From the faith of the suffrage
movement came a great idea, the idea
that a nonpartisan organization
could provide political education and
experience which would contribute
to the growth of the citizen and
thus assure the success of democracy.
The League of Women Voters
was founded upon that idea.
— from “25 YEARS OF A GREAT IDEA” (1945)
This idea, of a non-partisan women voters organization, was born from the suffrage movement. It is now one hundred years old. The League of Women Voters of New Hampshire is the inheritor of the decades-long work performed by New Hampshire suffragists. But they didn’t rest on their laurels. Instead, they worked hard so that the League of Women Voters certainly deserves whatever accolades are awarded.
I am the first to agree that the national women suffrage leaders and organizations were important in history. However, suffrage history happened right here in New Hampshire. Instead, look no further than your very own town or city. Without local women who spent entire lifetimes laboring, lecturing, parading, picketing, and sometimes suffering in order to receive the vote, we might not today be enjoying our current rights and privileges.
—The New Hampshire Suffragists—
Before I write about the transition for New Hampshire women from suffragists to voters, you need to know the names of New Hampshire women who fought for suffrage prior to 1920. Over the past several years I’ve written about many of them. (And yes, I know men were suffragists too!)
HERE IS A LIST of the (pre-19th Amendment) suffragists who I was able to identify and to research. It is not every single NH suffragist, for I’m sure there were many who worked and were never mentioned in a newspaper or in a national magazine. But the primary and most public suffragists are listed there. If you know of someone I should add, please comment on that page. If you ask me the names of the most important New Hampshire suffragists, I would have to categorize them as early and later in history.
Early suffragists of importance definitely were Armenia S. (Aldrich) White [and her husband, Nathaniel White], Atty. Marilla Marks (Young) Ricker, and Abby J. (Hutchinson) Patton. These three women worked locally and nationally and were familiar to the national organizations and their leadership. For later suffragists who were of great importance in the final lap toward victory, and during the transition to voting women, I have to say Sarah Whittier (Sallie) Hovey, Mary Inez (Stevens) Wood, and Martha Smith Kimball. So, now you know some New Hampshire suffragist names, and you have no excuse for thinking that suffrage was achieved by people who lived in distant states.
—Transition from Suffrage to Voting—
According to the LWVNH web site, “the League of Women Voters in New Hampshire was formed on November 21, 1919, in Manchester when members of the New Hampshire Equal Suffrage Association voted to change its name to the League of Women Voters of New Hampshire. A new constitution was adopted and Miss Martha Kimball of Portsmouth became its first president. This was just two months after New Hampshire ratified the Nineteenth Amendment.”
According to Liz Tentarelli, current President of the LWVNH, the plan of NAWSA [National American Women Suffrage Association] was that as each state ratified the national amendment, the local/state suffrage associations were allowed to change their name to League of Women Voters. New Hampshire ratified the 19th amendment on Sept. 10, 1919. A convention of the NH Suffrage Association made the organization’s name change the very next month (November). Then the following Feb. 14, 1920, the national convention of NAWSA in Chicago officially changed its name.
—A Time Line of Women Leaders and the League of Women Voters–
It is important to know the names of some of these amazing women, otherwise history (or herstory) is void of the human connection. The founders and early members of the League of Women Voters in New Hampshire realized that women had a way to go before they truly were equal citizens. These energetic ladies were willing to spend the time and energy to help each other.
13 July 1919: [Boston Globe newspaper, page 50]. The headline reads, DRILLING WOMEN RECRUITS FOR VOTING ARMY. Durham NH, July 12–“Two hundred New Hampshire women, Suffragists and anti-Suffragists spent most of last week here preparing to exercise the ballot which is sure to be granted them soon by the adoption of the 19th amendment to the Constitution.” This was the first Women’s School for Citizenship. “The moving spirit in the novel idea was Mrs. Mary I Wood of Portsmouth….”
21 November 1919: the League of Women Voters is formed from the New Hampshire Equal Suffrage Association. Miss Martha Kimball of Portsmouth is its first president.
17 November 1920: [The Boston Globe, Boston MA, page 2]. “A report from New Hampshire was given by Mrs. Mary I Wood of Portsmouth. “The vote came so suddenly,” she said, “that women lined up with parties and partisan politics. I think when we have time to organize women will not be lined up with straight-party politics,” said she. This reminded her of the boy who was investigating a box of turtles. When asked what he expected to find he replied: “I just want to know if I will get bitten or stung.” Women feel a good deal like that about part politics, she added.”
1920-1921: According to Liz Tentarelli, current LWVNH president: Martha Kimball of Portsmouth, who had been president of the Equal Suffrage Assn (affiliated with Alice Paul) was the first LWVNH president (Nov. 21, 1919). But at the same time Mary I. Wood of Portsmouth was chair of the Woman’s Citizenship Committee of New Hampshire. This group was holding “citizenship schools” for women so that women could learn about government and vote from a position of knowledge. When the new LWV and the Citizenship Committee realized they were duplicating efforts, Martha Kimball resigned so Mary Wood could be president of the combined organization under the name of the League.
