Portsmouth New Hampshire’s First Woman Legislator, Child Welfare Advocate, and Civic Leader: Gertrude Iola (Moran) Caldwell 1881-1964

Mrs. Gertrude I. (Moran) Caldwell. Likeness from the Granite State Monthly.

Mrs. Gertrude I. (Moran) Caldwell. Likeness from the Granite State Monthly.

The December 31, 1922 edition of the Boston Herald, page 41 touted this headline: THREE WOMEN GO INTO N.H. LEGISLATURE WITH HIGH HOPES. Beneath were photographs of Mrs. Effie E. Yantis, Mrs. Gertrude M. Caldwell, and Mrs. Emma L. Bartlett.They were not the first women to go to the New Hampshire legislature, Dr. Mary (Rolfe) Farnum and Jessie Doe had preceded them in 1921. That does not make the effort and accomplishments of these women any less impressive.

In the fall of 1922, an unassuming, but energetic woman with strong ties to Portsmouth, entered the race for Ward 1’s representative to New Hampshire’s General Court (legislature).  No one outside her close circle expected Gertrude Caldwell to win. She was the first woman from Portsmouth to serve in the General Court. Mrs. Caldwell was chairman of the House Committee on Agriculture that in 1923 changed the name of New Hampshire College to the University of New Hampshire.

Gertrude would be be active for many years in Democratic Party affairs She was an organizer of the OWLS, an organization of women legislators, and for many years was Ward 1 registrar of voters. That December 1922 Portsmouth Herald article goes on to state: “Mrs. Gertrude Moran Caldwell whose election in Ward 1 in Portsmouth was as much a surprise to the local Democratic managers, who had made other arrangements, as it was to the city at large, is a woman who will be equally efficient.

Old postcard of the train station in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Located on -- Street, Gertrude's home was across the street.

Old postcard of the B&M Railroad Station in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Located on Deer Street, Gertrude’s home was located across the street at Number 190.

Mrs. Caldwell lives with her husband and four children in her mother’s boarding house, just across the street from the Boston & Maine railroad station. The environment is as different from that of quiet, countrified, Yankee Raymond town as can be imagined. The boarding house is a small one. Railroad men and workers are its customers. Within a stone’s throw the locomotives clank and hiss all day long. The street in front is churned to a black mass by the wheels of taxi-cabs and trucks. Night comes early in that crowded end of the city and the street lamps sputter and glare above the little building. The Sunday Herald man chatted with Mrs. Caldwell in the dining room with its shining, oilcloth covers and the rows of clean plates laid ready for early breakfast.

The newly-elected representative is a woman of energy and accomplishment. Young and enthusiastic, she is one who has made her own way. She has her ideals and is determined to live up to them. The bringing into the world of four fine children and helping out in the rush times in the board house have proved no handicap.

“What is my principal interest?” she repeated the question put by her newspaper visitor. “Child welfare work is what I pay most attention to. I have been interested in such things all my life. I believe that the needs of women and children are th emost important, and that is what I have been putting the most emphasis upon.” “Up to this time I have worked through the Parent-Teachers’ Association, the Women’s City CLub and the guilds and other organizations of St. John’s Episcopal Church, of which I am a member. Now I want to try and put my principles into effect on a larger scale, in the state Legislature. “How did you happen to be a candidate?” asked the reporter.

“I made up my mind that I would like to go to the Legislature and I ran on stickers. I thought that our ward committee was not doing all it should for the women voters. I believed that the women should be represented by one of their own sex. And I was elected. Thats about all these is to it.”

“I’m Democrat, you know, and I shall sit as a Democrat; but I’m quite independent as far as any political organization is concerned.” “I worked hard for my election. I went to nearly every house in the ward, interviewing the women voters. At first, I found them lukewarm. A lot of them were not interested enough to vote at all. I found that the plank in the party platform pledging the Democrats to do all the could to exempt women from the $5 poll tax was the thing that really stirred them up.”

