“We the people of the United States.” Which ‘We the people’? The women were not included.”
—Lucy Stone, 1853
As Boston suffragist Lucy Stone so aptly pointed out, women—and all others besides white males—were left out of the US Constitution with no right to vote or participate in government. Stone dedicated her life to procuring women’s suffrage, and countless others—in Boston and across the nation—also joined the cause by organizing meetings, delivering speeches, and distributing literature for suffrage. They marched, picketed, set watchfires, were arrested, and went on hunger strikes to call attention to their cause, hoping to open minds and move hearts.
To celebrate the centennial of the passage of the 19th amendment, the Boston Women’s Heritage Trail created this tour as a testament to those of this historic city who played a part in the decades-long quest for equality at the ballot box. Explore the story and, using this map as your guide, discover the sites in Boston that helped put women in the “We the People” of the Constitution.
Begins: Massachusetts State House—where movement leaders are honored, and where picketing suffragists were arrested and jailed in 1919.
Massachusetts State House
24 Beacon Street
Hear Us, a bas relief mural by Sheila Levrant de Bretteville and Susan Sellars, 1996 is on the Second Floor South, outside Doric Hall.
In 1996, after recognizing that the State House art collection was sorely lacking in images of women, the Massachusetts legislature authorized a work of art to honor the contributions of women to public life in Massachusetts. Installed just outside Doric Hall, the work depicts six women, five of whom were actively involved in the suffrage movement: Florence Luscomb (1887-1985); Mary Kenney O’Sullivan (1864-1943); Sarah Parker Remond (1814-1894); Josephine St. Pierre Ruffin (1842-1924; see #12); and Lucy Stone (1818-1893; see #2, 9, 18, 21).
Florence Luscomb, one of the first women to graduate from MIT with a degree in architecture, was a leading Massachusetts suffragist, organizing events, selling journals, and going on the lecture circuit. Luscomb was also a leader in the peace movement, in campaigns for prison reform and factory safety and, eventually, an early activist against the Vietnam War. She served as executive secretary of the Boston Equal Suffrage Association for Good Government. (BESAGG) (see Stop #20).
Mary Kenney O’Sullivan worked as a bookbinder in Missouri and Illinois before becoming a full-time labor organizer. When she moved to Boston, she and her husband both worked and lived for a time at Denison House, a settlement house on Tyler Street. In 1903, she was one of the principal founders of the National Women’s Trade Union League. A strong supporter of woman suffrage, she wrote a circular which was distributed by the National American Woman Suffrage Association called “Why Working Women Need the Vote,” arguing that if women had the right to vote they would get equal pay for equal work.
Sarah Parker Remond, primarily known as a dynamic abolitionist lecturer, also campaigned for woman suffrage. Born in Salem to a family committed to abolition, Remond was thrown out of the Howard Athenaeum after refusing to sit in segregated seating, and later brought a successful suit against the theater. After the Civil War, Remond campaigned for the vote on behalf of women and African Americans. Eventually she became a doctor, practicing in Florence, Italy, for twenty years.
Remond’s sister, Caroline Remond Putnam (1826-1908), attended the founding meeting of the Massachusetts Woman Suffrage Association, served on its executive board, and was an active member the New England Women’s Club. She joined her sister as an expatriate in Italy.
The sixth woman in the mural, Dorothea Dix (1802-1887), was an activist for the mentally ill and the Superintendent of Nurses during the Civil War.
Nurses Hall, Clara Barton Marker
Clara Barton (1821-1912) was a pioneering nurse during the Civil War when she became known as the “Angel of the Battlefield.” After the war, she founded and ran the Office of Missing Soldiers and, in 1881, established the American Red Cross. She was a strong supporter of the woman suffrage movement, perhaps because of experiences in her early life, including an instance when she resigned from a teaching job when the school hired a man at twice her salary. Another instance of unfair treatment occurred when she worked for the U.S. Patent Office. After initially earning the same salary as the men in the office, her position and pay were later reduced because her boss did not believe women should work in government.
Front steps, Beacon Street, Arrest of Suffragists, February 24, 1919
President Woodrow Wilson arrived in Boston by ship on February 23, 1919, on his return from the Paris Peace Conference at the end of World War I. The City of Boston planned a huge parade to welcome him the next day. Although President Wilson had come out in favor of the vote for women, people working for woman suffrage thought he was not doing enough to convince members of Congress to make it happen. Members of the National Woman’s Party (NWP) decided to picket in front of the viewing stand at the State House where the parade would pass. The police arrived, warning the picketing women to leave. When they refused, nineteen women, including Betty Gram Swing (see #14), were arrested and taken to jail.