January 1922: NH State Chairman for National League of Women Voters annual meeting was held in Boston MA. Mary I. Wood was a delegate from New Hampshire.
Jan 7, 1923: [Boston Herald] “Dr. Anna Parker of NH has been appointed field secretary of the New Hampshire League of Women Voters, was announced today. Offices have been taken in the Patriot building (Concord NH) which will be the headquarters for a campaign for the political education of the women voters of the state.”
May 1923: New Hampshire League of Women Voters met in Concord NH in May of 1923. At that time Mrs. Mary I. Wood was chosen second vice president; Mrs. Agnes M. Smith corresponding secretary; and Miss Martha S. Kimball and Mrs. Helen R. Thayer members of the board of directors.
October 1924: At a meeting in this city [Concord] last week the New Hampshire League of Women Voters was re-organized with Mrs. Edith Bass of Peterborough as president, Mrs. Bass is the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Charles S. Bird of Massachusetts and the wife of former Governor Robert P. Bass of New Hampshire….. 1st VP is Mrs. Effie Yantis of Manchester… etc. The second vice-president is Dr. Anna B. Parker of Gilmanton who was a delegate at large to the Democratic national convention in NYC and is now a candidate for the legislature, her Republican opponent being Jeremiah W. Sanborn… Mrs. Lula F. Lesure, a former pres of the Keene Woman’s Club is third vice-president. The Secretary is Mrs. H.C. Kittredge of St. Paul’s School and the treasurer is Mrs. Agnes M. Smith of Portsmouth. Board of directors Mrs. Susan C. Bancroft (widow of Dr. Charles P. Bancroft).
September 1925: the New England League of Women Voters met in Portsmouth NH, where Mrs. Mary I wood played a central role. In that same year Mrs. Edwin P. Thompson of Laconia NH was president of the New Hampshire League of Women Voters. In November of 1925 the Portsmouth League of Women Voters met at the Woman’s City Club, under the leadership of the new chairman, Mrs. Sara M. Sidis. Outgoing chairman Mary I. Wood spoke and to continue on as advisory councilor.
Oct 1926: The NH League of Women Voters held an all-day meeting in Concord NH. The Portsmouth (NH) League was represented by Mrs. Boris Sidis, Miss Martha Kimball, Miss Doris Sykes, Mrs. Mary I Wood, Mrs. Wallis Garrett, Mrs. Greeley and Miss Bertha Bond.
10 April 1928: [Boston Globe] The state convention of the NH League of Women Voters will be held in Laconia, May 24-25…it was decided at a meeting of the state board held here today (in Concord NH). Mrs. Glen Wheeler of Bristol and Mrs. Arthur C. Chadwick of Newport were elected delegates to the national convention in Chicago this month.
May 1931: [Portsmouth Herald] Mrs. Glen L. Wheeler of Bristol was elected president; Miss Jessie Doe of Rollinsford, 1st VP. Miss Martha S. Kimball, 2nd VP; Miss Anna O’Keefe auditor. Mrs. Charles P. Bancroft 3rd VP; Mrs. Maurice Mullen, 4th VP; Mrs. Bertram Blaisdell, recording secretary; Mrs Lillian H. Follansbee, treasurer; Miss Jennie Blanche Newhall, auditor. Dr. Sarah Sidis and Mrs. William Packer, board of directors.
July 1934: Garden party for the benefit of the Family Welfare Association and the League of Women Voters was held at the “beautiful estate of Miss Martha S. Kimball on South street….” Mary I Wood was among many patronesses.
December 1935: Mrs. Harry W. Smith former president of the NH Federation of Women’s Clubs and at present director of the NH League of Women Voters. In the same year, the NH League of Women Voters held a country fair with Mrs. William F. Sullivan, president of the Nashua League; Mrs. Arthur Wiggin president of the Bedford League; Miss Rena Trask, president of the Concord League; Mrs. A. Monroe Stowe, president of the Durham League, and Mrs. Maurice (Kathleen K.) Mullen, NH State President 1934-1936.
May 15, 1936: [Boston Herald] Nashua NH, May 24. The NH League of Women Voters closed its third annual convention tonight by electing Mrs. H. Russell Sawyer of Rye president. The league heard Chairman John R. Spring of the NH tax commission….
October 27, 1938: [Nashua Telegraph] League of Women Voters Open Season.
First meeting of the current season of the NASHUA League of Women voters. Miss Mae Cone, (local) president, presided.
Dec 5, 1940: [Springfield Republican] Mrs. C.W. Adams Jr., president of the NH League of Women Voters.