“When a woman would tell me that she wasn’t interested and didn’t care who was elected, I would tell her that whether she did or not, she would have to pay that $5 tax and that, if elected, I would do all I could to relieve her of that payment, and it would fetch her every time. I guess I owe my election to that as much as to any other thing.

“When the votes were counted I led them all. There were three Democrats running against three Republicans for the three seats, and I received more votes than any of them.” Quite a feather in the cap of a woman who went in where the political powers-that-be evidently did not relish her intrusion in the field of practical politics, to make such a clean-up as that, what? Mrs. Caldwell is for the 48-hour bill. “Gradually, not in a grand rush,” she cautioned. “We must not be too drastic and we must be sure of our facts before going ahead.” Mrs. Caldwell insists that she will give her principal attention, as a member of the Legislature, to caring for the interests of women and children of the state. She believes in concentration of effort.

A few months later in 1923, the Granite State Monthly, a newsy and sometimes political publication printed the following article: THREE FAVORITE STORIES of Mrs. Gertrude M. Caldwell, Legislature, 1923

When Mrs. Gertrude M. Caldwell of Portsmouth was in the House of Representatives last session her colleagues found her a “good fellow.” She is not only well versed in the political game but she can spin a jolly yarn, even if the joke is on herself. In her campaigning last year she found herself in many amusing situations, and had numerous experiences which she will never forget.

One of her three favorite stories is about an old-time party leader in the city of Portsmouth who got up to address an audience. He wished to impress upon his hearers the fact that he was a native of Portsmouth and therefore especially entitled to their support. “Mr. Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen,” he shouted, “I was born in Portsmouth, and, in fact, I was always born there.” Mrs. Caldwell laughingly says: “Its just the same with me.”

Another story Mrs. Caldwell tells is of a trip into a rural district of her community. “I stopped at a country grocery store,” she said, “and inquired of a boy if his dad was in.” “You’ll find Dad down in the piggery,” the lad relpied. “Then, as I started in the direction indicated, he shouted to me as an afterthought. “But you can tell Dad ’cause he’s got a hat on.'”

Mrs. Caldwell’s third favorite yarn is about an old fellow down in Portsmouth who was rather illiterate. He purchased a black Cheviot suit, and addition to his wardrobe being quite an event in the old man’s life. One of his friends, having hear of the plunge, congratulated him on his purchase. “And what kind of a suit did you buy, Jim?” his friend inquired. “Oh, O bought me one of them black celluloid ones. They’re just the thing to wear on a hot day.” –L.M.A.

Gertrude’s family had strong ties to her native city of Portsmouth, New Hampshire–her great-grandfather Roger Moran having immigrated from Ireland, and married in Portsmouth in 1809 into the well-known Ayers family of the seacoast region.  Her ancestors were among the honest working class of that place.  Her genealogy follows.

===GENEALOGY of Gertrude Iola (Moran) Caldwell of Portsmouth NH===

Roger Moran, b. Ireland; m. 16 March 1809 in Portsmouth NH to Mary Ann Ayers, daughter of Dependence & Elizabeth “Betsey” (Nutter) Ayers. She was b. 1783 in Barnstead NH, and d. 2 September 1855 in Portsmouth, Rockingham Co. NH. She is buried in Harmony Grove Cemetery, Portsmouth NH. His son Andrew’s death certificate lists Roger’s occupation as shoemaker. 5 February 1814 Roger Moran is on a list of persons printed in a newspaper notice regarding “sufferers by the late FIRE in this town, the following returns, being part of the loses sustained, have received” — Roger Moran 104,78 [Portsmouth NH’s Fire Department web site states: “December 22 – “The Great Portsmouth Fire” destroys 108 dwelling houses (occupied by 130 families,) 64 stores and shops, and 100 barns, &c., making in the whole 272 buildings. From west to east the fire extended one third of a mile, and from north to south, the width of the ruins in the widest part was an eighth of a mile”.  According to his son Andrew, Roger was possibly a privateer during the War of 1812.
Children of Roger & Mary (Ayers) Moran:
1. William Moran; m. 4 Sep 1831 in NH to Nancy Clifford; m2) 2 April 1846 to Sophia J. Johnson
2. +John H. Moran, b. 14 Nov 1814 Barnstead or Barrington NH
3. Betsey Moran
4. Hannah Moran
5. Mary E. Moran, b. abt 1815, d. 19 April 1880 in Portsmouth NH; m. 5 May 1833 in Portsmouth NH to Joseph Amazeen.
6. Andrew D. Moran, b. 20 Nov 1818 in Newington NH, d. 30 Oct 1910 in Portsmouth NH; wheelwright; married, widowed at time of death. He was buried in the Sagamore cemetery, Portsmouth NH.