Katharine Morey (1891-?), prominent along with her mother Agnes Morey (1869-1924) in the leadership of the Massachusetts branch of the NWP, was arrested here as well and sentenced to eight days in jail. Previously, in 1917, she was among the first women jailed in Washington D.C. for picketing the White House. Her mother, who had participated in the “Suffrage Special” tour, an attempt to defeat President Wilson’s 1916 bid for reelection, also was arrested and served time in the notorious Occoquan Workhouse for demonstrating in front of the White House.
5 Park Street
The offices of the Woman’s Journal, the influential weekly newspaper of the American Woman Suffrage Association, were in a previous building at this site. Founded in 1870 by Lucy Stone and her husband, Henry Blackwell, the Journal chose office space as close to the seat of power — the State House — as possible. Stone petitioned the legislature annually for woman suffrage. In 1879 she testified: “In this very State House, how often have women looked down from the gallery while our lawmakers voted down our rights, and heard them say, ‘half an hour is time enough to waste on it…’ [and then] turn eagerly to consider such a question as what shall be the size of a barrel of cranberries…[taking] plenty of time to consider that.”
Parkman Bandstand, Boston, MA
Suffrage watchfires were initiated by suffragists in Washington, D.C. who burned copies of President Wilson’s speeches in front of the White House beginning in early January 1919. Members of the National Woman’s Party (NWP) used the technique in Boston on the afternoon of February 24, 1919, after the arrest of other NWP women who were picketing President Wilson in front of the Massachusetts State House. The suffragists staged a watchfire at the Parkman Bandstand on Boston Common, burning papers representing Wilson’s speech and giving speeches of their own. The police arrested three of the women and took them to jail to join those who had been arrested at the State House earlier that morning.
Wilbur Theatre, 246 Tremont Street
On March 9-10, 1919, the “Prison Special,” a chartered train tour organized by National Woman’s Party suffragists, arrived in Boston. Nicknamed the “Democracy Limited,” it had started in February from Washington D.C. and traveled throughout much of the United States. The twenty-six suffragists aboard the train had all been imprisoned for picketing. At each stop, they spoke to large crowds about their prison experiences, usually in prison garb. In Boston, they appeared at the six-year old Wilbur Theater where they were joined by the suffragists who had been recently released from the Charles Street Jail for picketing President Wilson’s parade in front of the Massachusetts State House in Boston.
1 Hamilton Place
Bazaars were a way to raise money for suffrage activities. At least two were held in Boston, one in 1870 and one in 1871. The 1871 bazaar, one of the largest, was held from December 11 to 21 at the Music Hall (now the Orpheum Theatre) when Julia Ward Howe (see #17) was president of the Woman Suffrage Bazaar Association. The ten-day fair featured three days of entertainment. Items for sale included clothing, books, stationery, and confections. Suffrage organizations from other towns in Massachusetts participated and had tables with informational brochures, raising between eight and nine thousand dollars.
Massachusetts Woman Suffrage Association
100 Tremont Street
Horticultural Hall at 100 Tremont Street (building demolished 1901)
There were many organizations throughout the country working for woman suffrage. One of the most important in Massachusetts, the Massachusetts Woman Suffrage Association (MWSA), was formed by Lucy Stone, Henry Blackwell, Julia Ward Howe, Mary Rice Livermore, and others at a meeting in Horticultural Hall on January 28, 1870. The MWSA was active in educational efforts, presenting petitions to the state legislature, organizing lectures, and coordinating efforts with activities in other states.
Mary Rice Livermore (1820-1905) was a prolific writer and a lifelong suffragist
and abolition activist. Boston-born and educated, Livermore volunteered with the United States Sanitary Commission during the Civil War. A journalist, after the war she founded The Agitator, a suffragist paper, in Chicago. When she moved to Boston, The Agitator merged with the Woman’s Journal, where Livermore was an editor. Livermore was an indefatigable lecturer on behalf of suffrage and temperance, who for many years traveled extensively, sometimes speaking as many as five times a week for five months in a row; she also served as President of the American Woman Suffrage Association.
