The Campaign in Pennsylvania in 1913

Giant Scranton Suffrage Parade with Hannah Patterson and Jennie Bradley Roessing

Patterson in front page news of Scranton Labor Day Parade of 4,000 marchers featuring suffragists

Walter McNichols

A New Political Climate

The political climate had changed in Pennsylvania in November 1912 when Democrats and Progressives gained 5 state senate seats and 34 state house seats, making it an opportune time to work for the Enabling Act to start the process to amend the Pennsylvania constitution for a suffrage amendment.

Once the Pittsburgh suffragists had taken over the leadership of the Pennsylvania Woman Suffrage Association and forced the move of the State Headquarters from Philadelphia to Harrisburg, Jennie Bradley Roessing and Hannah Patterson made daily visits to legislators in an attempt to build support for the suffrage resolution in both the state house and senate. 

The Judiciary Committee of the house reported the measure out on January 29. The bill came up for the first reading on February 3rd and was passed on February 5th by a vote of 131 to 70. Virtually every straight up Progressive voted for it. In the negative were 27 Democrats and “organization” Republicans (meaning they supported industry and business interests). The North American reported, “The forces of special privilege and toryism, flanked by the subtle influence of the liquor interests, were against the resolution, and it speaks volumes for the strength of the Progressive movement in this state that, in spite of this opposition, the vote in favor of the resolution should have been in the ratio of two to one.”

In the State Senate, Patterson and Roessing started off with the support of nine senators out of 50. They needed 26 and had until April 25th to try to get a majority. On January 28, a Joint Resolution proposing an amendment to the constitution of PA was introduced into the state senate.

Pink Tea, Tutti-Frutti Fellows

An example of what the suffragists were up against came from Senator Herbst of Berks County: I am irrevocably and conscientiously opposed to Woman Suffrage. It obliterates femininity and tends to destroy the home. I reserve the right to interpret the Democratic platform for myself, having voted for the Democratic ticket during the past 34 years at every general election, instead of having it interpreted for me by Yellow Socialistic Journals, or pink tea, tutti-frutti fellows who only vote when the Democratic ticket suits their fastidious taste. I was nominated by Democrats at an open primary before the Democratic State Convention, with no pledge to support ephemeral fads, new-fangled theories, or socialistic fancies. The quarrel of most women seeking suffrage is not with men, but with the Almighty for not creating them men. The Puritanical idea that society can be moralized by State laws, that men and women can be made good by force, is contrary to natural law, and responsible for bad errors in our law-making philosophy." Legislative Journal p 2071

Senator Walter McNichols Tries to Break his Promise

On April 11, 1913, The Scranton Truth ran the headline, "McNichols Promised to Vote for Woman’s Suffrage, Statement Made by Mrs. Maxwell Chapman". "If he votes against amendment when it comes up for consideration on April 22, he will break word he gave to women, says leader of Equal Franchise League. “This fuss has been caused by too many women buttonholing us at Harrisburg while our minds are racked with thoughts of important legislation. We tell them anything to get rid of them, not realizing that all we say is to be sent broadcast,” explained the senator who returned to Harrisburg this morning."

"The trouble is that the senator didn’t understand the suffrage question nor the women back of it,” said Mrs. Chapman. ”When the women came flocking to him he thought all he had to do was to pat them on the back and send them back to the sewing circles. He is finding out now that they have more than sewing-room pluck in their fight for the suffrage cause.

"Proudly the women of the league in Scranton are today talking about the hearty and unqualified endorsement given to the movement by Congressman John. R. Farr. My Dear Mrs. Chapman: I have always been in favor of woman’s suffrage and I assure you that it will be a great pleasure for me to do what I can in favor of a Constitutional amendment concerning which you wrote. It is a pleasure to note the interest shown in the matter by the women of my district. I do not know of any argument favorable to rights of men to vote does not apply equally to women and I know that their influence will always be exercised for the betterment of human conditions."

