More on the Women's Suffrage Movement in Pelham During the Early 20th Century
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The 19th amendment to the United States Constitution, known as the woman's suffrage amendment, was ratified by Tennessee on August 18, 1920. Tennessee was the 36th state to ratify the amendment, bringing the total number of ratifying states to the necessary three-fourths. The presidential election of 1920 was the first presidential election during which women in all states were eligible to vote for president.
Though women had been battling for the right to vote since at least the 1840s, the movement gained even more momentum during the early years of the 20th century. Pelham women were very active in that movement. Today's posting to the Historic Pelham Blog, in celebration of Election Day, tells a little more of the story of the battle by the women of Pelham to secure their right to vote in presidential elections.
After years of comparatively modest successes and intense advocacy by the woman's suffrage movement, things kicked into high gear in 1913. That year, famed suffragists Alice Paul and Lucy Burn formed the Congressional Union (later renamed the National Women's Party). Its mission was to prompt the nation to enact an amendment to the Constitution to give women the vote. The organization picketed the White House and practiced forms of civil disobedience to bring even more attention to the cause.
That same year, members of the Equal Franchise League of Pelham likewise ramped up their efforts in support of the cause. For example, a contingent of Pelham women from the league joined fellow suffragists from New Rochelle and Larchmont to march in a huge parade of 10,000 suffrage activists, men and women, up Fifth Avenue in New York City. Over half a million people turned out on the streets of the city to watch the massive march that reportedly was inspired by women who marched in protest during the inauguration of Woodrow Wilson as President about two months earlier in Washington, D.C. During that inaugural day parade, the suffragists were spit upon and attacked by angry anti-suffragists in the crowd. Despite fears that the same might occur in New York City, the Pelham suffragists joined the march.
Mrs. Henry Dey of Pelham, the President of the Equal Franchise League of Pelham, was among the bearers of a banner paraded in front of the marchers from Pelham, New Rochelle, and Larchmont. Among the many who marched from Pelham were Mrs. Henry Dey, Mrs. Remington Schuyler, Miss Gertrude Schuyler, Mrs. P. T. Talboys, Miss Eleanor Mills, as well as others. The women wore white dresses and wore the "regulation white straw roll crown hats" trimmed with yellow ribbons and yellow cockades.
The marchers did not suffer like their comrades in Washington, D.C. The most difficult occurrence of the march witnessed by the Pelham women, according to a local newspaper, actually was quite comical. Along the parade route, a group of women who were anti-suffragists had arranged for a large storefront to display an anti-woman's suffrage message. The crowd along the street in that area, including the anti-suffragists who gathered there, was so large that the crowd blocked any view of the storefront window. To make matters more comical, the suffragists fighting for women's right to vote arranged a display in a second story window directly above the storefront window (and the crowd of female anti-suffragists gathered there). The second story display included a large image of a hand with its finger pointing downward at the crowd with the message "They say home is woman's place; then what are the antis doing here."
Also in 1913, local suffragists gathered for the first annual Suffrage Convention in the Second Assembly District of New York. Local suffragists including Pelham suffragists participated not only in the first annual convention, but also each successive annual convention thereafter. For example, in 1914 the second annual convention was held on Monday, April 21 and Tuesday, April 22 at the Woman's Club in Mount Vernon.
Members and leaders of the various suffragette "Campaign Districts" taught a "Suffrage School" in the morning of the first day of that second annual convention. There were classes on such topics as plans for the upcoming summer campaign to support women's suffrage, dealing with members of the press, an overview of the work of the Political Equality League, another suffrage organization, and the use of suffrage propaganda in support of the cause at the district level.
A variety of speakers addressed the second annual convention during the remainder of the day and the evening of the first day as well as all day on the second day. Several members of the Pelham Equal Franchise League spoke during the convention. Mrs. Henry Day, president of the Pelham Equal Franchise League, spoke about the work and plans of the Pelham league. Mrs. Joan Secor spoke on the evolution of the Tuesday Afternoon Club in Pelham Manor into an active women's club known as the Manor Club. Mrs. Gilbert Roe of Pelham addressed the convention on "Woman and the Law."
At the close of the gathering, the convention re-elected Mrs. Leigh French, of New Rochelle, president; Mrs. Henry Dey, of Pelham, vice-president, and Miss Augusta Leyendecker, of New Rochelle, treasurer."
Throughout these years, woman's suffrage parades and banner hangings continued. In Pelham, a local newspaper reported that in October, 1915, a suffrage banner was hung across Fifth Avenue at Fourth Street (today's Lincoln Avenue).