88 Tremont Street
On October 22, 1909, Emmeline Pankhurst (1858- 1928), one of the leaders of the suffrage movement in England, made her first appearance in the United States at Boston’s Tremont Temple. Speaking to a capacity crowd, she talked about the efforts to gain women the vote in England, where suffragists were sometimes arrested and imprisoned, since they used more radical tactics than the Americans had so far attempted. The next day, a public reception was held in Pankhurst’s honor at the Vendome Hotel.
Boston School Committee
45 School Street
The School Committee met in the Common Council chamber in old City Hall in the 1870s. Women were elected to the Boston School Committee before they could vote. In 1875, after a drive by the New England Women’s Club, six women took their seats on the Committee, all elected by men. In 1876, four women were re-elected, including Lucretia Crocker (1829-1886), who later became the first woman supervisor in the Boston Public Schools, and Abigail Williams May (1829-1888), who succeeded in starting a separate Latin School for girls. In 1879, women won the right to vote for school committee members.
Nine years earlier, one of the first attempts in the nation by women to vote took place in Hyde Park, then a separate town and now a neighborhood of Boston. Sarah Grimke (1792-1873) and her sister, Angelina (1805-1879), both well-known abolitionists, were part of a group of some fifty women who cast ballots in that town election. Their votes were accepted, but not counted. This attempt was widely covered in the press. In 1838, Sarah Grimke had published Letters on the Equality of the Sexes and the Condition of Women, a book that influenced Lucy Stone. In 1838, when Angelina Grimke spoke in the Massachusetts State House urging the abolition of slavery, she was the first woman to address a state legislature.
4 South Market Street
The New England Women’s Tea Party
“Taxation without representation is Tyranny!” was the clarion call at Faneuil Hall on December 15, 1873. Led by Lucy Stone, the New England Women’s Tea Party was organized to mark the one hundredth anniversary of the Boston Tea Party. Speaker after speaker rose to address the standing-room-only crowd, calling for equality for women, especially the right to vote, and reminding the attendees of the 1773 cry, “no taxation without representation.”
Jennie Loitman Barron/Woman’s Detention Center
Jennie Loitman Barron (1891-1969), born in Boston to Jewish immigrant parents, became the first full-time woman judge in Massachusetts in 1954, serving on both the Boston Municipal Court and the Superior Court. As an undergraduate at Boston University, she was president of the Boston University College Equal Suffrage Organization and was a street-corner speaker for suffrage. She explained, “I spoke from soapboxes at corners of streets, and from open automobiles, at times dodging such missiles as stale eggs and overripe tomatoes, hurled by alcoholic listeners.” After 1920, Barron worked in favor of women serving on juries, advocated for fair marriage and divorce laws, and, in 1926, was elected to the Boston School Committee.
In 1919, the Woman’s Detention Center of the City of Boston was in the basement of the courthouse in Pemberton Square. This is where the women picketers arrested in 1919 (see #1 and #3) were taken after their arrest. They were held here overnight until they were brought to court the next morning.
Charles Street Jail
215 Charles Street
The nineteen suffragists arrested on February 24, 1919 (see #1 and #3) were charged with loitering or, in the case of the women arrested at the watchfire, for speaking on the Common without a permit. One very young woman had her case continued and later dismissed, and one was acquitted. The rest were convicted and given the choice of paying a five-dollar fine or spending eight days in jail. Four women paid the fine, but the remaining thirteen refused and were taken to the Charles Street jail to serve their sentences.
Josephine St. Pierre Ruffin Home and Marker
103 Charles Street
Josephine St. Pierre Ruffin (1842-1924) was an activist for suffrage and equal rights, as well as a publisher, journalist, and editor. In 1894 she organized the Woman’s Era Club, a group focused on African American women’s issues, and later founded The Woman’s Era, the first newspaper published by and for African American women. A charter member of the NAACP, she was also a co-founder of the League of Women for Community Service and, with Lucy Stone and Julia Ward Howe, a co-founder of the Massachusetts Woman Suffrage Association.
Louisa May Alcott Home and Marker
10 Louisburg Square
Louisa May Alcott (1832-1888) is best known as the author of Little Women. The great success of this book gave her and her family financial independence, allowing Alcott to continue writing novels and short stories for the rest of her life. She was also an active abolitionist and suffragist. When Massachusetts passed a law in 1876 allowing women to vote for school committee members, Alcott was not only the first woman to register where she lived in Concord, Mass., but also worked to encourage other women to vote. Alcott lived at 20 Pinckney Street as a young woman, and with members of her family at 10 Louisburg Square during the last three years of her life.
