Lifetime Trustee of Wilson College
After having served as an alumna trustee to Wilson College from 1913 – 1917, Patterson was named a Lifetime Trustee of the college in 1922 and served in various capacities. She was instrumental in raising funds for the endowment and in providing investment guidance. She was chair of the Honorary Degree Committee and had arranged for Carrie Chapman Catt to receive an Honorary Doctorate in 1936. Catt was forced to cancel however, due to illness.
Women and Finance
From 1927 through 1932 Patterson was the Director of the Woman’s Department of J.H. Holmes Investment Securities in Pittsburgh, PA.
“I found the work too confining,” she later said. “This time I expended after office hours reading my subject gave no time at all for other things. I went into finance because I have always liked it and also because of women. I have always been appreciative of the things women are doing and I felt this was the field in which much could be done to give them information wanted along financial lines.”
Patterson continued to provide financial guidance to women. She led a round table discussion of problems of particular significance to women for the Twentieth Century Club in 1937. The Pittsburgh Press reported on the event. "As women are said to control the percentage of property in this country, as well as to constitute the greater number of insurance beneficiaries, I think that now, more than ever before, should women learn all there is to know about finance." said Miss Patterson, long a worker in feminist activities and a leader in Pittsburgh civic enterprise. "Certainly the modern woman should know just what is going on nationally in industrial and political fields and have an intelligent understanding of those problems which directly effect woman's status."
She was a member of the Board of Directors of the First National Bank of West Newton, the bank for which both her father and brother had been president.
Campaign Manager to Sara Soffel
Patterson was the Campaign Manager for Sara M. Soffel for Allegheny County Judge in 1931. Soffel had been director of the bureau of women and children of the State Department of Labor and Industry when appointed to the bench by Governor Fisher.
Patterson said of Soffel’s candidacy, “We admit it is not difficult to recruit backing for a candidacy such as Judge Soffel presents. It was hailed by women with enthusiasm because many of them regard Judge Soffel’s career as a milestone in the progress of womanhood, but we also have ascertained that the appeal of her candidacy is just as strong with men.” Pittsburgh Press. July 29, 1931.
The Pittsburgh Press ran a sidebar describing Hannah Patterson's previous experience in working for the advancement of women. "Miss Hannah Patterson, one of the few women to receive the Distinguished Service Medal of Congress and Pittsburgh’s foremost worker for women’s ascendency, will take up her duties today as manager of Judge Sara Soffel’s campaign for election.
"Miss Patterson will be remembered as one of the country’s field marshals in the cause of woman suffrage. From the days when the ringing cry “Votes for women” were countered with the equally ringing “Women’s place is in the home,” Miss Patterson has been an ardent champion of women. “Those days are almost forgotten now,” she said. “But they were very vivid at the time.”
"As an indirect result of her championship of her sex she won the Distinguished Service Medal. As a direct result she has undertaken the management of Judge Soffel’s campaign. “Women have been my major interest, all my life,” she said. “That is why I want to see Judge Soffel kept on the bench. Understand, I do not want it simply because she is a woman, but because I have looked into her record and I find it excellent in every respect.
"She is a member of the board of trustees of Wilson College of which she is a graduate. She is on the financial committee. The campaign manager would probably reply guilty to the charge of being a “militant,” not in the sense of picketing, striking suffragists but in being a real fighter for women. Yet she is almost nun-like in her demureness. She wears simple black relieved with single slashed of white at neck and writst. She has a soft grey bob, a kind open face, honest eyes. About her there is a radiance."
An Out and Out Feminist
"Miss Patterson is an out and out feminist, her friends say. But she does not want to “promote” women simply because they are women. It was her feminist activities that resulted in her War work and in receiving the highest award the government can grant. “As far back as 1910 I commenced work for suffrage,” she said. “From that time until the War, I gave up a great deal of time and energy to enfranchisement. Of course, when the war broke out, I and all the other women interested in the suffrage movement gave over what we were doing in the interests of national defense.”
"Miss Patterson early demonstrated her skill as an organizer. Group after group of Pittsburgh women she banded in the sisterhood of the vote. Finally, she became too big for her job. She became a member of the Woman Suffrage Party of Pennsylvania and finally its chairman. Then the national organization called her. She had organized the state with the same thoroughness that a general collects every infantryman and each piece of ordnance for a big push. In 1916 she became secretary of the NAWSA. But she gave up work for the vote along with other leaders, here and abroad, even the turbulent Emmeline Pankhurst whom she knew well at one time.