That same month, on Saturday, October 23, 1915, Pelham suffragists joined 50,000 women and 2,500 men in New York City for the largest women's suffrage march up to that time. Thirty Pelham women, members of the Pelham Equal Franchise League, marched in the parade including 70-year-old Mrs. Kate S. Hendricks of 109 Fourth Avenue in North Pelham. According to one report, Kate Hendricks "was the oldest person in the Pelham division of the great suffrage parade in New York on Saturday. Mrs. Hendericks walked the entire route of the parade, and afterwards said that she would gladly repeat the walk for the cause."
For the next several years, the suffrage movement in Pelham continued to grow. Pelham women remained active on behalf of the cause. Indeed, on Friday, February 23, 1917, members of the Pelham Equal Franchise League met at the residence of Mrs. Henry H. Myrick at 424 Pelham Manor Road. The president of the league at that time was Mrs. Vernon Rogers. She and the League accepted twenty-two new members at the meeting and raised pledges for $45 to support the work of the league.
Members of the league met monthly, rotating the locations of the meetings in various members' homes. About fifty women attended each meeting. At most meetings there were guest speakers and a variety of lectures. For example, on Friday, April 23, 1917, about fifty members of the league met in the home of Mrs. Harry B. Fream at 322 Sixth Avenue. Mrs. Vernon Rogers delivered an address. Other remarks were delivered by Mrs. Henry Dey and Mrs. Gilbert Rowe. The league accepted eight new members. The meeting was followed by a social session with tea served at 5:00 p.m. The following week a "large number of women" from Pelham attended the annual convention of the Second Assembly District suffrage organization at the Trinity Parish House in New Rochelle.
Pelham women remained active in the suffrage movement for the next few years. With the ratification of the 19th amendment to the United States Constitution in 1920, the woman's suffrage movement had achieved its long-sought objective. Suddenly it was incumbent on women to vote in the upcoming presidential election. The League of Women Voters was created with the object of encouraging better citizenship and better government through non-partisan political education. The organization was started in 1920 and was the direct "lineal descendant of the National Woman's Suffrage Amendment Association."
The League of Women Voters "took over the task of aiding the newly enfranchised 20 million, unpracticed in voting, to take part in the Presidential election of that year." Within a short time, Mrs. Henry E. Dey (who had been active in the Pelham Woman's Suffrage movement and had served for a time as president of the Equal Franchise League of Pelham) established the Pelham Branch of the League of Women Voters. Mrs. Dey served in that role for many years, continuing to carry the banner for women voters in the Town of Pelham.
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"LOCAL WOMEN IN BIG PARADE
MRS. LEIGH H. FRENCH HEADS EQUAL FRANCHISE LEAGUE OF THIS CITY. -- 9-YEAR-OLD MARGARET SMITH A MARCHER.
Headed by Mrs. Leigh H. French, president, members of the Equal Franchise League of New Rochelle, Pelham and Larchmont, to the number of about thirty marched in the big suffrage parade in New York City on Saturday afternoon.
Other officers who headed the delegation from the League were Mrs. Walter R. Marvin, Second Vice-President, and Mrs. George Oppenheimer, First Vice-President. Mrs. Arthur P. Kellogg, marched in the 'Magazine Section' and carried the banner.
The banner was in charge of Mrs. Arthur Garfield Hays, Mrs. Henry Dey and Mrs. George W. Tower. Mrs. Cornelius J. Sullivan joined the parade at 34th street and other members dropped in at other points.
Little Miss Margaret Smith, aged nine, the daughter of Mrs. Walter Hutchings Smith, was the mascot of the local contingent and marched all the way.
Mrs. Kellogg represented Larchmont; Pelham was represented by Mrs. Henry Dey, Mrs. Remington Schuyler, Miss Gertrude Schuyler, Mrs. P. T. Talboys, Miss Eleanor Mills and others.
The ladies were all attired in white dresses and wore the regulation white straw roll crown hats. The hats were trimmed by Mrs. Arthur Garfield Hays with yellow ribbons and yellow cockades. Each representative from New Rochelle wore a yellow pennant with 'New Rochelle' in black letters.
The local suffragists were amused at the efforts made by the 'antis' to make a demonstration on Fifth avenue near 38th street, where they had engaged a large window for the occasion. But the crowd was so great in that particular locality that the antis were not seen. But the window directly over the antis place was occupied by suffragists and their literature while painted on the window was the representation of a large hand pointing downward and with the words in view so that the crowds could see them: 'They say home is woman's place; then what are the antis doing here.'"
Source: LOCAL WOMEN IN BIG PARADE -- MRS. LEIGH H. FRENCH HEADS EQUAL FRANCHISE LEAGUE OF THIS CITY. -- 9-YEAR-OLD MARGARET SMITH A MARCHER, New Rochelle Pioneer, May 10, 1913, p. 1, col. 1.
"Second Suffrage Convention
The second annual suffrage convention for the Second Assembly District was held Monday and Tuesday of this week at the Westchester Woman's Club in Mount Vernon.
