Officers and National Organizers
Lucy Gwynne Branham was born in Kempsville, Virginia, and raised in Baltimore, Maryland, the daughter of a suffrage activist and a physician. A student of history, Branham graduated from Washington College in Maryland and earned a master's degree from Johns Hopkins University and a Ph.D. from Columbia University. While teaching in Florida, she received a Carnegie Hero Medal for saving a swimmer from drowning in the ocean.
Branham and her mother (also named Lucy) embraced the cause of a federal suffrage amendment despite antagonism from some members of their southern-based family. The younger Lucy worked as a NWP organizer in Utah during the elections of 1916, when the party urged voters to boycott Democratic Party candidates because of their failure to endorse woman suffrage. She was arrested in the NWP campaign of silent picketing at the White House in September 1917 and served two months in the Occoquan Workhouse and the District jail. (Her mother also was arrested for her part in the watch fire demonstrations in January 1919 and served three days in the District jail.)
In 1918 Branham joined the huge push by the NWP to lobby for passage of a federal amendment in the Senate and focused her organizing efforts in Georgia, Alabama, and Tennessee. That same year, Branham played a prominent role in the Lafayette Park demonstrations (see Detailed Chronology). During one such protest, she held aloft a message from President Woodrow Wilson before "consigning" his "empty words" into a fire, declaring, "We want action, not words." Branham was a participant in the "Prison Special" tour of 1919, during which NWP women who had been imprisoned traveled to cities around the country to talk of their experiences, often wearing prison garb when they spoke.
After the ratification of the 19th Amendment, Branham headed the Inez Milholland Memorial Fund Committee, which created an ongoing endowment fund for the NWP. She taught briefly at Columbia University, worked with the American Friends Service Committee, and became executive secretary of the American Society for Cultural Relations with Russia (1926-30). Fluent in French, Russian, and German, she worked with the World Woman's Party in Geneva and lobbied the League of Nations on equal rights issues.
In the late 1950s she and her elderly mother lived at Sewall-Belmont House while Branham served on the NWP's Congressional Committee to lobby for the Equal Rights Amendment. After her mother's death, Branham suffered a nervous breakdown and was hospitalized for several years near her home in Delaware. Alice Paul, Mabel Vernon, and Edith Goode visited her there shortly before her death in July 1966.
Elsie Hill (1883-1970)
An indefatigable and long-term organizer and officer of the NWP, Elsie Hill, of Norwalk, Connecticut, was the daughter of Republican Congressman Ebenezer J. Hill, a ranking member of the House Ways and Means Committee. She cited the positive relationship of her parents as an early example of the happy coalition possible between men and women. A graduate of Vassar College, Hill taught French at a Washington, D.C., high school. When Alice Paul and Lucy Burns became active in Washington, Hill was a leader of the D.C. Branch of the College Equal Suffrage League. She led a delegation from the League to meet with President Woodrow Wilson on the suffrage issue shortly after the Congressional Committee of NAWSA staged its huge suffrage parade in the nation's capital in March 1913.
Hill joined the Congressional Union of Woman Suffrage's executive committee in 1914-15 and headed CU organizing efforts to establish branches in South Carolina and Virginia. Paul dispatched Hill, along with other reliable organizers with exceptional managerial and speaking skills and a knack for effective fund-raising, on public tours in the fall of 1916, when the NWP targeted congressional campaigns on the issue of female suffrage. In August 1918 Hill was arrested for speaking at a Lafayette Square meeting and served a 15-day sentence. She was arrested in Boston in February 1919, where she was picketing Woodrow Wilson upon his return from Europe–and jailed again.
Hill chaired the 1921 convention in Washington, D.C., at which the NWP regrouped after the suffrage victory and decided on a course of international action and a focus on equal rights. She became the new chairman of the NWP National Council (serving until 1925) and, in 1924, was a member of the NWP deputation that visited President Calvin Coolidge to lobby on behalf of the Equal Rights Amendment. Her activism spanned the time period from the inception of the CU through the ERA era. She and Paul remained lifelong friends and shared a house in their later years. Hill's sister, Helena Hill Weed, was also active in the suffrage movement.
