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Celebrating the 100th Anniversary of Women’s Suffrage: New Hampshire’s Untold History Of This Milestone

Sep 11, 2020 02:59PM ● By By Anne Richter Arnold

Alice Paul National Photo Company Collection, 1920.

With the pandemic and protests for racial equality dominating the headlines, it is easy to overlook a momentous achievement for our country that is worthy of celebration. This August marks the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote, indelibly changing our political environment and society.

The road to achieve women’s suffrage was long and arduous, involving scores of women as well as men who believed in equal rights for all. In New Hampshire, women did in fact have the vote at one time. Prior to the right being revoked in 1784, white women who owned land were able to vote along with landholding men.

The suffrage movement had strong roots in the belief that all humans have inalienable rights, not just the white men. In the 1840s, women’s suffrage was intertwined with the antislavery movement, as reformers sought to create a more equal society where rights were not dependent on race or gender. Susan B. Anthony, a national leader of the suffrage movement, was also involved in the American Anti-Slavery Association, and thus was in a strong position to also deliver the message of women’s suffrage throughout the country. Anthony made numerous trips to New Hampshire to promote voting rights for women. Her involvement locally, speaking as well as coordinating with other local suffrage movement leaders, was crucial to the success of this reform in New Hampshire.

Protests and parades went on for many decades before the 19th Amendment, allowing women to vote, went into effect on August 18, 1920.

 

An Important New Hampshire Suffragist

Mary Nettie Chase (1863–1959) of Wolfeboro was an educated woman, graduating from Bates College in 1885. She taught at Green Mountain Seminary in Waterbury, Vermont; at Gilmanton Academy in Gilmanton, New Hampshire; and at Proctor Academy, in Andover, New Hampshire. Her association with the women’s suffrage movement began sometime before 1895 when she served as lecturer for the Vermont Woman’s Suffrage Association. In 1901 the National Woman Suffrage Association hired Chase as a state organizer and lecturer for New Hampshire. She was also elected president of the New Hampshire Woman’s Suffrage Association, serving through 1912. After World War I and the passage of the 19th Amendment she became involved in the international peace movement.

Born in Madison, New Hampshire, on January 19, 1864, Chase was the daughter of Uriah Chase, an evangelical preacher, and his second wife, Lizzy Guilford. Uriah Chase traveled throughout New Hampshire and Maine and was highly regarded for his passionate sermons and poetry. Mary, like her father, became renowned for her speaking and writing skills, noted for her dedication to her work and beliefs. Mary was educated in Maine where her family eventually settled, attending North Parsonsfield Academy, Edward Little High School in Auburn, and earning a Bachelor and Master of Arts from Bates College. She received a full scholarship to Bates by winning the first prize awarded to a woman in declamation and oratory.

Upon earning her Masters, Chase focused on a career in education—teaching at Green Mountain Seminary in Waterbury, VT and working as teacher and principal at Gilmanton Academy in New Hampshire (her father's alma mater), and later Proctor Academy in Andover, New Hampshire. After a brief marriage to Roscoe Gilbert Watson in the early 1890s, Chase became a suffragist, forming local suffrage committees, making speeches around the state and country, and in 1902 becoming President of the New Hampshire chapter of the National American Women's Suffrage Association (NAWSA). Chase’s first act as President was to urge New Hampshire citizens to remove the word “male” in the voting rights section of the New Hampshire state constitution. Chase visited nearly 250 New Hampshire granges, speaking and gathering petitions in support of women’s voting rights.

Chase also worked at the national level, presenting speeches at several of NAWSA's national conventions and working directly with NAWSA leaders including Anna Shaw and Carrie Chapman Catt. After serving as President of the New Hampshire Women's Suffrage Association for ten years Chase stepped down in 1912, handing over the reins to a younger generation.

Sources: alexanderstreet.com, cownewhampshireblog.com

To read more on this article please see page 61 on the Here in Hanover Fall 2020 digital edition.


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