Betty Gram Swing Home
74 1/2 Pinckney Street
Betty Gram Swing (1893-1969) worked full time for the National Woman’s Party from 1917-1920. She was primarily a national organizer, traveling all over the United States to build grassroots support for the suffrage amendment. She first picketed the White House on November 10, 1917, and experienced the Occoquan Workhouse “Night of Terror” when guards terrorized the jailed suffragists; she also joined the eight-day hunger strike. She was one of the women picketing the parade for President Wilson on February 24, 1919, and, according to newspaper accounts, Betty Gram was the only one to resist their subsequent arrest. When she married broadcast journalist Raymond Swing in 1921, she persuaded him to use both their names, thus becoming Betty Gram Swing and Raymond Gram Swing. After the 19th Amendment passed, she continued to advocate for women’s rights, including working closely with Alice Paul on the Equal Rights Amendment.
Mary Eliza Mahoney
65 Anderson Street
The Phillips School, Corner of Pinckney and Anderson Streets
Mary Eliza Mahoney (1845-1926), the first African American woman to become a registered nurse, was a strong supporter of woman suffrage. In 1920, at age seventy-six, she was one of the first women in Boston to register to vote after ratification of the 19th Amendment. Mahoney was born in Boston and attended the Phillips School from grades one through four. After graduating from the New England Hospital for Women and Children, she had a successful career as a private nurse. She founded the National Association of Colored Graduate Nurses and is honored by a medal awarded annually by the American Nurses Association.
Nichols House Museum
55 Mount Vernon Street
The Nichols House Museum was the family home of Rose Standish Nichols (1872-1960) and her two sisters, Margaret and Marian. All three sisters were active in the suffrage movement and founded a suffrage league in New Hampshire near their summer home. Rose Nichols hosted several gatherings in the Beacon Hill house in support of the movement, including one in 1912 when Maud Wood Park (see #20) spoke. In 1919, Rose Nichols was elected to an office in the Boston Equal Suffrage Association. Following her death, her home and its furnishings became the Nichols House Museum.
Julia Ward Howe Home and Marker
241 Beacon Street
Famous for writing the lyrics to “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” Julia Ward Howe (1819-1910) was an outspoken suffragist, president of both the Massachusetts and New England Woman Suffrage Associations, editor of the Woman’s Journal, and co-leader with Lucy Stone of the American Woman Suffrage Association. A founder and longtime president of the New England Women’s Club as well as a pacifist, she issued a Mother’s Day Proclamation in 1870 proposing a Mother’s Day for Peace. Howe wrote essays, plays, books, and poetry, founded a literary magazine, was an advocate for women’s education and, in 1908, was the first woman elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters.
Boston Women’s Memorial
256 Commonwealth Avenue
Commonwealth Avenue at Fairfield Street; statue by Meredith Bergmann, 2003
Lucy Stone (1818-1893) was the leader of the New England suffrage movement and, with her husband, founder of the suffrage newspaper, the Woman’s Journal. One of the first women in Massachusetts to earn a college degree when she graduated from Oberlin in 1847, she was an active abolitionist speaker. When she married Henry Blackwell, Stone became the first married woman to officially keep her family name, leading to the coining of the late nineteenth century term “Lucy Stoner” to mean a woman who stands up for her rights, especially one who uses her family surname after marriage. Stone helped organize the first National Woman’s Rights Convention in Worcester in 1850 and founded the American Woman Suffrage Association in 1869. Called the “morning star” of the women’s rights movement, Stone was the first person cremated in New England; that cremation took place at Forest Hills Cemetery where a chapel is named in her honor.
Abigail Adams (1744-1818), presidential wife and mother, is well known as a critical thinker and prolific correspondent with her husband, John. In one letter she famously urged him to “remember the ladies and be more generous and favorable to them than your ancestors. … If particular care and attention is not paid to the ladies, we are determined to foment a rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any laws in which we have no voice or representation.” During John Adams’ extensive months away, Abigail managed the family farm, their own large family, and their financial affairs. Referred to as “Mrs. President” because of her political savvy, she was the first First Lady to preside over the White House.