Often referred to as "Mrs. Lawrence Lewis" in suffrage literature, Dora Lewis was from an influential Philadelphia family. She was part of the earliest core of activists who worked with Alice Paul, Lucy Burns, and others in the 1913-15 period of internal conflict–between the members of Congressional Union of Woman Suffrage (CU) who favored more innovative methods over the more staid leaders of NAWSA. Lewis was a member of the initial executive committee of the NAWSA Congressional Committee in 1913; she remained a central figure throughout the NWP's major public demonstration campaigns.
Lewis was among the outspoken hunger-striking suffragist prisoners and she received some of the most brutal treatment at the hands of wardens at the District jail and the Occoquan Workhouse. During the infamous "Night of Terror" of November 15, 1917, at Occoquan, Lewis was hurled bodily into her cell. She was knocked unconscious and feared dead when she collided headfirst against her iron bed frame. Lewis and Lucy Burns were initial leaders of the hunger strike in Occoquan; both grew so weak that they were held down by attendants and force-fed through a tube.
Lewis was the primary speaker at a protest held in memory of Inez Milholland at Lafayette Square in Washington, D.C., on August 6, 1918. When she was dragged away and arrested before finishing her first sentences–much to the consternation of the gathered crowd–other speakers rose to take her place. One after another, they too were arrested.
Lewis began the NWP's watch fire protest when she set to flames copies of Woodrow Wilson's speeches in a demonstration New Year's Day, 1919. She was arrested for her part in the actions.
In the summer of 1919, Lewis was among NWP organizers who worked in Georgia to try (unsuccessfully) to secure that state's support in the ratification process for the 19th Amendment. When Georgia repudiated ratification, she moved on to Kentucky, which ratified the amendment in January 1920. Lewis also served as treasurer and as member of the executive committee of the NWP.
Anita Pollitzer (1894-1975)
Anita Lily Pollitzer was from Charleston, South Carolina, where her father worked as a cotton exporter and civic reformer. Her mother, Clara Guinzburg Pollitzer, was the daughter of an immigrant rabbi from Prague. Pollitzer graduated from Hunter College and taught German before marrying freelance press agent Elie Charlier Edson in 1928. Edson encouraged Pollitzer in her career and her studies.
Pollitzer also trained as an artist in New York City and studied with Alfred Stieglitz. She graduated from the School of Practical Arts at the Teachers College at Columbia University in 1916, where she was a good friend of Georgia O'Keeffe. Pollitzer also earned a master's degree in international law from Columbia University in 1933.
Pollitzer turned to the suffrage cause while at home on a vacation break from school. Her two sisters, Mabel and Carrie Pollitzer, as well as two aunts, were active in the local suffrage movement. Her family was supportive of her move to Washington after her graduation from college to work for the NWP.
Pollitzer became a stalwart of both the suffrage and equal rights movements. She traveled extensively across the country to speak, organize, and participate in picketing. As a young activist, Pollitzer was praised by her co-workers and NWP head Alice Paul for her ever-sunny disposition and effectiveness in fund-raising and speaking. As she became older, her leadership was publicly and privately challenged.
Pollitzer had a personal hand in the lobbying effort that helped secure the ratification of the 19th Amendment. In August 1920, the night before a special session of the Tennessee legislature voted on the amendment, she dined with legislator Harry T. Burn. The next day, Burn cast the critical vote making Tennessee the 36th and decisive state to ratify the amendment.
Pollitzer's career in the NWP extended well after suffrage was won. She began a long-time stint as a member of the NWP executive committee in 1921 and served as national secretary (1921-26), national congressional secretary, Congressional Committee vice-chairman, national vice-chairman (1927-38), and national chairman (1945-49). When Alice Paul proposed the introduction of the Equal Rights Amendment in Seneca Falls in 1923, Pollitzer seconded the proposal. She wrote for Equal Rights and testified repeatedly before congressional committees, working nationwide to bring the ERA successfully to the Senate calendar for the first time in 1938.
