Scrapbook Essay: The Elizabeth Smith Miller and Anne Fitzhugh Miller Scrapbooks
The Historical Setting
By 1896 there were four "stars" on the woman suffrage flag. Women could vote in four western states--Wyoming, Utah, Colorado, and Idaho. The fifth "star," Washington, was not secured until 1910.
The intervening years in the suffrage movement have sometimes been called "the doldrums." Suffrage referenda in Oregon, Washington, South Dakota, and New Hampshire all failed. In New York, annual attempts to pass a state suffrage amendment were blocked in legislative committee. U.S. Congressmen repeatedly ignored the suffragists' pleas for a federal constitutional amendment. The traditional tactics of petitioning and letter writing were ineffective. Older suffrage leaders were growing weary and dying--Elizabeth Cady Stanton in 1902, Susan B. Anthony in 1906, and Julia Ward Howe in 1910. And, anti-suffragists were becoming more vocal.
Yet during these years positive changes were taking place that strengthened the movement. More women were becoming wage earners. College-educated women were generating new energy and ideas. Such women recognized practical reasons for voting to protect their particular interests and to improve society's ills. New organizations expanded the suffrage support base by experimenting with more aggressive tactics such as outdoor meetings and parades. The involvement of wealthy socialites brought greater press coverage and sorely needed funds. More men became visible supporters. Speaking tours across the United States by British suffragists deepened the bonds between "sisters" fighting for a common cause.
It was during these intervening years that Elizabeth Smith Miller and her daughter Anne became more active in the suffrage cause. They assembled scrapbooks primarily to preserve the history of the Geneva Political Equality Club--their local suffrage group. Although many of the dominant themes of women's suffrage are recorded at the local level, these issues are also present at the national and international levels and are chronicled in the scrapbooks.
Two Awesome Ladies
Between 1897 and 1911 Elizabeth Smith Miller and her daughter, Anne Fitzhugh Miller, filled seven large scrapbooks with ephemera and memorabilia related to their work with women's suffrage. The Elizabeth Smith Miller and Anne Fitzhugh Miller scrapbooks are a part of the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) Collection in the Rare Book and Special Collections Division. These scrapbooks document the activities of the Geneva Political Equality Club, which the Millers founded in 1897, as well as efforts at the state, national, and international levels to win the vote for women. They offer a unique look at the political and social atmosphere of the time as well as chronicle the efforts of two women who were major participants in the suffrage movement.
Between 1897 and 1911 Anne Fitzhugh Miller (1865-1912) and her mother, Elizabeth Smith Miller (1822-1911), filled seven large scrapbooks with convention programs, letters, press clippings, photographs, pins, ribbons, banners, and other memorabilia. The scrapbooks were created primarily to document the activities of the Geneva Political Equality Club, which the Millers founded in Geneva, New York, in 1897. They also record some of the persistent efforts of a growing number of dedicated women and men working for woman suffrage at the state, national, and international levels. These scrapbooks capture the spirit of this suffrage struggle and provide a unique opportunity to share in the personal frustrations and niggardly victories of a cause in progress.
Textual evidence suggests that Anne Fitzhugh Miller compiled these seven scrapbooks. Labels on envelopes, scrapbook notes, and most of the indexes are in her hand.
The overall organization of each volume is chronological. Except for the large first volume, which covers several years' activities, subsequent volumes span two chronological years, usually beginning with the coverage of the annual New York State Woman Suffrage Association convention in October, followed by coverage of the monthly programs of the Geneva Political Equality Club year, from November through May. Anne's attempts to group items by subject within the volumes sometimes created smaller chronologies that are not in strict chronological order.
The layout and assembly of the scrapbooks speak to the tempo of the movement that they chronicled. Even as the record was being created additional materials arrived for inclusion. Occasionally notes reference additional related material affixed later in the volume. There are also multiple blank pages scattered throughout the volumes. These characteristics suggest that parts of the scrapbooks were assembled before all the material on a given subject had been collected and that there were miscalculations in space allotments. Further, material on recurring subjects, for example, legislative hearings or convention reports, are sometimes placed in the wrong year. This placement suggests that sometimes material was collected for more than a year before it was assembled in the scrapbooks.