Nevertheless, by early April the suffragists had 22 of the necessary 26 votes. Just days before the vote they had 25. And then, “Hannah Patterson learned that Republican State Senator Walter McNichols of Lackawanna County, a Penrose man, had agreed to vote for the bill if he received a bona fide resolution from the American Federation of Labor’s Central Labor Union of Scranton. McNichols insisted however that a resolution urging him to support the suffrage measure had been repudiated by the union’s membership. Patterson called Mrs. Maxwell Chapman, president of the Scranton suffrage organization, to urge her to contact the union’s president. Chapman located Stephen McDonald, the union’s president at a union meeting in New Jersey. McDonald knew that McNichols understood labor’s position on the issue. The union had been in unanimous support of suffrage since 1910. Angry with the senator’s refusal to accept his union’s resolution, McDonald agreed to go to Harrisburg immediately.

Reporters had already written their stories of the defeat of the suffrage resolution when Roessing, Patterson and Chapman escorted McDonald to the senate. McDonald went directly to McNichols desk and presented him with a re-adopted union suffrage resolution from the Central Labor Organization and “advised” McNichols to vote for the enabling act. The CLO had 70,000 members and McNichols was described as “turning white, rose, and announced that although he had told the conferees he would vote against it, he had just heard from his constituents, and was obliged to change his vote.” The enabling act passed the senate 26 to 24 and then quickly passed in the house.

The state legislature would need to repeat the whole process again in early 1915 in order to place the suffrage amendment on the November ballot. There was less doubt that it would pass the legislature of 1915. Penrose assured Mrs. Roessing that she would have no trouble getting the bill through its second passage. Each of the three major parties wrote a suffrage plank into the state platform.

Whirlwind Campaign Hannah Patterson prepared to march in Washington DC in 1913 Hannah Patterson participates in DC Suffrage Parade Erie, Pennsylvania is site of first suffrage parade in state Erie suffrage parade continued

Whirlwind Suffrage Campaign to Build Awareness

Even before the passage of the enabling act, Roessing and Patterson were working to build awareness and support for suffrage. Hannah Patterson was eager to implement the Woman Suffrage Party Plan to organize the state into legislative districts. She used Allegheny County as a pilot test.

She conducted what was described as a “Whirlwind Suffrage Campaign” spending six weeks to “perfect” the Allegheny County Woman Suffrage Party. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported on January 15, 1913, “The perfecting of the organization of the Woman Suffrage Party in Allegheny County is the aim of the six-week series of whirlwind meetings which the leaders are planning throughout the 12 legislative districts. The work of the leaders under the direction of Miss Hannah J. Patterson, Chairman of the Woman Suffrage Party of Allegheny county will be educational as well as organizing.” After this effort, Patterson repeated the process of organization across nearly every county in the state. For example, the Reading Times reported in April that Patterson was meeting with Mrs. J.C. Wrenshall to implement the plan in which “the entire state could be covered in a year and at least a nucleus of the suffrage organization formed in each county.” Reading Times April 22, 1913.

They took pains to tailor the message and the type of publicity that would resonate with each distinctive community of the state. Different tactics and messages were required for different regions. Roessing supported showy parades and open-air meetings in urban areas while preferring less ostentatious events in conservative rural areas. Suffrage pamphlets were written to provide logical arguments that would appeal to every constituency from labor unions, churchgoers, farm families, as well as the concerns of the various ethnic groups in the state. They argued on behalf of suffrage in terms of justice as well as a means of addressing the social concerns of the era.

Patterson and Roessing March in the 1913 Washington Suffrage Parade

Patterson and Roessing also made time to join the famous Suffrage Parade in Washington DC the day before Woodrow Wilson’s inauguration: “In the great suffragette demonstration on the occasion of the inauguration of President Wilson, Pittsburgh suffragettes will be in line. Local supporters of the cause of women’s rights also will be garbed in gowns of the purest white, they will wear cockade hats and carry a huge banner of brilliant blue satin which, it is asserted, will be bound to make President Wilson and the balance of Washington’s officialdom sit up and take notice. The Democratic inaugural hosts have ruled that women cannot participate in the inaugural parade, so the women suffragists will parade alone. Will the inaugural parade rank in the same high division as the suffragette parade? The women think not. The Pittsburgh suffragettes who will be participants are Mrs. Frank M. Roessing who is president of the Pennsylvania Suffrage Association; Mrs. John O. Miller, Miss Hannah J. Patterson, Miss Mary Bakewell and Miss Eliza Kennedy, Miss Mary Cree Porter.” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette February 13, 1913.