That same year, Pollitzer was influential in the passage of the National Fair Labor Standards Act and joined with Paul to form the World Woman's Party (WWP), which worked for recognition of women's equality in the United Nations charter. Pollitzer was a delegate to the San Francisco conference of the United Nations in 1945, the same year that she succeeded Paul as NWP chairman. She became vice chairman of the WWP, and she and Paul were also active together in the International Woman Suffrage Alliance. Pollitzer was honorary national chairman of the NWP from 1949 until her death. She died in Queens, New York, at the home of a caretaker.
Born in Omaha, Nebraska, Doris Stevens graduated from Oberlin College in 1911. She worked as a teacher and social worker in Ohio and Michigan before she became a regional organizer with the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA). In New York, she was friends with leading members of the Greenwich Village radical scene, including Louise Bryant and John Reed. In 1914 Stevens became a full-time organizer, as well as executive secretary, for the Congressional Union for Woman Suffrage (CU) in Washington, D.C. After working on the East Coast, including in Newport, Rhode Island, in 1913-14, she moved west to Colorado (1914), and then to California (1915). She organized the first convention of women voters at the Panama Pacific Exposition in San Francisco in 1915 and the NWP election campaign in California in 1916.
Over the years, Stevens held several important NWP leadership positions, including membership on the executive committee. She served as vice chairman of NWP's New York branch, spearheaded the NWP Women for Congress campaign in 1924, and worked in states where female candidates were among contenders for office. She also served as Alva Belmont's personal assistant.
Stevens was arrested for picketing at the White House in the summer of 1917 and served three days of her 60-day sentence at Occoquan Workhouse before receiving a pardon. She was arrested again in the NWP demonstration at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York in March 1919. Stevens published the quintessential insider account of imprisonment of NWP activists, Jailed for Freedom, in 1920.
Stevens clashed with Alice Paul and led an unsuccessful attempt to challenge the leadership of Paul's successor, Anita Pollitzer. She was part of an internal dispute over the NWP's emphasis on the World Woman's Party and international rights rather than domestic organizing. During these tensions, a dissenting faction of NWP members tried to take over party headquarters and elect their own slate of officers, but Pollitzer's claim to leadership was supported by a ruling of a federal district judge. Stevens parted ways with the NWP in 1947 and turned instead to activity in the Lucy Stone League, another women's rights organization. In the 1950s she was a supporter of McCarthyism and anti-communism. In her last years, Stevens supported the establishment of feminist studies as a legitimate field of academic inquiry in American universities.
Mabel Vernon was born in Wilmington, Delaware. Her father was editor and publisher of the Wilmington Daily Republican. Part of a large Quaker-Presbyterian family, she went to Swarthmore with Alice Paul and graduated in 1906. During her college career she won awards as a debater. Vernon taught Latin and German in a Pennsylvania high school before attending a National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) conference in Philadelphia in 1912. She later returned to school and earned a master's degree in political science from Columbia University in 1924.
At Paul's invitation, Vernon worked as a regional fund-raiser and recruiter for the Congressional Union for Woman Suffrage (CU) shortly after its formal organization in 1913. The following year she led the CU campaign against Democratic congressional candidates in Nevada along with Anne Martin. She soon headed the push to establish state branches in several western states. When the CU asked Sara Bard Field and other suffrage envoys to travel cross-country by automobile in 1915, Vernon worked as the advance person, organizing events and meetings in several major cities. She joined Alice Paul and others in testifying for woman suffrage before the House Judiciary Committee at the end of that year.
