Irene Corwin Davison
1871 – 1948
Born in 1871 in East Rockaway Irene Corwin Davison was the youngest of three sisters whose family had settled there in the early 19th century. She attended the Packer Institute in Brooklyn, graduated from Pratt Institute and taught art in the Jericho schools. Later she became one of the first women to open her own insurance agency. When her father died she took over his farm, selling the property and creating one of the first housing developments on Long Island.
Irene never married, instead devoting her personal and financial freedom to suffrage. She was a good friend of Rosalie Gardiner Jones, and joined her on her famous marches to Albany and Washington DC. In 1915 Irene joined fellow suffragist Edna Buckman Kearns in her work as a poll watcher. The two canvassed voters at the polls in Sayville, asking them to sign a slip of paper stating: “I believe that the vote should be granted to the women of New York in 1915.” Irene’s sisters, Amelia and Susan were active suffragists as well.
In September of 1913, always seeking unique and innovative activities to garner publicity, Irene and her friends staged an all-night “Aerial Party” on the Hempstead Plains aviation field (which later became Roosevelt Field). The New York Times reported: “About 200 women and eight men were marshaled for the parade down Hanger Row.” Present were other well-known suffragists Harriet Burton Laidlaw and Mrs. Rhoda Glover, said to be the oldest suffragist in Nassau County.
Once suffrage was won Irene devoted herself to other philanthropic causes; she donated a building to be used for the East Rockaway Public Library, and worked with the League of Women Voters to educate women on the importance of the vote. The League named her “the outstanding suffragette in Nassau County,” and in 1931 listed her name on a bronze plaque in Albany honoring the “great women of the State of New York who courageously led the long struggle for the enfranchisement of the women of this nation.”
Irene Corwin Davison broke many barriers for women in her life, but her greatest achievement was helping them to enjoy political equality and have their voices heard through the vote. She died November 12, 1948.
Happy Birthday, Irene Corwin Davison!