First Pennsylvania Suffrage Parade in Erie, PA

In July, Roessing and Patterson participated in the first suffrage parade organized in the state. Pittsburgh The Post-Gazette reported, “Mrs. Frank M. Roessing, president of the PWSA, will carry the blue and gold state banner in the suffrage division of the parade in connection with the Perry Centennial activities in Erie, Pa, next Tuesday. She will be assisted by Mrs. Samuel Semple of Titusville, president of the State Federation of PA Women, and Mrs. H. Neely Fleming, president of the Erie Equal Franchise Association. Elaborate preparations are being made for the affair, which will be held on the Women and Children’s Day of the celebration. Suffragists will gather from all parts of the state, as this will be the first suffrage parade held in Pennsylvania.” Hannah Patterson gave a speech at the banquet following the parade.

Scranton Suffrage Parade

Suffragists March in the Scranton Labor Day Parade

Plans were made for a large suffrage division to march in the annual Scranton Labor Day parade in September.

The Times Tribune reported on August 16, 1913, "Equal Franchise League to Parade on Labor Day. A plan of campaign is now on throughout the state with the object in view of increasing the membership of the organization. The work so far has met with success. In towns or counties in the state where the membership is not as large as it should be organizers will be sent to those sections in order to build them up. It is hoped that the work of the organizers will be so successful that a large delegation can be sent to Harrisburg the next term of the legislature in order to place their case before the legislators in such a clear way that the law makers will grant the women of Pennsylvania the privileges of equal franchise.

"The Woman Suffrage Party is an organization which seeks to unite and utilize through political channels the entire equal suffrage force in the county of Lackawanna. Its aim is to secure the submission of a woman suffrage amendment to the state constitution and its adoption at the polls. To this end it is proposed:

"To diffuse among voters and non-voters a wider knowledge and deeper understanding of the underlying justice and expedience of woman’s demand for the ballot.

"To enlist the active cooperation of men and women by means of a systematic vigorous educational campaign.

"To conduct a non-partisan campaign with the object of securing the pledges of all candidates for the legislature to vote in favor of the submission of the woman suffrage amendment to hold assembly district county and city conventions when deemed expedient to nominate candidates for the legislature and secure a place on the official ballot by petition, should an adverse attitude of the legislature render such action necessary.

"The women of Pennsylvania will not be able to vote until a bill authorizing an amendment to the state constitution has passed the legislature of 1915 and the amendment has been ratified by a majority vote at the polls. To meet this situation, the Woman Suffrage Party proposed to conduct a constructive, systematic, thorough campaign in the county of Lackawanna.

"The Woman Suffrage Party is organized by districts in imitation of the plan followed by political parties that there is a decided public opinion in their constituencies which demands suffrage for women. Pennsylvania must be converted its intelligence must be convinced of the reasonableness of our demand. Its conscience must be touched by the needs of women and it must be made to feel that the enfranchisement of women is only another battle in the world’s long struggle for human freedom."

In a follow-up article on September 1, The Times Tribune's front page story was headlined, "4000 in Labor’s Parade. Interesting feature was the suffrage division. Mayor rode in carriage with guests of honor."

"Close to 4,000 men and women marched in a bid Labor Day parade through the central city this morning. Most of the city’s industrial life was represented in one form or another. The parade was the annual demonstration of the Central Labor union.

"One of the most interesting features of the parade was an entire suffragist division in which there were several hundred men, women and children. Quite the most important innovation and popular division in the big parade were the women – composed of delegations that advocate votes for women. there were some 350 of them – Everybody wore white dresses trimmed with yellow ribbons on which was printed the slogan of the suffragists; “Votes for Women.”

"The big room was alive and pulsating with girls and women. And they weren’t the wrinkled and disgruntled old maids that have been pictured as the only ones interested in equal suffrage. They were good healthy American girls and women with clear complexions, bright eyes and intelligent heads. They are women who know what they want and are going to get it. Not the least important feature of the women’s division was the presence of about a hundred men, who marched with “Vote for Women” ribbons on the hats not a bit afraid or ashamed."

