100 Years Ago: Anti-Suffrage New Hampshire Women

Offering prizes for best answer if women should be allowed to vote.

Today and with our current mindset, I know it is difficult to grasp that some women in New Hampshire did not want any women to have the right to vote in local and national elections. They did exist, but seemingly in lower numbers than the pro-suffrage women.

I’ve seen it written that many of these so-called “anti-suffrage” women were well-off, either by a marriage to a wealthy, prominent man, or by having money and prestige in their own right. It is implied that they did not want their “lesser” female counterparts to rise in influence.  Several newspaper stories of the time, if they can be completely believed, paint the anti-suffrage women as rich, privileged females not wanting to share their societal prestige, and feeling that equal voting rights would lessen their ability to influence. It would be unfair to state this is always true, though my research does seem to point to it being mostly true.

One example to the contrary–if you look at New Hampshire’s foremost and longest advocate of women’s suffrage–Mrs. Armenia (Hall) White. Clearly see a woman who had financial clout and personal power and yet suffrage was something she fought for until her death.  Other claims by the “antis” (a nickname for anti-suffrage advocates) was that voting was not feminine.  Some claimed that it was un-Christian.

Whether anti-suffragists were influenced by the men in their lives who were anti-suffrage, or whether they personally believed that politics was a terrible thing that women should avoid, these were strongly held beliefs.  The anti-suffrage movement generally began about 2 decades after the pro-suffrage groups organized. In Massachusetts, for example, organized work by women against suffrage began in 1884 and 1885. In this case, the leaders were connected to men of Harvard College and included women of wealth and influential families. In New York, the first anti-suffrage society was formed in Albany in 1894.

In a New Hampshire Historical Society collection, a circa 1913 broadside entitled “A Word To The Wise: An Overwhelming Majority of the Women of the United States Oppose Woman Suffrage includes these reasons:
1. It is contrary to the universal law of “division of labor,” etc.
2. Because of the undemocratic spirit shown by the suffragists, etc.
3. Because the Suffrage Movement develops sex hatred, etc.
4. Because their fathers, brothers, husband and sons vote…etc
5. Because men have NOT found the ballot a cure-all, etc.
6. Because the great advance of woman in the last century has been made without the ballot.
7. Because of the Alliance of Suffrage and Socialism,. etc.
8. Because the Liquor traffic, and all forms of vice, still flourish unabated in equal Suffrage States.
9. Because now, every woman can work to clean up the morals of her town, without being hindered by the votes of the ignorant women, and the women who vote as bad men tell them, and the women who don’t care”
10. Because since 75% of all food and contamination takes place in the home,” etc.
11. Because woman, the awakener of public conscience and the arbiter of social caste, can best serve her state and race by learning the laws governing the health of body, mind and character, etc.


A very “telling” article was published in the Boston Sunday post in March of 1912 which details how the anti-suffragists viewed their opponents–the suffragists.  What I find amusing is that the article details so much about the pro-suffrage organization’s work that it was almost like reading an advertisement for them.  It is an interesting read, and so I include it here.

[start of newspaper article]

“The suffragette battleground at the present moment is New Hampshire. Leaders of the votes for women movement all over the country are announcing from public platforms and in campaign literature that the Old Granite State must grant equal suffrage. Anti-suffragists are just as certain that this cannot be.”

“REASON FOR SITUATION. The reason for this situation is the New Hampshire State Grange, composed of 40,000 farmers and their families. This body to a large measure determines social and political questions in the State. One of the basic principles on which the grange is founded is the equality of women with man. This, the suffrage leaders declare, makes New Hampshire particularly sympathetic with the ballot for its womankind.

All the leaders of the equal suffrage movement in Massachusetts have stirred to activity those in New Hampshire who believed in the movement but had done nothing. The result has been the formation of associations calculated to cover the field completely. The heads of the anti-suffrage movement in Massachusetts have been interested in the campaign by Mrs. Barrett Wendell, whose husband, Professor Wendell of Harvard has just taken a summer home in Portsmouth. The “antis” have begun in that city a fight to organize the forces opposed to votes for women.”

