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Posts Tagged ‘women’

Delaware’s silent sentinels, Delaware women in the fight for women’s suffrage

March 23rd, 2012 No comments

Delaware's Mabel Vernon marches to the White House

In a previous post, I covered the role of Delaware women in the struggle to ratify the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, granting women the right to vote. Women from Delaware also played an important part in the long and difficult struggle to get the amendment proposed and passed by Congress. The National Woman’s Party, founded in 1916, was a women’s rights group that used more militant tactics to get the attention of politicians and the public.

One of the leaders of the NWP was Delawarean Mabel Vernon. Born in Wilmington in 1883, her father was a newspaper editor. She attended Swarthmore College, where she met Alice Paul, who would become the leader of the NWP. After college Vernon worked as a teacher until Paul asked her to work as an organizer for the Congressional Union for Woman Suffrage and NWP. She organized local protests and nationwide tours and became an accomplished speaker. In 1916 she led a group of activists who unfurled a banner and heckled President Wilson during a speech to Congress.

A policewoman (in white) arrests Delawarean Annie Arniel (center left) for picketing the White House

In 1917, the NWP decided to step up pressure on President Wilson and organized pickets in front of the White House. Calling themselves “silent sentinels” the women picketed the White House, in Lafayette Park and at other government buildings. In June 1917 the police began arresting picketers. Initially they were usually released without charge, but when the protests continued the penalties became more serious. Alice Paul and other women were sentenced to up to 6 months in Occoquan Workhouse. Some prisoners held hunger strikes and were force-fed by prison authorities. Released prisoners were sent on nationwide tours by the NWP and spoke to crowds wearing their prison uniforms.

Catherine Boyle, of New Castle, Delaware, holds a suffrage flag

A number of Delaware women were among the protesters. Seven served jail time: Mabel Vernon, Florence Bayard Hilles, Annie J. Magee, Naomi Barrett, Annie Arniel, Catherine Boyle, and Mary Brown. Annie Arniel of Wilmington, who had worked in a munitions factory, spent the most time in jail. She was arrested 8 times and spent a total of 103 days in jail. After one of her arrests Arniel told the Sunday Star, a Wilmington paper, “We were good enough to work in the steel plant and help load shells for the battle-fields of France, but we are still not good enough to vote, it seems. Can anyone see justice in this?”

The National Woman’s Party continued the protests until 1919 when Congress passed the 19th Amendment.

Photo credits: Photographs from the Records of the National Woman’s Party. Library of Congress and Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

For more information see:

Annie L. Arniel, the Iron-Jawed Suffragette. Webpage by Ken Menard. http://www.angelfire.com/space/kingstonroots/Menard/AnnieArniel.html

Ford, Linda G. Iron-Jawed Angels: The Suffrage Militancy of the National Woman’s Party, 1912-1920. University Press of America, 1991.

Mabel Vernon: Speaker for  Suffrage and Petitioner for Peace. Interview by Amelia R. Fry. Bancroft Library. Suffragists Oral History Project.

Stevens, Doris. Jailed for Freedom. Boni and Liveright, 1920.

The Suffrage Movement in Delaware. Historical Society of Delaware http://www.hsd.org/Women_SuffrageMainPage.htm

Women of Protest: Photographs from the Records of the National Woman’s Party. Library of Congress. http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/collections/suffrage/nwp/index.html

 

The 19th Amendment in Delaware

March 19th, 2012 No comments

Delaware suffragist Florence Bayard Hilles speaks to a crowd

After years of struggle by women’s movement advocates to gain the vote for women, the United States Congress passed the 19th Amendment granting women the right to vote in 1919. However, the amendment would not become part of the Constitution until it had been ratified by 36 states. Ten months later 35 states had ratified the amendment and only one more state was needed. The leaders of the women’s suffrage movement looked to the Delaware General Assembly to cast the decisive vote at a special session in March 1920.

The suffrage and anti-suffrage forces descended on Dover to encourage the General Assembly to vote their way, marching through town wearing distinctive flowers, yellow for the suffragists and red for the anti-suffragists. Both sides were led by charismatic women.

The leaders of the suffrage forces were Florence Bayard Hilles of the National Woman’s Party and Mabel Lloyd Ridgely of the Delaware Equal Suffrage Association. Florence Bayard Hilles was the daughter of the American ambassador to Great Britain and was descended from Delaware’s politically prominent Bayard family. Mabel Lloyd Ridgely was the leader of the Kent County suffragists and also came from a prominent Delaware family.

Mary Wilson Thompson, leader of the Delaware anti-suffragists

The anti-suffrage leaders were two equally prominent Delaware women. Mary Wilson Thompson was active in many civic causes and was an expert lobbyist. She was eventually known in Delaware for, among other things, founding the Delaware Mosquito Control Corp which worked to reduce mosquitoes in Sussex County. Emily Bissell was a social reformer who founded what is today West End Neighborhood House  and is best known for introducing Christmas Seals to America.

