Katrina Ely Tiffany, 1875 – 1927
Katrina Ely Tiffany would seem an unlikely soldier in the suffragist army. She was born March 25, 1875 in Altoona, Pennsylvania, to a comfortable and well-established family. Her father was an engineer who worked on the Pennsylvania Railroad. Her mother, Henrietta Brandes, was the daughter of surgeon Dr. Charles vonBrandes who was known for his liberal ideals and his devotion to unpopular causes.
Katrina’s mother died when she was five years old; much of her childhood was spent in private schools or with tutors until she entered Bryn Mawr in 1893. A light-hearted, adventurous young woman, even at that young age she devoted herself to causes that she believed would better society. She joined the Free Silverites, an unorthodox political organization that advocated using silver as well as gold to back United States currency, believing that this would help the working people in their fight against robber barons and railroad monopolists. She graduated from Bryn Mawr in 1897 with a degree in chemistry and biology.
In 1901 she married Charles L. Tiffany, son of Louis Comfort Tiffany. The couple divided their time between their apartment in Manhattan and their home in Oyster Bay Cove, LI. Like her contemporaries, Katrina became involved in social issues, including woman suffrage. She served as a trustee of the New York Infirmary for Women and Children, as President of the College Equal Suffrage League, (CESL) and as recording secretary of the Woman Suffrage Party in New York.
On June 8, 1915 Katrina joined with about a dozen members of the CESL in a silent protest at the Naturalization Court in New York City. Dressed in the caps and gowns of the universities they had graduated from they filed silently into the court to witness the naturalization process of new citizens, and to silently protest the fact that a foreign-born man could become a citizen and vote, while educated women, native born or otherwise, could not.
Katrina was a frequent speaker at the Glen Cove Equal Suffrage Club. The Club met at 10am on the first Thursday of each month in the Tiny Tea Room situated in the heart of the village, and provided a convenient place for women from the area to meet and plan fund-raisers, dances and speeches. Katrina undoubtedly met the Pratt sisters-in-law from Glen Cove there; in 1917 she and Florence Gibb Pratt traveled to Washington to meet with President Wilson. Earlier that year she spoke at the Nassau County Board of Supervisors in favor of suffrage, and presented them with a petition containing 13,635 signatures, which resulted in their endorsement of the movement.
Katrina was a cheerful, adventurous woman who was tolerant of opposing viewpoints, especially those of her husband and father-in-law, both of whom opposed woman suffrage. People warmed to her for her avid curiosity and adventurous spirit. After suffrage was achieved she became an enthusiastic member of the League of Women Voters. At the time of her death, March 11, 1927, she was serving as regional director.
As with many wealthy, privileged women, Katrina Ely Tiffany could have led an indolent, aimless life. Instead, she chose to spend her time, energy and considerable fortune working for the betterment of society. Her friends remembered “the cheerful gallantry with which she would challenge the inertia of society,” always striving to “put truth in the first place.”
Happy Birthday, Katrina Ely Tiffany!