John H. Moran, son of Roger & Mary E. (Ayers) Moran, b November 14, 1814 Barnstead NH or Barrington NH, d. 15 Feb 1890, age 75y 3m 1d ; m. 22 April 1836 in Portsmouth NH to Mary W. Walker, daughter of Nathaniel & Catherine (Beck) Walker. She b. abt 1816-1818 in Portsmouth NH and d. 7 Feb 1887 in Portsmouth NH. By the time of his marriage he was living in Portsmouth NH. In the 1880 census his occupation is “moulder.”
Children of John H. & Mary M. (Walker) Moran:
1. George W. Moran, b. abt 1837 NH; m. 18 Feb 1874 in Portsmouth NH to Rachel Archibald, daughter of Charles & Margaret (?) Archibald
2. Henry W. Moran, b. abt 1838 in Portsmouth NH; d. 13 Aug 1907 in Somerville MA; he was married, widowed at time of his death, buried Woodlawn Cemetery, Everett MA
3. John Edward Moran, b 25 August 1841 in Portsmouth NH, died 15 May 1913 in Everett MA; He m1st) Hannah –. He m2d) 24 Sep 1902 in Portsmouth NH to Anne Gore, dau of Samuel & Mary (Spinney) Gore. He served in the 5th Maine Co. B during the Civil War
4. Harrison Moran, b. September 1841 Portsmouth NH; By 1866 the voter registration books show he is living in San Francisco CA. In 1891 he is a police officer, mentioned in a newspaper article, his “beat” being the Stanyan-street entrance of Golden Gate Park. A 1899 newspaper reports his retirement, his appointment as a police officer being 20 April 1880. He m. Eliza Shopston. She was b. July 1850 in Newport VT; 8 children 3 born and living in California in the 1900 San Francisco CA census: Lillian/Lily, b April 1875, Allan Garfield b March 1881, who m. 4 Sep 1914 in San Francisco CA to Ruby Danziger, dau of Louis & Dora (Katz) Danziger; and Florence, b Sep 1886.
5. Andrew Moran, b. abt 1843 NH
6. Wallace W. Moran, b. abt 1847 NH
7. Frank C. Moran, b. abt 1849 NH; m. 1 June 1872 in NH to Carrie E. Blake, daughter of Alfred P. & Margaret E. (?) Blake
8. Walter N. Moran b abt 1855 Portsmouth NH; m. 18 Feb 1887 in Warren, Worcester Co. MA to Mary N. Mullen, daughter of Matthew & Mary (?) Mullen.
9. +Stacy Gideon Moran, b. 16 June 1856 Portsmouth NH
10. Mary Elizabeth Moran, b. 11 March 1859 Portsmouth NH

Stacy/Stacey Gideon Moran, son of John H. & Mary (Walker) Moran, b. 16 June 1856, Portsmouth NH; d 2 June 1933 in Portsmouth NH; He m. 3 Nov 1880 in Portsmouth NH to Adelaide Frances “Addie” Brooks, daughter of George W. & Susan Frances (Smith) Brooks. She was b. Nov 1861 in NH, and died 26 Sep 1928 in Portsmouth NH. He is buried in Sagamore Cemetery, Portsmouth NH. In Feb of 1902 the Portsmouth newspaper noted that he was confined to his home by “injuries received from falling off the hose wagon on the night of the Times building fire.”
1880 US Census > NH > Rockingham > Portsmouth
John H. Moran 65 NH NH MH moulder
Mary M. Moran 63 wife NH NH NH keeping house
Stacy G. Moran 22 son shoe clerk NH NH NH
Frank C. Moran 31 son laborer NH NH NH
Mary L. Moran 21 daughter milliner NH NH NH
Child of Stacey G. & Adelaide F. “Addie” (Brooks) Moran:
1. +Gertrude Iola Mortan, b. 2 June 1881 in Portsmouth NH