Both sides lobbied and protested in Dover. The suffragists brought Eamon de Valera, president of the Irish Free State to Delaware to convince Irish-American representatives and at one point resorted to kidnapping the chairman of a House committee so that he couldn’t present the amendment for a vote the suffragists were sure to lose.

On May 5th the Delaware Senate ratified the amendment. Only the House remained to be convinced. After months of lobbying and rallying by both sides the Delaware House on June 3rd voted to adjourn without passing the amendment. The anti-suffragists had won.

But their victory was short-lived. Delaware had lost its chance to make history and the lobbying and marching passed to the next state, Tennessee, which ratified the amendment by one vote. The Nineteenth Amendment and votes for women became part of the Constitution.

Photo sources:

Florence Bayard Hilles. Photographs from the Records of the National Woman’s Party. Library of Congress.

Mary Wilson Thompson. Historical Society of Delaware.

For more information see:

de Vou, Mary R., “The Woman Suffrage Movement in Delaware,” in H. Clay Reed, ed., Delaware: A History of the First State (New York: 1947), 1:349-70

Delaware,” in Ida Husted Harper, ed., The History of Woman Suffrage (National American Woman Suffrage Association: 1922) 6: 86-103

Higgins, Anthony, ed., “Mary Wilson Thompson Memoir,” Delaware History 18 (1978-79): 43-62, 126-152, 194-218, 238-266.

Hoffecker, Carol E., “Delaware’s Woman Suffrage Campaign,” Delaware History 20 (1982-83): 149-167.

The Suffrage Movement in Delaware. Historical Society of Delaware. http://www.hsd.org/Women_SuffrageMainPage.htm

Mary Ann Shadd, African American journalist and lawyer born in Delaware

June 9th, 2011 No comments

Mary_Ann_ShaddMary Ann Shadd was born in Wilmington, Delaware in 1823. Her father, Abraham Doras Shadd was an abolitionist and prominent member of the free black community in Wilmington. The Shadds  lived in Delaware until Mary Ann was 10 years old when her family moved to West Chester, Pennsylvania probably because there were better educational opportunities for black children there than in Delaware. Mary Ann returned to Wilmington for a time and taught school in West Chester, Norristown, and New York city.

After the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 the Shadd family moved to Canada, where Mary Ann started a newspaper, The Provincial Freeman and a school. She married Thomas F. Cary and had two children. She eventually returned to the United States, and after the Civil War moved to Washington, D.C. where she taught school and wrote for newspapers. She also was an activist for women’s suffrage. In 1883 she graduated from Howard University School of Law becoming the second African American woman to graduate from law school.

Wikipedia

Mary Ann Shadd Cary House in Washington DC

First Women Admitted to Delaware Bar in 1923

April 28th, 2011 No comments

Delaware was the last state to admit women to the Bar (except possibly Alaska, but that depends on which source you check). Not until 1923, when the state constitution was amended to permit women to be “officials of the state” could women become lawyers. Sybil Ursula Ward and Evangelyn Barsky were both admitted to the state bar in that year.

Sybil Ursula Ward was  from a family of prominent Delaware lawyers. Once admitted to the bar she worked for her family’s law firm Ward & Gray, which is today Potter Anderson & Corroon. She was also the first woman elected to the Wilmington City Council.

Evangelyn Barsky was the daughter of Russian-Jewish immigrants. Her father was a successful merchant. She practiced law with her brother Victor and in 1935 became assistant city solicitor in Wilmington. She was also active in the Republican Party. Unfortunately she was killed in an automobile accident in 1936.

Sources:

Jacqueline Paradee Mette. “Women in the Delaware Bar” in The Delaware Bar in the Twentieth Century. The Delaware State Bar Association. 1994

Jewish Women in America: An American Historical Encyclopedia. Routledge. 1998

Jewish Women’s Archive, Jewish Women: A Comprehensive Historical Encyclopedia.

Local Legal Tourist Attractions – Faunbrook, Home of First Woman Attorney in Chester County

April 27th, 2011 No comments

Smedley_Darlington_HouseToday’s local legal history site is not exactly a tourist attraction. It is currently a bed and breakfast. Faunbrook, in West Chester, was the home of the Darlington family, including Isabel Darlington, the first woman admitted to the Chester County Bar and one of the earliest woman lawyers in Pennsylvania.

Isabel’s father Smedley Darlington was a Congressman and a wealthy man but an economic panic in 1893 cost him a large part of his fortune. Isabel seems to have decided it would be a good idea if she entered a profession as an independent means of support. She started attending law school at the University of Pennsylvania in 1896, finished the three year course in 18 months, and was admitted to the bar on October 4, 1897.

She went into practice with her brother in law, Thomas Butler, in West Chester, handling estate, property and commercial cases. Probably her most prominent client was Pierre S. du Pont. Ms. Darlington handled the transaction when P.S. du Pont purchased Longwood. She practiced law for many years until her death in 1950.

Much of the information in this post comes from this Philadelphia Inquirer article.