Armenia White photograph, undated, taken by Kimball & Sons of Concord NH. New Hampshire Historical Society. She was an ardent pro-suffrage supporter and worker for women having the vote.

“The achievements of the suffragists to date include the organization of the New Hampshire Equal Suffrage Association, of which Miss Mary N. Chase of Concord, N.H. is president; the Concord Equal Suffrage Association for Good Government, of which Miss Agnes M. Jenks is president; the New Hampshire College Women’s Equal Suffrage Club, the New Hampshire Men’s Equal Suffrage Club, The Dartmouth Students’ League for Equal Suffrage, and the Dartmouth Professors’ Wives’ Equal Suffrage Society.”

“They have secured positive declarations of support of the equal suffrage movement from Governor Bass, Clarence E. Clough of Lebanon, Senator William E. Chandler, Senator Gallinger, Henry H. Hollis and other prominent in the State. The executive committee of the Concord Society includes Mrs. George Hingham, whose husband as a Supreme Court justice once refused the Republican nomination for Governor; Miss Harriet Huntress of the State Board of Education, Mrs. George Rublee of Cornish and Mrs. Susan Whiting Ives, wife of Dr. Ives of Andover.”

“The Rev. Anna M. Shaw is to address a meeting at Concord next week. The College Women’s Club, which Mrs. Maud Wood Parks of Boston organized, is offering prizes of $10 and $5 each for the best essays on equal suffrage by elementary and secondary school students. The New Hampshire State Grange has recommended that the question of equal suffrage for women shall be submitted to the next constitutional convention. Witter Brynner of Cornish, the author, is going a great deal of pioneer work in strengthening the Men’s Equal Suffrage Club. Joseph L. Richards plans to send out Dartmouth students in co-operation with the work of the other bodies.”

“The suffragettes were especially elated when the wife of President Nichols of Dartmouth joined the equal suffrage society organized by the professors’ wives. Mrs. Winston Churchill has been in daily communication with the Massachusetts leaders and is active in the movement. The State branch of the American Federation of Labor and the Concord Central Labor Union, as well as the Socialist Party in the State, have gone on record for equal suffrage in New Hampshire and members of the former two bodies have been requested to work for the cause.”

“The movement of the anti-suffrage workers is younger and not so widely diffused. But it is no less keen and in Portsmouth has scored heavily. Barrett Wendell, professor of English at Harvard, recently inherited the old Wendell estate at 28 Pleasant Street, Portsmouth. Mrs. Wendell is a member of the Massachusetts Association Opposed to the Further Extension of Suffrage to Women and the head of the Boston local of that body. She recently organized the Portsmouth Anti-Suffrage Association and was elected its first president.”

“The Wendells, who are social leaders in Boston, will make Portsmouth their summer home, and Mrs. Wendell, in talking with a Sunday Post reporter, says she intends to spend a great deal of her time in Portsmouth to perfect the organization there and increase the opposition in the State.  MRS. WENDELL’S VIEWS. The suffragettes have been laying plans to capture New Hampshire and add it to the States where women vote,” said Mrs. Wendell. “We don’t propose to remain idle and watch them do it without giving the people an opportunity to hear all the arguments as to why women should not vote.”

‘The State of Colorado has had equal suffrage for a number of years and it has proved a miserable failure. Miss Emily P. Bissell of Wilmington, Del., has investigated the situation in Colorado and written an article for the Outlook on the subject. She sways the best people in Colorado are opposed to its further continuance.”

“Dr. Wendell and I will make our summer home at Portsmouth and so long as I am to live there I am going to continue my endeavors in the anti-suffrage movement in New Hampshire. Mrs. Wendell recently invited 150 prominent women of Portsmouth to a meeting at the Hotel Rockingham where they were addressed by Civil Service Commissioner Frank Foxcroft of Cambridge; Miss Emily P. Bissell of Wilmington, Del., an anti-suffragette, who has written an article on Colorado equal suffrage; Attorney William W. Thayer of Concord, Professor Barrett Wendell, ex-Mayor, Wallace Hackett, and Mayor Badger. Of this meeting Mrs. Wendell said: ‘The women seemed only too anxious to hear why women should not vote. They were especially willing to form and join a New Hampshire anti-suffrage association.”

