elizabeth Cady Stanton, gave Havemeyer the Liberty Torch to use on her public speaking tours. Havemeyer compared it to the torch held high by the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor.

The Silent Sentinels

American suffragist Alice Paul, founder of the National Woman’s Party, was a brilliant strategist who knew how to garner attention from the media. Having spent time in England and witnessed the militant tactics of the British suffragettes, her method of winning the vote for women differed from other American suffrage leaders. Paul and her compatriots advocated civil disobedience to draw attention to the need for a women’s suffrage amendment. 

Beginning in January 1917, militant but non-violent suffragists began silently picketing in front of the gates of the White House, holding banners that expressed their frustration with President Woodrow Wilson. The women were attacked by mobs and the police. The women were arrested and imprisoned in an abandoned jail under atrocious conditions. While in prison the women were physically attacked by the guards. Some women, including Paul, who went on a hunger strike, were force-fed in a brutal and dangerous manner.

From January 1917 to June 1919, the Silent Sentinels continued their protests at the White House, occasionally burning the speeches of President Wilson. During this period, 14 suffragists from Connecticut were imprisoned. Louisine Elder Havemeyer was the only woman from Greenwich arrested and imprisoned.

Suffragists Protesting in Front of the White House, 1917-1919
Library of Congress

Connecticut Women Protest at the White House

Catherine Flanagan with Police and Onlookers prior to her Arrest at White House Protest, 1917
Library of Congress

Catherine Flanagan (1888-1927) of Hartford was active in the CWSA and the NWP. She served 30 days in jail following her arrest in 1917 during a White House protest.

Protest Banner: “Mr. President: What Will You Do for Woman Suffrage?” 1917-19
Museum of Connecticut History

This banner, likely carried by a Connecticut woman at a White House protest, was donated to the Museum of Connecticut History by the Connecticut Woman Suffrage Association after the 19th Amendment was ratified. It was not uncommon for Connecticut suffragists to be members of both the CWSA and the National Woman’s Party.

Alice Paul’s Picket Pin

Exhibition curator Kathy Craughwell-Varda delves into the poignant story behind this tiny object.

Picket pin belonging to Alice Paul, “Without Extinction is Liberty,” 1917-1921
Courtesy of the Alice Paul Institute

The National Woman’s Party distributed these banner-shaped pins to women who were arrested while picketing the White House. The phrase “Without Extinction is Liberty” were the last words spoken by Inez Milholland, who died while campaigning for suffrage. This is pin belonged to Alice Paul, founder of the National Woman’s Party.

The Hill Sisters of Norwalk

Helena Hill Weed and Elsie Hill were college-educated sisters from Norwalk whose father had been a congressman. Both sisters were militant members of the National Woman’s Party, arrested and imprisoned several times for picketing at the White House and other acts of civil disobedience. Helena Hill Weed was arrested for carrying a banner bearing President Wilson’s words: “Governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed.” 

During the Silent Sentinel protests, former President Theodore Roosevelt commented, “To announce that there must be no criticism of the president, or that we are to stand by the president, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public.” 

Helena Hill Weed was a militant suffragist who picketed the White House and was arrested three times for civil disobedience. This photograph was taken of Weed when she was imprisoned in the Occoquan Workhouse, a jail closed because of its terrible conditions.

Helena Hill Weed photographed while in Prison, 1917-19
Library of Congress
Photograph of Elsie Hill Wearing Jailed for Freedom Pin
Courtesy of the National Woman's Party at the Belmont-Paul Women's Equality National Monument

Jailed for Freedom

In this studio portrait, Elsie Hill is shown wearing a “Jailed for Freedom” pin, presented to suffragists who were imprisoned for picketing at the White House. Hill was arrested twice and served 15 days in jail.

One Family’s Story: The Holley-MacRaes

As the movement in support of women’s suffrage gained traction in Greenwich in the early 20th century, Cos Cob residents Constant Holley MacRae (1871-1965) and her husband, Elmer Livingston MacRae (1875-1953), proprietors of the Holley boarding house (now the Bush-Holley House) became members of the newly formed Greenwich Equal Franchise League. 

Constant Holley MacRae was a confident, capable woman responsible for running the business of her family’s boarding house, and Elmer MacRae was an artist with progressive politics. The Holley House was a magnet for artists and writers of the era, many of whom embodied the ideals of the Progressive Movement. Unlike the wealthy society women who made headlines for their protests and ran the state suffrage association, the MacRaes were a middle class family whose experience as supporters of women’s suffrage likely mirrored that of many in Connecticut of a similar socioeconomic standing.

Connecticut Woman’s Suffrage Association Membership Card belonging to Constant Holley MacRae Greenwich Historical Society, Holley-MacRae Papers
Constant Holley MacRae (standing), with her mother Josephine Lyon Holley on the front porch of the Holley Boarding House, early 20th century
Greenwich Historical Society, Holley-MacRae Papers

Letter to Constant Holley MacRae from Connecticut Woman Suffrage League

This letter is an appeal for a donation pledge: “One dollar a year from each organized suffragist would give us the income we are asking for.”

Letter from National American Woman Suffrage Association

In this letter, Adams urges MacRae to register to vote on school matters in Greenwich – an example of one of the limited voting rights that had been conferred on Connecticut women in 1893.

The Junior Suffrage Corps

Constant and Clarissa MacRae, twin daughters of Elmer and Constant Holley MacRae, were born in 1904. As young girls the twins were witness to their parents’ political activities and involvement in the local women’s suffrage cause. 