Gertrude Iola Moran, daughter and first child of Stacy G. & Adelaide F. (Brooks) Moran, b 2 June 1881 in Portsmouth, Rockingham Co. NH, and died March 1964 in NH. She married 1 Aug 1907 in Salem MA to William Wadaz Caldwell, son of Edward V. & Helena A. (Weed) Caldwell. He was b 29 March 1878 in Philadelphia PA, and d January 1933 in Portsmouth NH. He was an iron worker and painter in the Portsmouth Navy Yard. They lived at 190 Deer Street.
SSDI Gertrude Caldwell
Birth: 2 June 1881
Death: March 1964 New Hampshire
Representative, NH Legislature, 1923
1957 Mannings Directory of Portsmouth NH
Caldwell, Bradley M (Merelease B) mach PNS h46 McNabb ct.
Caldwell, Genevieve G (Mrs. Stacy W) asst tax collector r190 Deer
Caldwell, Gertrude I. wid William W member Board of Registrars of Voters War 1 h 190 Deer [in 1955 chairman of board of registrars] [in 1961 same address]
Caldwell, Stacy W (Genevieve G) planners estimator PNS r190 Deer
Portsmouth Herald, Portsmouth NH, 24 Jan 1933 page 4
OBITUARY: William W. Caldwell, for the pst 26 years a resident of this city, passed away Monday at the Naval Hospital, where he had been a patient during the past four weeks. Mr. Caldwell was a native of Philadelphia, where he was a member of the police department previous to taking up his residence in this city. He was 54 years of age and is survived by his wife, Mrs. Gertrude Moran Caldwell, two sons, Stacy W. and Bradley M., and one daughter, June A. Caldwell, all of this city; a brother, James Caldwell of Cheltenham, PA, and three sisters, Mrs. John Clark of Ocean City, N.J., Mrs. John Kershaw of Germantown In., and Mrs. Ellen Gallena of Miami Fla. Mr. Caldwell was a veteran of the Spanish-American War, and a member of Camp Schley No. 4., United Spanish War Veterans, also Franklin Pierce Veteran Fireman’s Association. For many years he was employed as a painted at the navy yard and while he possessed a quiet nature he was held in high regard by a large circle of friends who will keenly feel the loss caused by his death. The funeral will be held at the family home, No 190 Deer street at 2 o’clock Thursday afternoon.
1930 US Census > NH > Rockingham > Portsmouth > 190 Deer Street
Moran, Stacy G. Head 3500 M W 73 Widow NH NH NH
Caldwell, William Son-in-law M W 52 married at age 29 PA PA PA Navy Yard
Caldwell, Gertrude J dau F W 48 married at age 25 NH PA NH
Caldwell, Stacy W gr son M W 20 single NH PA NH
Caldwell, Bradley M gr son M W 18 single NH PA NH
Caldwell, June A gr dau F W 10 single NH PA NH
Lear, Calvin W boarder M W 38 wingle NH NH NH Cook, Family
Sullivan, Michael boarder M W 60 single Irish Free State, IFS IFS, Foreman Railroad
Rogers, Cliburne P boarder M W 17 single S. Carolina SC SC caddie, Golf
Lang, Patrick D. boarder W M 58 div NH Ire Ire helper, Navy Yard
Arnold, David Boarder WM 48 M at age 36 IL KY Missouri, Laborer Church
Arnold, Agnes Boarder F W 28 married at age 16 Maine Maine Maine
1940 US Census > NH > Rockingham > Portsmouth > 190 Deer Street
Gertrude Caldwell 58 F W WD h-4 NH NH
Stacy Caldwell 30 M W married c-2 NH ship keeper
Bradley Caldwell 28 son M W single H-4 NH letter carrier, post office
June Caldwell 20 (ab) F W C-2 NH
Calvin Lear 47 cousin M W single H-1 NH
Clehurne Rogers 28 lodger M W single H-2 Alabama counter man, restaurant
Charles Flanigan 28 lodger M W married H-4 NH, carrier, post office
The Portsmouth Herald, 30 March 1964, page 3
CALDWELL–Mrs. Gertrude I. Caldwell of 190 Deer Stret, died March 29. Funeral services at St. John’s Church, Wed morning, 11 o’clock. Friends invited. Visiting hours at Buckminster Chapel 84 Broad Street, Mon-Tues 7-9 pm Arrangements by J. Verne Wood Funeral Home.