The Tribune Republican also reported on the parade, "An interesting section will be that devoted to the baby carriage brigade. The order of march for the woman suffrage division was given yesterday by Mrs. Chapman as follows: The marshal, Mrs. Gregor Horn and her aid, Lawrence’s band, Mrs. Frank M. Roessing, president of the Woman Suffrage Association of Pennsylvania with banner; State Chairman Woman Suffrage Party, Miss Hannah J. Patterson, … , Womans Journal float filled with girl “newsies”, Allegory “Watch Suffrage Grow”, Woman’s Christian Temperance Union float, Members of Woman's Christian Temperance Union en masse, Baby Carriage Brigade, Loyal Temperance Legion, Prohibition Party members and float, Socialist Party delegation, Progressive Party officials, Polish National Women’s association delegation, Woman’s auxiliary of the Young Men's Hebrew Association, automobiles containing doctors, lawyers and dentists."

Boies Penrose at York Fair

Senator Boies Penrose Confronted by Patterson and Roessing at York Fair

The Adams County Independent newspaper reported on October 17, 1913 that Boies Penrose was not only drowned out by noise at the York County Fair but was also confronted by suffragists.

"Boies at York Fair competes with noise. Penrose is poor attraction compared with other midway shows. Good Roads his theme. “Votes for Women” advocates remind him of his declarations for suffrage. Fifty thousand persons attended the York fair last Thursday despite the threatening weather and the presence of Boies Penrose. The crowd fell 20,000 short of the usual attendance on “big Thursday.” It was political day and Senator Penrose and Governor Tener were here as guests of the fair association. Both made speeches.

"Despite the thousands of persons on the grounds, not more than 500 stuck around the bandstand to hear Penrose tell part of what he knows of the good roads project in Pennsylvania. Of these half were women waiting to see what the officers of the Pennsylvania Woman’s Suffrage Association would do to Penrose when he finished.

"When Penrose descended the narrow stairs from the stand he found his way blocked by Mrs. Frank M. Roessing of Pittsburgh, president of the association, and Miss Hannah J. Patterson, of Pittsburgh, chairman of the Woman’s Suffrage Party. While the crowd listened more eagerly than when Penrose was making his address Mrs. Roessing informed the senator that there are rumors that he is not overeager to support the federal woman’s suffrage amendment in Congress, reminded him of this declarations in favor of suffrage (made when he thought the state ssenate would defeat it anyway) and warned him that if he should dodge the issue by absenting himself at the critical time it would be counted as a vote against the woman. Penrose and Tener paid a visit to the suffragists’ fair booth before leaving the grounds."

Suffrage plan to rock the state

Suffrage Plan to Rock this City

By late 1913, Hannah Patterson was ready to implement her suffrage plans. The Pittsburgh Daily Post on October 28, reported on the executive meeting of state suffrage officers that occurred before the state convention. A major issue was how to raise the large sums of money needed to conduct the ambitious state-wide campaign.

The headline ran "Suffrage Plan is Arranged to Rock This City. Fighting program drawn up for state convention that opens today. Slight hitch over money. Plan to pass the hat urged instead of clubs charging dues"

"It was all slated yesterday – the line of the woman suffrage fight, a campaign to rock Pittsburgh and all the state. A program of unparalleled activit and intensity was mapped out. A dozen of the leaders met behind closed doors. Later in the afternoon more met in the assembly room in the Jenkins Arcade. The course outlined is to be brought before the state convention of the Pennsylvania Woman Suffrage Association opening today.

"The fire of the woman suffrage forces is to be concentrated on their own sex to win over many thousands of women to make a demonstration of such vast numbers that Pennsylvania will be convinced most women want the ballot. For Pittsburgh this signals a series of meetings in homes throughout the city – an organization to be formed in every election district – automobiles decorated with suffrage pennants to rush campaign workers hither and yon – moving picture shows to be mustered into service in spreading suffrage arguments – literature to be distributed broadcast at all outings next summer – culminating in a tremendous parade of Pittsburgh women exceeding if possible the numbers in Washington last spring and not to be surpassed by the Philadelphia procession scheduled for next May 9.

“What I would like to know,” modestly queried Mrs. John C. Wrenshall of Reading, delegate from Berks county, “is how we are to raise the money for all this?”

“That question,” smiled Miss Hannah J. Patterson, president of the Woman Suffrage Party, “Is to be determined by the convention. However,” she added, “Get the men and you’ll get the money,.” Miss Patterson presided over the afternoon meeting. “We must get women past the stage of ridicule among family members and immediate acquaintances.”