“Many persons signed membership cards at the Rockingham meeting and later they met at Mrs. Wendell’s home. There the organization was effected. Mrs. Wendell was elected president; Mrs. John M. Kelley, wife of City Solicitor Kelley, was elected recording secretary; Mrs. Lulu D. Walker was named the corresponding secretary; and Miss Marion Hackett, treasurer.”

“The suffragettes are strong in New Hampshire, said Mrs. Wendell. They have got a head start, but they have perfected a strong opposition and they will not find everything so rosy as they imagine. Possibly without our opposition, they might have made New Hampshire an equal suffrage state.”

[end of newspaper article]

It was not easy to find the names of the New Hampshire anti-suffrage women and men (except in the great numbers of male legislators who voted against suffrage).  Even after hours of research, I only had a handful of actual names gleaned from old newspaper notices.  To this, I must mention in a broadside now located at the New Hampshire Historical Society, especially one entitled “Vote Against Women Suffrage,” dated 14 February 1913 at Concord, New Hampshire.

=====SOME of the Anti-suffrage Women of New Hampshire=====
[Editor’s Note: in writing about these “antis,” women who worked to prevent the passage of the 19th amendment, my purpose is not to vilify them. They were intelligent, motivated, and often worked before and after 1920 to make their communities better places in which to live. ]

Photograph of Edith (Greenough) Wendell before her marriage, age 19.
From the Wendell Photograph Collection, Portsmouth Anthenaeum, Portsmouth NH. Used with permission.

— Mrs. Edith (Greenough) Wendell was perhaps the most prominent of the New Hampshire anti-suffrage women,  creating the Portsmouth Anti-Suffrage Association in 1912, and was voted its first President.  She was born on 2 Aug 1859 at Swampscott MA,  the daughter of William Whitwell & Catherine Scollay (Curtis) Greenough.  She married Prof. Barrett Wendell, an 1877 graduate of Harvard, and an instructor there and other places of English. They lived in Boston MA, but spent summers in Portsmouth NH.  Mrs. Wendell was active in anti-suffrage groups in Massachusetts also.   She died 3 Oct 1938 (aged 79) at Boston MA.  Among her many accomplishments was the preservation of the Warner House in Portsmouth NH  [She prevented the Warner House (1715) on Daniel Street from being torn down and replaced with a gas station].

Mrs. Frances P. Dudley, President of New Hampshire Association Opposed To The Further Extension of Suffrage to Women by February 1913.  She was born Frances Fiske Perry on 10 Dec 1861 in Exeter NH, daughter of William G. & Lucretia Morse (Fiske) Perry. She married 2 July 1890 in Exeter NH to Albertus T. Dudley. She d. 4 Jan 1953 in Exeter NH.  Her husband was a member of the professional faculty of Phillips Exeter Academy.  According to the noted historian, Barbara Rimkunas, Mrs. Dudley was one of the founders of the Exeter (NH) Historical Society.

Mrs. John M. Kelley, Secretary of the Portsmouth Anti-Suffrage Association.  She was born Romaine G. E. (Goddard Eagle) Sherwood, daughter of William & Mary V. (Reese) Sherwood in Aug 1876 [or August 2, 1859,] in Cincinnati Ohio. She died 18 Feb 1949 in Washington DC. Interred St. Mary’s Cemetery, Portsmouth NH.  She had married on 12 Jan 1898 in Portsmouth NH to John W. Kelley, son of John & Ellen (Nagle) Kelley.
He was b 3 Dec 1865 Portsmouth NH & d. 21 Sep 1913 in Brookline MA. He was an attorney and at the time of her anti-suffrage activity, was a Rockingham County Solicitor.

Marion Hackett, Treasurer of the Portsmouth Anti-Suffrage Association. She was born 20 March 1886 in Portsmouth, NH, daughter of Wallace & Abbie W. (Winchester) Hackett, living on Middle Street in Portsmouth. Her father was one time Mayor of Portsmouth and Chief Executive in 1907 and 1908. Marion Hackett married 29 Aug 1914 in Portsmouth NH to Robert Emmet Rogers, son of John Clark & Olive (Southwick) Rogers. He was b 4 Jan 1886 Ozark, Missouri, and died in 1971.  He was a Lieut. Commander in the United States Navy. She is buried Saint Anne’s Cemetery, Annapolis MD.