1944: – Dorothea Chester (Paradise) Flint [Mrs. William W. Flint] was president of NH League of Women Voters.
May 4, 1947-May 1948: Mrs. Malcolm Keir, president of the NH League of Women Voters welcomed ……. luncheon given by the natl league…
—Who Were These Women?
(and yes, they were suffragists too!)
Miss Martha Kimball — she was the transition president between the NH Suffrage Association and the NH League of Women Voters. For many years a part of both the Portsmouth Suffrage League, and the state and national suffrage organizations. Frequently she opened her home and grounds for organization events and fundraisers.
Mrs. Mary Inez (Stevens) Wood — involved in the New Hampshire suffrage movement. She was president and held several other official titles in the NH League of Women Voters. She was the first organizer of the NHLWV teaching program. [see story]
Dr. Anna B. (Dimick) Parker, 2nd vice-president of the NH League of Women Voters in 1924. Also served as president [see story].
Edith Harlan (Bird) Bass [Mrs. Robert Perkins Bass] – 1924 President of the League of Women Voters, NH. She was born 27 May 1887 in East Walpole, Massachusetts daughter of Charles Sumner & Anna Julia (Child) Bird. She died 23 March 1950 in Aiken, South Carolina (per her newspaper obituary). She is buried in Pine Hill Cemetery, Peterborough NH. She married 20 January 1912 in Walpole MA to Robert Perkins Bass, son of Perkins & Clara (Foster) Bass. He was the Republican Governor of NH from 1911-1913 (and of course she was first lady). She was the mother of Perkins Bass, Robert Bass Jr., and Jeremiah S. Bass, Willard Streeter Bass, Joanne Bass (Mrs. Bross), and Edith Deidre Bass (Mrs.Bonsal).
Minnie Eliza (James) Thompson [Mrs. Edwin Payson Thompson] – 1925 President of the League of Women Voters, New Hampshire. / She was born 17 Sep 1867 in Thornton NH, daughter of Orison “Orrin” G. & Bedora “Dora” (Durgin) James. She died 20 August 1944 in Laconia NH and is buried in Union Cemetery, Laconia NH. She married 9 Dec 1896 in Campton NH to Edwin Payson Thompson, son of William B. & Louise Jane (Asher) Thompson. He was born 28 July 1852 Gilmanton NH; d. 9 Sep 1934 in Laconia NH. Lawyer, County Clerk in 1900, Clerk of the NH Supreme Court in 1910. In an article found in The Times-Dispatch, Richmond Virginia of 23 Aug 1925, page 56, Mrs. Edwin P. Thompson of Laconia NH, president of the NH League of Women Voters stated: “With the power of the vote comes also a responsible part in forming all politics of our government. It is our privilege to exercise this power and to assume our responsibility in hleping to establish peace in the world. We have arrived at a testing time of our loyalty to a true democracy. Are we true to the ideals we preach?
Mrs. Glen L. Wheeler of Bristol NH — 1931-1934 President of the League of Women Voters, NH. She was born Glenn Leach on 15 May 1879 in Fairfield Vermont, daughter of Orlin L. & Emma A. (Morgan) Leach. She married 20 June 1911 in Morrisville VT to Granville Francis “Frank” Wheeler, son of Francis D. & Mary R. (Roby) Wheeler. He was b. 8 Nov 1880 in Hudson MA, occupation jeweler, and retail clocks and watches. He died in 1955. In 1917 he was working as an undertaker in Bristol NH. In 1946 she was executive secretary of the NH Social Hygiene Association. In 1947, 1949 she was representative to the NH House (R-Bristol) In 1953 corresponding secretary for the NH Federation of Women’s Clubs.
Mrs. Viola (Stone) [Harry W.] Smith — 1934 President of the League of Women Voters, NH. Also active for several years in the NH Federation of Women’s Clubs, and In 1934 she was the president. Also active in the leadership of the NH branch of the American Cancer Society and active in fundraising; lectured for several groups. She was born Viola Stone on 29 May 1887 in NY, daughter of Willis Ferdinand & Caroline Louisa (Neary) Stone. She died in Dec 1968 and is buried in Durham Cemetery, Durham NH. In 1910 she was a public school teacher in Babylon, Suffolk Co. NY. In 1920 a public school teacher in Cohoes NY. She married Prof. Harry William Smith. He died Feb 1955 at their home in Durham NH. At that time he was commissioner of conciliation for the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service. He joined the faculty of UNH in 1921 as head of the dept of economics. He obtained an AB from Hamilton College and a MA degree from Columbia Univer and a Th.B. from Auburn Theological Seminary.