Mrs. Gertrude I. Caldwell of 190 Deer Street, widow of William Caldwell, died at Portsmouth Hospital yesterday after a long illness. She was born in Portsmouth, the daughter of the late Stacy and Adelaide (Brooks) Moran…. She attended St. John’s Episcopal Church. She is survived by two sons, Bradley M. Caldwell and Stacy W. Caldwell; a daughter, Mrs. June A. Harlin; five grand-children; and several great-grandchildren, all of Portsmouth.
The Portsmouth Herald, 1 April 1964 page 3
Funeral services for Mrs. Gertrude I. Caldwell of 190 Deer Street, the first woman representative in the state legislature, were held from Buckminster Chapel this morning. The Rev. W. Charles Hodgins conducted services at St. John’s Episcopal Church and the committal at Sagamore Cemetery. Included in attendance were delegations from the Democratic City Committee and Portsmouth Young Democrats, headed by Mrs. Eileen D. Foley; City of Portsmouth employees, City Manager Robert C. Violette, and Building Inspector Lewis M. McNeil. Bearers were Francis T. Malloy, Joseph Ferrelli, Arthur Downs and Daniel Premock.
Children of William W. & Gertrude I. (Moran) Caldwell:
1. Stacy W. Caldwell, b. 20 Jan 1910 in Portsmouth NH, died May 1991 in NH; He m1) 25 Aug 1930 in Exeter NH to Olive C. Kennedy, daughter of William J. & Etta (Norberg) Kennedy. He m2) Genevieve G. Congdon, dau of Harry E. & Wilhemenia (Frost) Congdon. She was b. 30 May 1915 in Salisbury MA and d. 28 Feb 2002 at Edgewood Centre in Portsmouth NH. By his first wife, he had twin daughters June Caldwell who m. Bernard Lewis, and Joan Caldwell who m. Ray Gerrish.
2. Bradley Moran Caldwell, b abt 1912 Portsmouth NH, d. 1988; m. 22 Feb 1943 in Portsmouth NH to Merelease Bertha Downs, dau of Alexander Forester & Laura Elizabeth (Ladieu) Downs. She was b. abt 1914 in Laconia NH. He m2d) Barbara W. Wakefield, dau of John T. & Sylvia (Nunan) Wakefield. She b. 22 Oct 1914 in Cape Porpoise Maine, and d. 27 Dec 2004 at the Portsmouth Regional Hospital in Portsmouth NH. By his 1st wife he had: Bruce Caldwell.
3. Helen Frances Caldwell, b. 18 April 1914 Portsmouth NH, d. 12 Feb 1915, age 9m 25 days in Portsmouth NH, of double lobar pneumonia.
4. June Arlene Caldwell, b. 24 June 1919 in Portsmouth NH, and died 20 June 2015 in Ft. Lauderdale FL; She m. 1946 to Lt. Todd Ellsworth Hardin. Todd Hardin of St. Claire Shore MI. He graduated from Portsmouth (NH) High School, class of 1937, Syracuse University in 1941 with a BS in Business Administration. She was President of Delta Delta Delta sorority while at Syracuse. She worked at Camp Langdon during WW2. She was Secretary of the American Association of University Women, Fort Lauderdale Chapter. [obituary]

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