Vernon has been described by her fellow activists as the first, and perhaps the most outstanding, of NWP organizers. She was named secretary of the newly formed NWP in June 1916. The following autumn, Vernon worked as a regional organizer, doing street speaking and holding rallies to encourage citizens not to support the reelection of legislators opposed to a federal suffrage amendment. She participated in the 1919 "Prison Special" tour, which did much to dispel popular fears of NWP militancy and win sympathy for the sacrifices that NWP activists had made for the suffrage cause. During the two years leading up to the ratification of the 19th Amendment, Vernon reprised her role as a regional organizer, working especially in Georgia, Kentucky, and Delaware.
Vernon was also notable for her audacious demonstrations during major presidential addresses–calling out to President Wilson during his Independence Day speech in 1916. After Wilson's closely contested reelection in November 1916, she and other NWP activists secured front-row gallery seats for his annual address to Congress. During the speech, Vernon and the others unfurled a suffrage banner from inside Vernon's coat, an action that won publicity across the country. Vernon was also among the first group of NWP women sentenced to brief terms in the District jail when she was charged with obstructing traffic while picketing the White House in June 1917.
Vernon remained active in the NWP in the 1920s and served as its executive secretary. Deeply involved in the Women for Congress campaign, she participated in a 1926 transcontinental motor trip that encouraged support for female candidates for office. Vernon also worked for the Equal Rights Amendment. In 1930 she shifted her activism to the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom. From the 1930s through the 1950s she devoted her time to the issues of disarmament, peace, Latin American rights, and international relations. She shared a Washington, D.C., residence with her close companion and fellow activist Consuelo Reyes-Calderon, from 1951 to 1975.
Born Ruza Wenclawska in Poland, Rose Winslow was brought to the United States as an infant with her immigrant parents. Winslow's father worked as a coal miner and steelworker in Pennsylvania. She began working as a mill girl in the hosiery industry in Pittsburgh at age 11 and was also employed as a shop girl in Philadelphia, but was forced to quit work temporarily at age 19 when she contracted tuberculosis, leaving her disabled for the next two years. Winslow became a factory inspector and a trade union organizer in New York City with the National Consumers' League and the National Women's Trade Union League. In addition to her labor and suffrage activism, she was an actress and poet.
Winslow's NWP activism is emblematic of the somewhat uneasy role of working-class women and labor rights advocates in the suffrage movement, as well as the NWP's stated–but imperfectly realized–desire to reach out to women across the social spectrum. Winslow differed with Alice Paul over the former's desire for outreach to male miners and factory workers and whether the NWP program was too focused on upper- and middle-class women.
Winslow brought her speaking and organizing powers first to the Congressional Union for Woman Suffrage (CU) and then to the NWP by addressing gatherings on the streets, in union halls, and at suffrage rallies. In February 1914 she and Doris Stevens spoke at a mass meeting for working women, after which a contingent of working women marched to the White House to meet with Woodrow Wilson on suffrage rights. That same year, Winslow joined Lucy Burns as leaders of the CU campaign in California to urge voters to oppose Democratic congressional candidates. Later, she worked similarly with other organizers in Wyoming during the electoral campaigns of 1916.
Winslow, like Inez Milholland and many of the other speakers sent out by Alice Paul on extensive speaking tours, displayed great energy at the podium or on the platform, but suffered privately from periodic collapse and exhaustion. Paul became irritated with Winslow when she became incapacitated, despite her history of ill-health. Demonstrating persistency and endurance was, after all, part of the NWP strategy.
Winslow was a leading demonstrator on the picket lines in the 1917 silent protests at the White House in Washington, D. C. She subsequently served time in the District jail and the Occoquan Workhouse.
In October 1917 Winslow and Alice Paul combined forces to set examples by refusing to eat or do work while they were imprisoned. Their actions demonstrated that they were political prisoners who refused to be classified and treated as criminals by the courts for exercising their First Amendment right to public assembly. Weakened by their hunger strike, Winslow and Paul were subjected to force-feedings. Their determination helped inspire other suffragists to perform acts of civil disobedience–defying court authority to convict them on false charges and placing even more pressure on the Wilson White House to accede to suffrage demands.