Phillis Wheatley (c1753-1784) was the first African American poet published in book form. As a child, she was captured in West Africa, brought to Boston on the ship Phillis, and sold as a slave to the Wheatley family. An avid learner, she quickly mastered English, Latin, and Greek, and started to write poetry. Her book of poems was published to great acclaim in England in 1773. She is widely recognized as the mother of African American literature.
Massachusetts Association Opposed to the Further Extension of Suffrage to Women
Kensington Building, 687 Boylston Street
In 1895, Massachusetts became the first state to have an anti-suffrage association. This building was headquarters of the Massachusetts Association Opposed to Further Extension of Suffrage to Women – one of the country’s largest anti-suffrage organizations — in a space shared with the Men’s Anti-Suffrage Committee. By 1915, the Anti-Suffrage group had 37,000 members. Some women were opposed to suffrage because they believed it would diminish the traditional role of women as homemakers. The anti-suffragists also argued that many successful reforms had been led by women without needing the vote, that women’s work for the good of the public should remain nonpartisan, and that because women were so busy with home and children, they would not have time to vote.
585 Boylston Street
Chauncy Hall was a “busy beehive full of workers for women,” according to the Boston American in 1913. The Woman’s Journal (see #2) and the Massachusetts Woman Suffrage Association (see #6) moved here in 1909. They shared the building with the College Equal Suffrage League, the Massachusetts Men’s League for Woman Suffrage, the New England Woman Suffrage Association, and the Boston Equal Suffrage Association for Good Government.
Founded by Maud Wood Park, Pauline Agassiz Shaw, and others in 1901, the Boston Equal Suffrage Association for Good Government (BESAGG) focused on woman suffrage, trying a variety of tactics including trolley tours, outdoor meetings, door-to-door visits, and reaching out to immigrant and working women. In 1920, BESAGG became the Boston League of Women Voters.
Maud Wood Park (1871-1955), who served as executive secretary of BESAGG, was a dedicated lecturer, lobbyist, and political strategist for suffrage and a co-founder of the College Equal Suffrage League. Working with the National American Woman Suffrage Association, Park was a leader in the effort to secure congressional approval of a woman suffrage amendment which, when ratified by the states in 1920, became the 19th amendment. A graduate of Radcliffe College, her donation of her papers and memorabilia was the start of the Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America at what is now known as the Radcliffe Institute.
Pauline Agassiz Shaw (1841-1917), who served as the president of BESAGG for 16 years, was a wealthy philanthropist who supported many causes including kindergartens, school lunches, the North Bennet Street School, a settlement house in the North End, and the Paul Revere Pottery, founded to provide a livelihood for immigrant Irish, Italian, and Jewish girls in the North End.
Boston-born Margaret Foley (1875-1957; shown on the right in this photo), who earned the nickname “The Grand Heckler” for her powerful voice in the suffrage movement, had worked at a hat factory as a young woman. She was unique in her links to both the Women’s Trade Union League and the Margaret Brent Suffrage Guild, a Catholic organization. An active member of the Massachusetts Woman Suffrage Association and BESAGG, Foley delivered countless impassioned speeches, traveling by automobile from one destination to another in her “Big Suffragette Machine.” On one occasion, she delivered suffrage material to the city of Lynn by tossing it out while riding in a hot air balloon. Foley’s spirited tactics were in line with those of British activist Emmeline Pankhurst (see #7), whom she observed firsthand while on a trip to London in 1911.
Susan Walker Fitzgerald (1871-1943) was active in the campaign for suffrage, working with BESAGG and the Massachusetts Woman Suffrage Association. She began her career in progressive causes while still in college at Bryn Mawr, where she organized the Student Government Association. She also served as executive secretary of the National American Woman Suffrage Association and, after 1920, was the first female Democrat elected to the Massachusetts House of Representatives.
Boston Public Library
700 Boylston Street
Alice Stone Blackwell (1857-1950), daughter of Lucy Stone and Henry Blackwell, was an activist for suffrage, human rights, and peace. She edited the Woman’s Journal after her mother’s death and, in 1890, led the movement to reconcile the two competing branches of the suffrage movement — the American Woman Suffrage Association and the National Woman Suffrage Association — into the National American Woman Suffrage Association. She was also involved in many humanitarian causes including relief for Armenian refugees, labor reform, and rights for African Americans.
With thanks to the Barbara Lee Family Foundation for the funding to build this tour online!