Mrs. Leigh French, leader of this Assembly District, provided a most interesting program. The morning [was] occupied by the suffrage school conducted by Mrs. French, aided by Mrs. Carl Osterheld, chairman of the ninth campaign district, who spoke on 'The Summer's Work;' Mrs. W. D. Howe, of Mount Vernon, on 'The Press.' Mrs. Arthur Stone, President of the Political Equality League, of Mount Vernon, on the work of the league, and Mrs. Jane Olcutt, organizer, on 'Suffrage Propaganda and District Organization.'
Other women of national and local prominence in the suffrage cause who spoke in the afternoon and evening were our own civic workers: Mrs. Arthur Hays on the Junior Civic Leagues of New Rochelle, and Mrs. William Kershaw on the Spring Cleaning in New Rochelle. They pointed out the close relation of suffrage to civic work. Mrs. Kershaw declared that the annual clean up in New Rochelle had made converts to suffrage of anti-workers, office holders and citizens.
Representing Larchmont, Mrs. Adams (owen Kildare) spoke on 'The Woman of the Future,' and Miss Lindsley, the President of the Equal Franchise League of Larchmont on the growth of the league.
Mrs. Henry Dey, President of the Pelham Equal Franchise League, spoke of the work and plans of this new league. Other speakers from the Pelham League were Mrs. Secor, on the Evolution of the Literary Club Into the Woman's Club, and Mrs. Gilbert Roe on 'Woman and the Law.'
Mrs. Bjorkman, the popular suffrage speaker, discussed suffrage objections, and Miss Harriet May Mills, former State President, talked very informally and delightfully on campaign work.
Mrs. Leigh French, of New Rochelle, was re-elected President; Mrs. Henry Dey, of Pelham, Vice-President and Miss Augusta Leyendecker, of New Rochelle, Treasurer."
Source: Second Suffrage Convention, New Rochelle Pioneer, Apr. 25, 1914, p. 6, col. 3.
"NORTH PELHAM . . .
Hang up Suffrage Banner.
A suffrage banner has been hung across Fifth avenue at Fourt street by the Pelham Equal Franchise league. . . .
In Big Suffrage Parade.
Mrs. Kate S. Hendricks, of 109 Fourth avenue, this village, who celebrated her seventieth birthday anniversary yesterday, was the oldest person in the Pelham division of the great suffrage parade in New York on Saturday. Mrs. Hendericks walked the entire route of the parade, and afterwards said that she would gladly repeat the walk for the cause. The Pelhams were represented by about thirty suffragists who were led by the Pelham Equal Franchise league standard bearers; then came the officers and the members. . . ."
Source: NORTH PELHAM, The Daily Argus [Mount Vernon, NY], Oct. 26, 1915, p. 11, col. 4.
"HAPPENINGS IN NORTH PELHAM . . .
An important meeting was held Friday afternoon by the members of the Pelham Equal Franchise League at the residence of Mrs. Henry M. Myrick, 424 Pelham Manor road, Pelham Manor. The meeting, which was well attended, was presided over by Mrs. Vernon Rogers, president of the local league. The members heard addresses by Mrs. Alice Duer Miller, a writer, and Mrs. Norman de R. Whithouse, chairman of the New York State Woman's Suffrage party, and Mrs. Rogers Reid, of New York. Twenty-two new members were admitted Friday to the Pelham league and $45 in pledges were made for the support of the work of the league. Refreshments were served and a social time was had. The next meeting of the league will be held on Thursday afternoon at 4:15 o'clock next week at the residence of Mrs. Rogers, 227 Corlies avenue."
Source: HAPPENINGS IN NORTH PELHAM . . . Suffrage Meeting, The Daily Argus [Mount Vernon, NY], Feb. 26, 1917, p. 7, col. 2.
"HAPPENINGS IN NORTH PELHAM . . .
A large meeting was held last Friday afternoon at the residence of Mrs. Harry B. Fream, 322 Sixth avenue, by the members of the Equal Franchise league of the Pelhams. The meeting was attended by about fifty women. Addresses were given by Mrs. Vernon Rogers, of Pelham Manor, president of the league; Mrs. Gilbert Rowe, of Pelham Manor, and Mrs. Harry [sic] Dey, also of Pelham Manor. Eight new members were enrolled and it was announced that a rare treat will be given the women of the Pelhams, on Monday afternoon, May 14, at 3 o'clock at Firemen's hall. Miss Rose Livingston, of New York, 'Angel of Chinatown,' will speak of her work in rescuing girls in Chinatown. A social session followed the meeting and at 5 o'clock tea was served.
A large number of women from this village are attending the annual convention of the second assembly district suffrage organization this afternoon at the Trinity Parish house, New Rochelle."
Source: HAPPENINGS IN NORTH PELHAM, The Daily Argus [Mount Vernon, NY], Apr. 17, 1917, p. 9, col. 4.
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