Mrs. Maurice (Kathleen Mary (Kelley) Mullen — 1935 President of the League of Women Voters, NH. She was born on 18 August 1897 in Concord NH, the daughter of James F. & Mary (Sexton) Kelley with siblings John R., Thomas, Mabel, Hannah, Frank J., Eleanor, and Mildred. She died January 1986 Concord NH. She married 21 July 1919 in Concord NH to Maurice Walter Mullen, son of Anthony & Mary (Greaney) Mullen
In 1920, 1930 living in Concord NH. Sons: Robert M. Mullen, Morris D. aka Donald Maurice Mullen (b 18 Oct1923, d. Aug 1986). She is probably buried in Calvary Cemetery, Concord NH beside her husband.
Mrs. Agnes G. (Emerson) [H. Russell] Sawyer of Rye NH. 1936 President of the League of Women Voters, NH. She was a member of the Every Other Tuesday club of Rye, and the Rye League of Women Voters. Agnes G. Emerson, born 21` Oct 1883 in Bradford Maine, daughter of Frederick A.C. & Mary (Duff) Emerson. She m1) James Goodwin Perkins and had two ch James A. Perkins, and Mary Perkins [Mrs. Warren Vinton]. She m2d) 9 Oct 1923 in Rye NH to Horace Russell Sawyer, son of Horace & Susan M. (Jenness) Sawyer. They had a daughter Susan Emerson Sawyer [ Mrs. Ernest Clark]. H. Russell Sawyer was b 12 Apr 1876 in Rye NH. Mrs. Agnes G. (Emerson) Sawyer died 21 June 1949 in Rye NH and is buried in Rye Central Cemetery, Rye NH.
Gertrude Viola MacDougall [Mrs. C.W.] Adams Jr. — 1940 President of the League of Women Voters, NH. Gertrude Viola MacDougall, daughter of Edward A. & Lillian V.(Randall) MacDougall was born 24 April 1895 in Brooklyn [New York City, Kings NY] New York. and She m1st) 15 March 1919 in Queens NY to Fellowes Van Rensselaer Thompson and divorced (they had a daughter, Nancy who m. William P. House and 2d Paul M. Sweezy. She was a noted potter/artist). Gertrude Viola MacDougall-Thompson married 2d) 31 Oct 1925 in Tuftonboro NH to Charles Wesley Adams, son of Charles W. & Addie C. (Buell) Adams. He was a Harvard graduate (class of 1919) and a banker and securities salesman in Franklin NH [i.e. Franklin banks]. He was a WW1 veteran. They had a daughter, Ursula Adams [who m. Richard E. Rowse].
Mrs. Dorothea Chester (Paradise) Flint — 1944 President of the League of Women Voters, NH. In 1940 she was state chairman of Government and Child Welfare, of the same organization. She was fond of writing well-thought-out and eloquent ‘letters to the editor’ of various newspapers and did so for several decades. She was born 1 Dec 1892 in Milford CT, daughter of Frank Ilsley & Caroline W. (Fellows) Paradise. She married 30 July 1920 in Concord NH to William W. Flint, son of William W. & Frances C. (Chapman) Flint. She died 14 April 1983 in Boston MA. A service was held at Christ Episcopal Church, Zero Garden St. Harvard Square. mother of Robert W. Flint of Cambridge MA. She is buried in Blossom Hill Cemetery, Concord NH.Mrs. Malcolm (Emile Cecile Hanna) Keir — 1947-48 President of the League of Women Voters, NH. She was also active on the national level in the Girl Scouts of America. Emily Cecile Hanna was born July 1893 Jackson, Wayne Indiana, daughter of Dr. Ulysses Sherman & Cornelia (Pierce) Hanna [her father was a professor of mathematics]. She graduated in 1914 from Indiana University. Then she was the recipient of an honorary scholarship to the University of Pennsylvania and was pursuing her course there in Philadelphia, leading to her master’s degree. There she met Prof. Malcolm Keir, a younger member of the faculty., of the department of geography and industry. She is a Kappa Kappa Gamma. They married in September of 1915. He was later a professor of economics at Dartmouth College Hanover from 1918 to 1957 and died in 1964. Children: Emily Jean Keir [m. Jim Luttrell], Peter MacFarlane Keir. Cecile H. Kier died in October 1955
—In Closing: New Hampshire’s Greatest Living Woman—
In 1922 The New Hampshire League of Women Voters made its choice of the 12 greatest living American women….. [see the newspaper article from the Boston Globe of July 8, 1922]. Even the publisher was taken aback that not a single New Hampshire woman was among those listed. And so, I would ask my readers to find a woman in their own state that they think of as a wonderful role model (and greatest living woman). There are many where I live–not only doctors, lawyers, scientists, politicians, etc. There are women among us who are great in ways beyond professional careers. Every day these women raise their families, they are kind to the person on the street who might be having problems, they give good advice, they don’t speak badly of anyone. Surely you know just one. And so if you are asked today your choice of 12 greatest living American women, you will include her, and others like them–your neighbors and people you know, in that list. For it is YOUR opinion, of course!