May 15, 2019 at the Women’s National Republican Club in New York City
Four things were especially fine about speaking to members of the Women’s National Republican Club last night: meeting so many welcoming people, dining with 20 of them, seeing their grand nine-floor facility at 3 West 51st St. with its 30 hotel rooms, pub, banquet rooms, Calvin Coolidge library and Ruth Pratt lounge (self-sustaining from 1920!); and touring the club’s “Suffragette” exhibition, curated by Meg McKeon and Maritza Bolano (not done justice in the heel-clacking iPhone video just below that I made on the spot.) The National Review published this article as the exhibition launched.
When the organizers of the even invited me to speak almost a year ago, they asked me to pay special attention to the Republicans among the Men’s League members. I was happy to oblige, but as I told the audience, even after all the research I did for the book, for the speech, I needed to ferret them out. In most cases, I wasn’t really sure who was what. Democrat, Republican, Socialist—political party played such an insignificant role in the involvement of men with the suffrage movement, it just didn’t come up in my research.
Of course, the Democrat kingpins who were close to Wilson filed into his office one after the other to protest the jailing of their wives after their arrest in Washington, D.C., And Dudley Field Malone, Wilson’s Collector for the Port of New York, trooped in to the president’s office to resign in fury when Wilson would not come around to supporting the 19th Amendment.
There was an exchange of letters between Rabbi Stephen S. Wise, a lifelong Republican, and his fellow Men’s League founder, George Foster Peabody, about whether Wise should switch allegiance and vote for Woodrow Wilson in the 2012 election. And Harriet Burton Laidlaw and her husband, James Lees Laidlaws, both suffrage leaders (he was the Men’s League’s national president) later gave up their Republican affiliation.
But none of this was in the context of the suffrage campaign. Among the suffragents, party, did not get in the way of their common cause. In my remarks, I mentioned Frederick Douglass was a Republican, and W.E.B. Du Bois who was at least until 1906. He even endorsed Wilson in 1912. I also mentioned Wise, publisher of the Ogden Mills Reid of the NY Tribune, and Judges William Wadhams and Byron S. Waite. Frank Vanderlip, the president of what is now Citibank, was an important Republican among the Men’s League notables, including attorney Arthur Livermore, husband of the founder of the National Women’s Republican Club, Henrietta Wells Livermore, an important New York suffragist, too.
Here are some snapshots.
Swag! Meg McKeon presented me with Henrietta Livermore’s why-the-vote-matters handout. Laminated, too.
For National History Day contestants. Upcoming — January 30: Iona College. February 4: Sagamore Hill. March 27: Ephemera Society of America. April 4: Avon-on-Sea Public Library, Avon CT June 4-6: “Métiers et professions des médias (XVIIIe-XXIe siècles),” Université de Lausanne. Link to past appearances.
Coming March 2020: Front Pages, Front Lines: Media and the Fight for Women’s Suffrage, Linda Steiner, Carolyn Kitch, Brooke Kroeger, eds.