"Those in the meeting behind closed doors included these officers of the Pennsylvania Woman Suffrage Association; Mrs. FMR, Pgh, Pres.; Mrs. William L. Hull, Swarthmore; Miss Lida Stokes Adams, Philadelphia; Ruth A. Deeter, Harrisburg; Miss Mary E. Bakewell, Sewickley, VP; Mrs. Rachel Foster Avery, Honorary President; Miss Jane Campbell, Germantown, national committeeman; Miss Mary Jackson Norcross, Carlisle, recording secretary; Mrs. John O. Miller, Pittsburgh; Corresponding secretary; Mrs. Robert K. Young, Wellsboro, treasurer; Mrs. Ellen Price, Philadelphia, and Miss Hannah J. Patterson, Pittsburgh, auditors.

"Some of these officers are also active in the younger organization formed two years ago as the Woman Suffrage Party. It calls for no membership dues, its doors are thrown wide open to all and its adherents contended yesterday that it is the more likely means of swelling the suffrage ranks. “It’s numbers we want,” emphasized Mrs. Chapman.

Differing Views

“I find,” declared Miss Bakewell, who is western district vice-president of the Pennsylvania Woman Suffrage Association, “that the organization paying dues is most favored.” She spoke for those who had taken a stand in the private conference favoring suffrage clubs in which each member paid a uniform share of expense. Such a club is the Equal Franchise Federation, affiliated with the Pennsylvania Woman Suffrage Association, whose forty-fifth annual convention begins here today.

"Miss Patterson replied to Miss Bakewell: “I feel the best possible suffrage organization is the Woman Suffrage Party.” Where at gloved hands applauded.

"Miss Patterson then produced three typewritten pages of a plan to make the most impressive demand for the ballot in Pennsylvania by organizing the Woman Suffrage Party in every precinct, township, borough, county and legislative district. For news of war it was proposed to take collections at meetings, distribute mite boxes and solicit contributions The impression prevailed last night that this slate will go through the convention."

PA Suffrage Party Plan Details

Patterson Plans State Organization along Legislative District Lines

The Pittsburgh Daily Post covered the convention in an article on October 29th. "The State Convention held at the Fort Pitt Hotel in Pittsburgh. Welcome by Mrs. Lucy Kennedy Miller, president of the Equal Franchise Federation of WP. “You are doubly welcome for this is the second time that the state organization has been our guest. We are not going to waste time; every delegate present know her part and will do it. I think this convention will be the greatest ever held for the cause in this state.”

"The organization of the suffrage movement into legislative districts was provided for in the revision by amendments proposed by Miss Hannah J. Patterson, state chairman of county organization."

Back in December 1912, Alice Paul had been appointed chairman of the Congressional Committee of the National American Woman Suffrage Association. Also included on the committee were Lucy Burns, Crystal Benedict, Mary Beard and Dora Lewis. In 1913 this group organized the Congressional Union affiliated with NAWSA. NAWSA had a longstanding rule that no affiliate could enter into work in a state without the permission of the state association. The Congressional Union ignored that rule. They stepped into the Pennsylvania campaign in order to organize their own campaign. NAWSA leadership attempted to find a compromise which was unsuccessful.

In April 1913, Dora Lewis had a paid organizer in Pennsylvania organizing the state by Congressional districts. This esulted in confusion as to who was in charge. There would be one state chairman and 38 congressional district chairmen. But the Woman Suffrage Party had been created as the plan by which state referenda were to be won; its cornerstone was the legislative district. Its organization and methods were aimed at two vitally important groups – the state politicians and the women in small communities. The congressional district plan – imposed upon the legislative district plan – would shift the emphasis to a congressional delegation of thirty-eight men and to a few key women throughout the state. (see Krone).

