Suffrage & Morristown’s Women
The Long Campaign for Woman’s Suffrage: Morristown Women were “Silent Sentinels”
The campaign for Woman’s Suffrage lasted 70 years; it began with the first woman’s rights convention held in 1848 in Seneca Falls, New York. Guest speaker Frederick Douglass delivered a passionate oration demanding the vote for women.
Douglass said, “Observing woman’s agency, devotion and efficiency, gratitude for this high service early moved me to give favorable attention to the subject of what is called ‘woman’s rights’ and caused me to be denominated a woman’s rights man.”
In 1851, Sojourner Truth’s “Ain’t I a Woman” speech was given at a woman’s rights convention in Akron, Ohio.
She said, “That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud-puddles, or gives me any best place! And ain’t I a woman?”
Both black and white woman’s clubs formed over the next decades and continued to push for voting rights. “Lifting as we Climb” was the motto of the National Federation of Colored Woman’s Clubs, founded in 1896. New Jersey’s Alice Paul, born in Mount Laurel, went to England to study sociology, and became active in the British Woman’s Suffrage movement. Once back in America she joined the American Suffrage movement.
Paul organized parades and pickets to spur action on a Constitutional amendment. Her first parade—and the largest—was in Washington, D.C., on March 3, 1913, the day before President-elect Woodrow Wilson’s inauguration. Eight thousand women marched with down Pennsylvania Avenue while a half million spectators watched, supported and harassed the marchers. To appease women from the South, black women, and male supporters, were lined up behind the white women marchers.
In January 1917, Paul began what would be thirty months of picketing at the White House with 1,000 supporters who picketed six days a week. They were the first political activists ever to picket at the White House. Among Paul’s “Silent Sentinels” were two Morristown women, Alison Low Turnbull Hopkins and Julia Hurlbut. Alison Hopkins’ picket sign read “Mr. President, how long must women wait for liberty?”
The women at the gates faced verbal and physical attacks from spectators. Instead of protecting the women’s right to free speech and peaceful assembly, the police arrested them, and some were sentenced to jail or to the workhouse.
Alison Low Turnbull Hopkins was born in Morristown at Featherleigh Farms, educated by private tutors, and was the reigning debutante of her season. She married and continued to live at the family’s estate off Normandy Parkway with her husband, John Appleton Hoven Hopkins, an insurance executive. Julia Hurlbut became active in suffrage in 1915 and identified with the radical wing of the movement.
By 1918, President Wilson was supportive of the woman’s cause. It took two more years for the, House, and the required 36 states to approve the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, giving women the right to vote, on August 18, 1920.
You can learn about other local Morristown women who were active in Woman’s Suffrage at Macculloch Hall, in Morristown. Their current exhibit: Living, Learning, Working, Serving: The Women of Macculloch Hall commemorates the centennial by celebrating the Macculloch/Miller women, as well as the enslaved women and female servants who lived and worked there. Macculloch women involved in suffrage were Louisa Macculloch Miller, Mary Louisa Macculloch Miller, Alice Duer Miller and Dorothea Miller Post.
We’ll let you know when Macculloch Hall opens to the public so you can view the exhibit. We also have scheduled a lecture on the centennial of the 19th Amendment with a curator’s tour at the exhibit on August 16.
And, looking ahead, the Morris County Tourism Bureau plans to offer two opportunities to tour the mansion and gardens of a Morristown family that ran in the same circles as the Maccullochs, the Robert and Marie Foote family of Spring Brook Farms, now the Loyola Jesuit Center in Morristown. Those two tours are planned for June 14 and October 4.
To learn more about our tours, check our website over the coming weeks: morristourism.org or call our office when we return to work: 973-631-5151