Mrs. W.K. Robbins, of Manchester; in a 1913 broadside is listed with the anti-suffrage proponents, and declared at hearing “give us (the antis) another two weeks and we will be 7000 names in Manchester alone.”  She was born Ellen R Rice on 10 Dec 1857 in Barclay, Blackhawk Co. daughter of Thomas F. & Catherine (Schott) Rice.  She married William Keltner Robbins, son of Aaron B. & Elizabeth (Schoepf) Robbins. They moved in December of 1882 from Waterloo Iowa to Manchester New Hampshire, where he worked in the cotton mill as a Color & Chemist.   She died on 8 March 1928 in Manchester NH.  They lived at 1508 Elm Street corner Langdon Street.  [The house is gone.She is buried in Pine Grove Cemetery, Manchester NH.

Mrs. Sarah F.S. Dearborn, from One thousand New Hampshire Notables. Internet Archive. Colorized by the blog editor.

—  Mrs. Sarah Dearborn of Pembroke in a 1913 broadside is listed with the anti-suffrage women, and declared at the hearing “I don’t know of one woman in my town who wants to vote.”  She was born Sarah F. Stevens, daughter of Josiah & Ann (Head) Stevens, born 23 January 1854 in Concord NH.  She married 9 Nov 1880 in Boston MA to Joseph Henry Dearborn, son of Joseph Jewell & Sarah (Jenness) Dearborn.  He was a Harvard graduate (1871) and a dry goods dealer in Boston MA, later a farmer and NH state rep. Locally he was a member of the Pembroke Board of Selectmen, and a trustee of Pembroke Academy. They are buried in Blossom Hill Cemetery, Concord NH.  There is an extensive biography of her at “One Thousand New Hampshire Notables (Internet Archive)” in which there is no mention of her anti-suffrage sentiments.

—  Mrs. Lydia Jackson, of Littleton, in a 1913 broadside is listed with the anti-suffrage women, and “reported a club of 90 women in which only two were in favor of suffrage, and another of 25 in which none were in favor.”    She was born Lydia Drew, daughter of George Kittredge & Lucy L. (French) Drew in Newmarket NH.  She died 14 December 1921 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. She married 16 July 1879 to James Robert Jackson,
son of William & Prucia (Morrill) Jackson. He born 1838 and died 22 Nov 1917 Littleton NH. He was a lawyer.  In 1920 she was a widow living in Littleton NH.  She is buried in Glenwood Cemetery, Littleton NH.  She was active in the D.A.R., trustee of Littleton public library and secretary of Littleton branch of NH Chapter American Red Cross. She was a high school teacher for several years.

Mrs. Fay of Hanover (NH), in a 1913 broadside is listed with the anti-suffrage women and “told the Committee that the sentiment of women in their communities was decidedly against the measure.”  She was born Sarah Eliza Proctor, daughter of Prof. John C. & Adaline (Young) Proctor,  born 5 April 1875 in Hanover NH, and died December 1964 in Cambridge MA.  She was both the daughter, and a wife of a college professor. She attended school at Bradford Academy and taught at the Hampton Institute from 1896 to 1900.  Sarah E. Proctor married 17 Aug 1904 in Hanover NH to Sidney Bradshaw Fay, son of Edward A. & Mary (Bradshaw) Fay. He was b. 13 April 1876 in Washington DC, and died 29 August 1967 aged 92. He was a college professor, a distinguished historian and teacher. Professor Emeritus of History at Harvard, he taught history at Dartmouth College until 1914, and in Northampton at Smith College until 1929. In 1929 he went to Harvard College as professor of history, where he held the first joint appointment made by Radcliffe and Harvard They had a summer home for many years on Nantucket Island. Mrs. Fay was a trustee of the Avon Home and was active in the College Teas Assn, the social organization of faculty wives, serving as a member of the advisory from 1935 to 1938 and as chairman of the nominating committee in 1939. She took a great interest in welcoming new members of the history department and their families to Harvard. Besides her husband, she leaves two daughters: Mrs. Dwight (Dorothy) Little of Williamstown and Mrs. John M. (Elsa) Craig of Cambridge; and by nine grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

