February 5, 2018
Fine night at the Greater Astoria Historical Society on Monday, February 5, talking The Suffragents as part of the society’s book club series on great women. The club turned out and it was great to finally meet Bob Singleton, the society’s director, who was still very enthused about the recent appearance at the society of the eminent historian Kenneth T. Jackson on January 24, for a private event sponsored by the New York City Department of Education. The Greater Astoria Historical Society is a happening place with an excellent social media presence (HT DeeAnne Gorman, board president).
Mr. Singleton gave us a detailed tour of the various exhibitions, including the society’s new World War I exhibit. Later, we got to see society’s fascinating archive, filled with area volumes of newspapers going back to the late 1800s and other ephemeral treasures. My hands-down favorite among the exhibit items was the giant door to the Blackwell House. See the two round glass inlays at the top? Wrested from the bottoms of a couple of rum bottles.
Here’s the background on the Blackwells and the house (no relation to Elizabeth Blackwell, we were told.):
It’s easy to forget that Astoria/Long Island City is only a 19-minute car ride from the Upper East Side of Manhattan, even at rush hour. And thanks to Matt, it was the most effortless tech set up scenario in a score of Suffragent appearances. Thank you, Matt. We were ready in minutes, even with a new software download and connection for the handy new presentation remote I brought with me.
In preparation for my talk, I spent just a little time ferreting out what I could about Queens and the Men’s League, and came up with a few intriguing bits. The book does note a major meeting of many of Flushing’s most prominent residents at the Good Citizenship League building on Sanford Avenue. Carrie Chapman Catt, twice president of NAWSA, the National American Woman’s Suffrage Association, was on stage to speak along with the Men’s League president first secretary-treasurer, Max Eastman. By this point—it was March 1910—Eastman had already become one of the movement’s most sought-after orators, male or female.
Here’s the report on the event in Flushing from the Brooklyn Star of March 17, 1910:
And another from the Brooklyn Eagle:
The 1912 membership booklet of the Men’s League—by then, the organization had grown to 500 members from the club’s initial membership in 1910 of 150—lists seven men with Queens addresses: The Reverend James H. and Robert Gilbert Ecob, father and son; Alfred and Norman F. Nelson, who were brothers, it appears, or perhaps even grandfather and grandson; Henry Richardson Linville; E.D. York; and Christopher Clark. (Note the repeats of names of a couple of those who attended the Flushing meeting two years earlier.)
Beyond their membership listing, their names did not come up in the years of research for the book, but I have subsequently managed to glean a few factoids and would welcome more information from anyone in the know. In short, all are of a piece with the League’s earliest membership: educated, prominent members of their respective communities.
Alfred Nelson and his son, Norman F., were originally from Flushing but moved on to Brookhaven, Long Island, where Nelson senior was employed at The Brookhaven National Laboratory. Norman attended Columbia University and an alumni notice gives his profession as real estate broker.
Christopher Clark, who the 1910 census lists as a broker, petitioned the New York State Asssembly on behalf of a Flushing High School project and wrote a regular column in the Flushing Daily Gazette, called the “Paragraph Pulpit,” a popular feature by various authors in the press across the country. Clark was also a committee member for the planning of the 250th anniversary of the settlement of the Township of Flushing.
E.D. York is listed in connection with numerous mining interests and specifically with the American Gold Mining Bond Company in West Virginia, along with several others partners.
Henry Richardson Linville, a Harvard grad, taught biology first at DeWitt Clinton High School in Manhattan and then at Jamaica High School. He was one of the original founders of the Teachers Union and fought for better pay and conditions for teachers.
The Reverend James H. Ecob was a respected Unitarian minister, having held pulpits in Philadelphia, Denver, and Albany.
His son, Robert Gilbert, of Flushing, was a major architect, designer of Leavenworth Prison, the Masonic Temple in Washington, D.C., and other public and semi-public buildings across the country. He died at age 49, but not before taking his life on an interesting turn. He established the first known men’s rights group: The Abolish Alimony Club. Counter-intuitive response, considering his earlier support for women and the laws not in their favor, don’t you think?
Read all about this initiative of Ecob fils in the Brooklyn press of 1927:
And in a Hamilton Ohio newspaper rendition:
The audience really liked that tidbit.
As for the event itself, the society did great advance publicity and listings were plentiful.
The New York Times touted it in its “Coming Up Today” listings:
• The author of the book “The Suffragents” discusses the history of the Men’s League for Woman Suffrage at the Greater Astoria Historical Society in Long Island City, Queens. 7 p.m. [Free]
This is from the Greater Astoria Historical Society website:
Brooke Kroeger’s The Suffragents explores how some of New York’s most powerful men formed the Men’s League for Woman Suffrage, which grew between 1909 and 1917 from 150 founding members into a force of thousands across 35 states. Kroeger, who directs New York University’s Global and Joint Program Studies, discusses and signs her new book. $5, 7 p.m., Greater Astoria Historical Society, 35-20 Broadway, Astoria, http://bit.ly/2nmr91M.
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The Suffragents won the Gold Medal in US History in the 2018 Independent Publisher Book Awards competition.
National History Day contestants: Please read this.
Upcoming in 2018: April 22: Nassau County Historical Society at the Jericho Public Library. April 29: St. George’s School Women’s Leadership Group May 12: East Hampton Library’s Tom Twomey Series (interviewing NY Times media columnist, Jim Rutenberg) May 20: Women’s Suffrage and NYC: A Centennial Celebration Symposium: Bronx Historical Society and Woodlawn Cemetery June 14: Roosevelt Island Historical Society. July 7 East Hampton Library’s Tom Twomey Series (hosting with Sara Davison the garden author and expert Charlotte M. Frieze) : August 4: Shelter Island Historical Society.