Alice Duer Miller, 1874 – 1942
I’m in a hard position for a perfect gentleman,
I want to please the ladies, but I don’t see how I can.
My present wife’s a suffragist, and counts on my support,
But my mother is an anti, of a rather biting sort;
One grandmother is on the fence, the other much opposed,
And my sister lives in Oregon and thinks the question’s closed.
Each one is counting on my vote to represent her view.
Now, what should you think proper for a gentleman to do?
Alice Duer was born July 28, 1874 in New York City to James Gore King Duer and Elizabeth Wilson Meads. Throughout her childhood the family enjoyed prosperity, but a banking failure during her college years forced Alice to begin selling articles and essays to pay her tuition. After graduating from Barnard College in 1899 she married stockbroker Henry Wise Miller. The couple had one child, a son.
Alice’s writing career flourished. While teaching at a girl’s school and tutoring at Barnard she published several novels before turning her attention to the suffrage cause. Are Women People? A Book of Rhymes for Suffrage Times was published in 1915 at the height of the suffrage struggle and drew its material from Miller’s column in the New York Tribune, which ran from 1914 to 1917. Miller was known for her sharp wit, and her daring challenges to President Wilson who refused at the time to back the suffrage amendment. Ironically, in 1918 when the White House needed a ghost writer for Wilson’s speeches they hired Alice Duer Miller!
Mother, what is a feminist?
A feminist, my daughter,
Is any woman now who cares
To think about her own affairs
As men don’t think she oughter.
After the suffrage battle was successful Alice continued to write, and many of her books were made into motion pictures. In 1940 she published The White Cliffs, from which the film The White Cliffs of Dover was adapted. She was considered charismatic and charming and for many years enjoyed a special place at the famous Algonquin Round Table. But her special love was for the suffrage cause, and her witty, satirical voice lambasting its foes can still be heard to this day. She died in New York City in 1942.
Father, what is a Legislature?
A representative body elected by the people of the state.
Are women people?
No, my son, criminals, lunatics and women are not people.
Do legislators legislate for nothing?
Oh, no; they are paid a salary.
By the people.
Are women people?
Of course, my son, just as much as men are.
Happy Birthday – Alice Duer Miller!