In 1914 the girls were among a group of Greenwich children who organized to found a local chapter of the National Junior Suffrage Corps, under the leadership of Rosemary Hall headmistress Caroline Ruutz-Rees. The organization was aimed at garnering support for women’s voting rights among a young generation of would-be future voters. Greenwich’s chapter of the Junior Suffrage Corps was among the first organized in the country.

National Junior Suffrage Corps pin, early 20th century
Courtesy of the Elizabeth Cady Stanton Trust

Elmer Livingston MacRae designed the logo of the National Junior Suffrage Corps, whose motto was “Youth Today Tomorrow Power.”

Constant and Clarissa MacRae, ca. 1907
Greenwich Historical Society, Holley-MacRae Papers

The twins’ father Elmer MacRae created the distinctive logo adopted for use on all National Junior Suffrage Corps correspondence and paraphernalia. His design consisted of a green evergreen against a yellow ground, surrounded by the motto YOUTH TODAY, TOMORROW POWER. 

MacRae’s design appears to have been adapted from a similar emblem utilized in promotion for the famed International Exhibition of Modern Art (better known today as The Armory Show), which took place at the 69th Infantry Regiment Armory in New York City in 1913. As treasurer of the Association of American Painters and Sculptors, MacRae played a major role in organizing the Armory Show.

Poster from the Poster for the International Exhibition of Modern Art (Armory Show), ca. 1913
Letterpress and screenprint
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Olga Hirshhorn, 1994.70
Postcard addressed to Misses Constant and Clarissa MacRae from the National American Woman Suffrage Association, 1914
Greenwich Historical Society, Holley-MacRae Papers

A note of thanks to Constant and Clarissa MacRae for their donation and membership in the Junior Suffrage Corps.    

The Stanton Family In Greenwich

In the summer of 1848 Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott organized the nation’s first Women’s Rights Convention in Seneca Falls, New York. 100 attendees signed a Declaration of Rights and Sentiments, penned by Stanton, which set out in legal terms the grievances of women with a male-dominated society. Stanton was a founder of the women’s rights movement and, with her friend and colleague Susan B. Anthony, worked tirelessly for female suffrage and equality for over 50 years. 

The Stanton Women

Four generations of Stanton women, beginning with Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s daughter, Harriot Stanton Blatch, lived all or parts of their lives in Greenwich. 

Harriot Stanton Blatch

Harriot Stanton Blatch (1856-1940) was the daughter of Elizabeth Cady Stanton. She held a degree in mathematics from Vassar College. She founded the Women’s Political Union, which later merged with the National Woman’s Party. After ratification of the 19th Amendment, she fought for passage of the Equal Rights Amendment. She died in Greenwich, Connecticut.

Elizabeth Cady Stanton, daughter Harriot Stanton Blatch and granddaughter Nora Stanton Blatch Barney, 1860
Courtesy of Coline Jenkins, Stanton Family Collection
Nora Stanton Blatch Barney, ca. 1908
Courtesy of Coline Jenkins, Stanton Family Collection

Nora Stanton Blatch Barney

Nora Stanton Blatch Barney (1883-1971) was the daughter of Harriot Stanton Blatch. She attended Cornell University and became the first woman in the U.S. to graduate with a degree in engineering. Like her mother and grandmother, she supported and fought for women’s rights. She divorced her first husband rather than give up her career. Later in life she was a resident of Greenwich and became a real estate developer.  

Rhoda Barney Jenkins

Rhoda Barney Jenkins (1920-2007) was born to Nora Stanton Blatch Barney a month before the ratification of the 19th Amendment. She attended school at Rosemary Hall while suffragist Caroline Ruutz-Rees was still its headmistress. She earned her architecture degree from the University of Pennsylvania. During her career she designed numerous homes in Greenwich where she also lived. She was a supporter of the Equal Rights Amendment and Planned Parenthood.

Coline Jenkins

Coline Jenkins (b. 1951) is the daughter of Rhoda Barney Jenkins and a lifetime resident of Greenwich. She has served in town government for more than 30 years. She is an activist, author and television producer, as well as co-founder and president of the Elizabeth Cady Stanton Trust, a collection of 3,000 items from the women’s suffrage movement. She is an active supporter of the Equal Rights Amendment, is committed to sharing the history of the women’s suffrage movement and has been instrumental in having the first statue honoring women erected in Central Park.

Coline Jenkins (left) at the 2016 Presidential Inauguration

Letter from Alice Paul

Letter from Alice Paul to Nora Stanton Blatch Barney, August 20, 1944
Courtesy of Coline Jenkins, Stanton Family Collection

This letter from Alice Paul, author of the Equal Rights Amendment, is probably regarding an effort in the 1940s to get support for the amendment from Republicans and Democrats. Only the Republican Party supported it.

Letter to the Editor of the New York Times

Letter to the Editor of the New York Times by Nora Stanton Blatch Barney, September 4, 1944
Courtesy of Coline Jenkins, Stanton Family Collection

Written by Nora Stanton Blatch Barney, this letter to the editor in support of the Equal Rights Amendment was eventually published in the New York Herald Tribune.

Letter from Georgia O’Keeffe

In this letter addressed to Nora Stanton Blatch Barney, artist Georgia O’Keeffe, a member of the National Woman’s Party, expressed her support of the Equal Rights Amendment.

Letter from Georgia O’Keeffe to Nora Stanton Blatch Barney, April 9, 1944
Courtesy of Coline Jenkins, Stanton Family Collection