Louis Post, Assistant Secretary of Labor, Leonora O'Reilly, WTUL Address Suffrage Mass Meeting

One of the most important constituencies in support of suffrage was organized labor. Louis F. Post, assistant secretary of labor and Leonora O'Reilly of the Women’s Trades Union League were the speakers at the mass meetings in Old City Hall. Mr. Post said that woman must be enfranchised if the progress of the US is to continue and a deplorable national situation prevented. “The time has passed when the question is that of enfranchising the women of the country. The question really is, what the women are going to do with their ballot. Although he is not making threats, he called attention to industrial conditions and said it would not surprise him if an explosion took place. Therefore it will be the duty of women, immediately on being enfranchised, to determine the future of the US by legislation for the working man, woman and child which will right their wrongs and prevent an explosion.

“Many do not know it, but all women are citizens. A good citizen should be a voter. How can any mother bring up her boy to an appreciation of good citizenship if she is not a good citizen?” Mrs. O’Reilly: “The votes-for-women movement and the industrial struggle must go on together. The first thing women would do if given the vote would be to pass a universal child labor law.”

Pittsburgh Outraises Philadelphia 

As in the executive meeting before the start of the convention, money was a big issue at the regular meeting. The budget was $8,000 the previous year and the goal was $50,000 for the current year.

"The largest pledge given was that of the Equal Franchise Federation of Pittsburgh, the president, Mrs. John O. Miller, announcing its contribution of $5,000. Women all over the room gasped for breath and then came a storm of applause. Equal Franchise Association of Philadelphia gave $250. $500 from Delaware County League including Lansdowne, Swarthmore and Chester. $100 Carlisle Woman Suffrage Club.

"The size of the budget which was explained in detail by the president, Jennie Bradley Roessing, at the afternoon session, almost took away the breath of the delegates; but as they realized the importance of every item their faces took on an expression of resolution and the discussion which followed aroused not one word of protest but instead emphasized the responsibility of working this year as never before or losing what has already been gained and having to start all over again.

Mrs. Harvey of Wilkes-Barre pointed out, “The cause of woman suffrage is even greater than that of foreign missions at this present time. Don’t you remember how two years ago we women raised $1,000,000 in the jubilee of women’s organized effort for foreign missions? And when Billy Sunday came to Wilkes-Barre he demanded a guarantee of $10,000 and we had no difficulty in raising it. We can raise this budget.”

Mrs. Bedford of Delaware County said, “We don’t have to face the heroism of the women of half a century ago who worked for a cause which at that time seemed hopeless. We face a certainty. But if we don’t support the budget we lose out. Tell me what is the proportion asked of Delaware County and I will guarantee to raise it.”

On November 2, 1913, Pittsburgh Daily Post also covered the convention. "The constitutional amendment to include in the state organization every society, which indorses woman suffrage is considered one of the biggest things accomplished by the annual convention of the Pennsylvania Woman Suffrage Association held in Pittsburgh last week. This was for the benefit of any organization that wishes to ally itself with the suffrage cause. It will open the way for the women of the G.A.R. who have always been interested; for home missionary societies and other church organizations; for culture clubs and others, educational and civic, as well as the Christian Temperance Union and State granges.

"The most important thing, however, in eyes of the president, Mrs. Frank M. Roessing is the realization by the women of the association of the necessity of having money to conduct the campaign the next two years. They showed their readiness to undertake the accumulation of a fund four times as large as any they have ever endeavored to collect before. Their confidence in their ability to get the money is most encouraging.

"The adoption of the new constitution is said by many delegates to preclude the chances of anyone but Mrs. Roessing being elected the next president of the organization. Article five of the new constitution provides that at each alternate convention, beginning 1913, officers shall be elected for the ensuing two years. While there is a possibility of more candidates, Mrs. Roessing seems to have the field to herself."

"The spirit of the convention showed that the suffragists are organizing to win. The two great means, the Woman Suffrage Association and the Woman Suffrage Party, are working together in perfect harmony. But sentiment is steadily growing in favor of the party which it is believed, will be more immediate and direct than the older initiatory method of clubs. The Woman Suffrage Party is to be patterned on the modern male political parties, to be headed by a state committee and county chairmen and to be graded down to the wards and precincts so that every supporter of suffrage may be in close touch with the state organization."

The Allentown Democrat on November 6 made a point of noting the progress being made, saying, "That four of the state political parties sent special greetings to the 45th annual convention of the Pennsylvania Woman Suffrage Association recently held in Pittsburgh, indicated the changed status of the suffrage movement in the state. Democratic, Washington, Socialist and Prohibition parties."

PA Campaign 1913