The New Century
Women at Cornell and in Tompkins County became more active suffragists in the twentieth century. The Ithaca Woman’s Club had an Equal Suffrage Section, but in 1899, a separate Political Study Club was founded. At Cornell, women students founded a Political Equality Club, perhaps as early as 1902. A group called the Political Equality League of Sage College was represented at a gathering of local women’s organizations in 1905. The Cornell Daily Sun first mentions a Women’s Suffrage Club in October 1909. In 1911, through the influence of Dr. Anna Howard Shaw, Cornellians founded a local branch of the College Equal Suffrage Society. The 43rd Annual Convention of the New York State Suffrage Association began in Ithaca on October 31st, 1911, with President Schurman welcoming participants. The group continued to hold meetings with national and local speakers.
By 1913, the Cornell Women’s Suffrage Club included students, alumnae, and faculty wives. That year, both the Political Study Club of Ithaca and the Cornell Equal Suffrage Club sent petitions to the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on the Judiciary favoring a woman suffrage amendment. Cornell women continued their suffrage activities, both at the university and after graduation.
Nora Stanton Blatch (1883-1971), the granddaughter and daughter of suffragists Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Harriot Stanton Blatch, became the first woman in the U.S. to receive a degree in civil engineering. At Cornell, Blatch was a member of Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority, Raven and Serpent (Junior honorary society), Der Hexenkreis (Senior honor society), Deutscher Verein (German Club), and the Cornell Political Equality Club. She managed the Women’s Fencing Club, and was elected to Sigma Xi, the honorary scientific society.
According to an unpublished autobiography, Nora and several of her friends, Mary Merritt Crawford (Class of 1904), Charlotte Crawford (Class of 1906), Florence Marquardt (Class of 1904), and Juliet (Class of 1903) and Caroline Crossett (Class of 1905), began a suffrage group in 1902. Nora influenced other classmates, including Elizabeth Ellsworth Cook (Class of 1908), on suffrage issues. Laura Ellsworth Cook Seiler spoke about her sister in an oral history:
And I think what got us interested was that Mrs. Blatch's daughter, Nora Stanton Blatch, was a student at Cornell and a great friend of my sister's. I can remember Nora coming to dinner and much discussion of suffrage and so forth and so on. So, it was no surprise when my sister graduated that she should take a very active part in suffrage in New York.
Suffrage groups in Ithaca, Tompkins County, and Cornell grew in the early 20th century. By 1908 the Ithaca Political Study Club had over a hundred members. In 1911, the NYSWSA, with Harriet May Mills as its president, held its annual convention in Ithaca. Two hundred women delegates arrived in Ithaca, some coming on a special train from New York City.
The program announced: “The local woman suffrage association will be glad to welcome anyone who is interested in the subject.” It invited participants to join the Political Study League of Ithaca and encouraged Cornell students to become members of the Cornell Equal Suffrage League, whose president was Nina B. Smith.
Harriet Connor Brown (1872-1959, Class of 1894) edited the program for the first national parade sponsored by the NAWSA, and represented the First Iowa Congressional District in the procession to the Capitol in April. Harriet Chedie Connor served as the first woman editor of The Cornell Era in 1893. She was elected to Phi Beta Kappa, and in 1894, she became the first woman to win the Woodford Prize in oration, for “The Letter and the Spirit,” a speech about witchcraft. She married Herbert D. Brown in 1897. She worked as a journalist, and collaborated with her husband on reports to Congressional and other committees. She participated in missions to the Virgin Islands and Panama. She was active in the woman suffrage movement and in movements for world disarmament and peace.