Mrs. W.P. Mack of Londonderry, in a 1913 broadside is listed with the anti-suffrage women and “told the Committee that the sentiment of women in their communities was decidedly against the measure.”  She was born Harriet Lavina Pillsbury, daughter of Col. William Stoughton & Martha Silver (Crowell) Pillsbury, born 27 October 1870 in Londondery NH.  She d. 17 Oct 1931 in Londonderry NH.  Harriet L. Pillsbury married 24 Feb 1892 in Londonderry NH to Wallace Preston Mack, son of Andrew W. & Frances A. (Preston) Mack.  He was a noted farmer and fruit grower, and manufacturer of the evaporate apple.  He was b. 7 Nov 1863 in Londonderry NH.  Their Children: Lillian W., Lavinia and Andrew R.  He was Chairman of the Board of Supervisors. Member Knights of Pythias.  The 1931 Londonderry Directory lists him as poultry farmer, Mammoth Road.

[Editor’s Note: there are a few other names however being unable to pinpoint exactly who they are, I have omitted them here, though they can be found in the original documents].

Right up to and following the 36th state’s (Tennessee) adoption of the 19th Amendment, the anti-suffrage groups continued their fight to prevent women from voting.  

The Boston Globe (Boston MA) of August 26, 1920 reported:
“Washington, Aug 25–Antisuffrage forces received another setback today when Justice Siddons of the District of Columbia Supreme Court refused to issue a “show cause”{ order against Sen. Colby, preliminary to the issuance of an injunction to restrain that official from proclaiming the 19th amendment a law of the land. The order would have required Mr. Colby to show cause why the injunction should not be issued. The action was brought by Charles S. Fairchiulds, an official of the American Constitutional League, on behalf of himself and the organization. No further effort will be made to prevent the issuance of the proclamation, Alfred D. Smith, attorney to Mr. Fairchilds, said. . . . .   After the vote by the State of Tennesse to adopt the 19th Amendment, the Boston Globe reported that “the campaign of the antisuffragist forces would now be directed at an effort to obtain early actions in the United States Supreme Court on the question of the validity of the Tennessee ratification…”

The rest is history.  Following the adoption of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, women were able to vote.  Many of both the suffragists and anti-suffragists registered to vote in those first elections.


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8 Responses to 100 Years Ago: Anti-Suffrage New Hampshire Women

  1. George A Chapman says:

    Very interesting. Mrs. Churchill is mentioned. I have been very slowly working through her husband’s novels over the past years and although politics is a central theme, I don’t remember anything specific about women’s vote.

  2. Amy says:

    Very interesting—I never knew about this anti-suffragists. But I can’t say I am surprised. People—men and women—are always afraid of change, even when those changes are supposed to be to their benefit. And women can be just as easily persuaded as men to do things that make no sense (like vote for a misogynist sexual predator for president).

    • Janice Brown says:

      I found it surprising too, and thought then that there probably were others who had no idea that “antis” existed. I think that looking through history since women attained the right to vote, that they seem to have been reluctant to work together to make our world a better place. The vote for the current president being one of those gaffes. This is just one reason to support the League of Women Voters (who succeeded the Suffrage Leagues). Thanks Amy, as always for reading and commenting.

  3. Pingback: August 2020: Celebrating a Women’s Suffrage Anniversary in New Hampshire | Cow Hampshire

  4. Very interesting. I’m doing similar research in the Monadnock region and have a few more anti-suffrage names to give you from Jaffrey, Antrim, Hancock etc. In the summer of 1916 Mrs Ansel G. Cook of CT toured the region speaking on behalf of anti-suffragists. Anti-suffrage leagues seem to appear in those towns following her speeches. I’m looking for the names of Keene anti-suffragists so please share if you find one. The only woman I found was Miss Mary M Parker who spoke around the CT River Valley (NH and VT) in 1872. ALSO: Mrs Churchill was a powerhouse! Her speaking tour in the summer of 1916 in the Monandock region, too, led to the formation of some new equal suffrage leagues.

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