"In 1917 she became secretary and resident director of the WCCND. She moved from New York to Washington to take up a task, to be rewarded with the government’s chief mark of esteem. Selection of Miss Patterson for the honor came as the unanimous choice of government officials and committeemen. Questionnaires sent out to determine which women should receive the medal brought back Miss Patterson’s name on every one."
Hannah Patterson maintained an interest in world affairs as well as concern for the betterment of the Pittsburgh region.
She was vice-president of the Pittsburgh branch of the Foreign Policy Association in 1933. The president of the FPA at that time was Dr. Thomas S. Baker, president of Carnegie Institute of Technology [now Carnegie Mellon University].
She was also 1st Vice-chairman of the Citizens League of Allegheny County. The purposes of the league echoed the strategy of the suffrage movement, “To establish good government in Pittsburgh and Allegheny County. To organize the citizens of every voting district into an aggressive unit to secure the election of candidates who can be depended upon to carry out the principles of efficiency and economy in public office.”
Chairman Johnston stated “Regardless of the moral issues involved, our investigation has shown that the administration of modern municipal government has no room for the spoils system. Graft and corruption in the operation of city government is out of date. Taxpayers of all classes are sick and tired of the wasteful and inefficient methods and abuses which have grown out of and are a part of the spoils system. The time has come to change all this. The time has come to replace all inefficiency with modern methods of honesty, efficiency and economy.”
Push to Elect Hannah Patterson to Congress
Patterson ran unsuccessfully for City Council in Pittsburgh in 1935 saying, "I have lived in Pittsburgh all my life, know its problems and its people. A great percentage of Pittsburghers are women who have had no representation in Council. They should have a voice. That's why I'm running."
Then in January 1936, The Pittsburgh Press reported "An effort was made to elect Miss Hannah J. Patterson to Congress, with women active in Pittsburgh women’s clubs among the promoters was started today. Miss Patterson lives in the Fourteenth Ward in the 33rd Congressional District by Henry Ellenbogen, Democrat. In the city-county campaign of 1933 she was the executive secretary of the Citizens League which supported a slate of candidates for Republican nominations including Councilman P.J. McArdle for Mayor. She was one of the women who helped form the independent Republican State ticket but declined to function under the direction of the regular Republican organization.
"They said Miss Patterson has not consented to make an active campaign for the nomination but believe she will enter the field if a situation satisfactory to her develops."
In June, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported, "The closest approach to slating a woman for a Congressional nomination was in the Republican organization’s committee for the 33rd Congressional District committee. Miss Hannah J. Patterson received substantial support for indorsement for the Congressional nomination, but the plum was picked by Edward O. Tabor. Allegheny County women have not progressed much since 1920, the year suffrage came to them, in the direction of office holding. There are now two women judges in the County Court, Miss Sara Soffel and Mrs. Lois D. McBride.
"Miss Patterson, a veteran of dozens of political wars and campaigns was considered as the party’s harmony candidate for Congress before the April primary but withdrew in favor of Edward O. Tabor present nominee against Congressman Henry Ellenbogen, Democrat."
Illness and Death
Hannah Patterson died on August 20, 1937 after several weeks of illness at West Penn Hospital in Pittsburgh. She had been carrying on her work from her hospital bed, optimistic about her recovery. In her role as Trustee, she had been corresponding with Wilson College President Paul Swain Havens about a candidate for the position of Business Manager.
On July 13, Patterson wrote that she was impressed with the credentials of the candidate and would agree with the decision of the committee. She acknowleged that committee member, Mr. Bartle, had told her that the committee would not be content without her meeting him. Patterson joked "Have I made of myself such an ogre! Indeed, I hope not."
She then revealed that she was in the hospital "in the hope that at last we have discovered my trouble, which is slight but annoying, and that here I shall get rid of it."
She agreed to meet the candidate in the hospital if Havens insists. Patterson then explained her ailment in more detail, "One's friends are always concerned when one finds it necessary to go to a hospital so perhaps I should say that I have a low grade infection which involves my entire chest. It is not serious but could easily become so, hence my incarceration."
Havens remarked on July 15, "I am very sorry to know that you are in the hospital and will have to be there for some days to come; but it is good to know that you consider the ailment a minor one." He went on to say that he and all of the hiring committee felt it very important that she meet personally with the candidate.
Hannah Patterson passed away from spinal meningitis one month later. By World War II, penicillin was widely used to successfully treat meningitis.