Suffragist of the Month, December, 2017

Harriet Taylor Upton, 1854 – 1945

Harriet Taylor Upton was born December 17, 1854 in Ravenna, Ohio; her family moved to Warren, Ohio when she was seven years old. In 1880, when her widowed father was appointed to Congress, Harriet moved to Washington DC to act as his hostess. Such close proximity to the seat of government was fortuitous for young Harriet, and introduced her to political activists and suffragists including Susan B. Anthony, whom she always considered her mentor. In 1884 she married George Upton, and with his encouragement began her allegiance to the woman suffrage movement.

The Upton’s had no children, so Harriet was free to devote her time to suffrage. In 1894 she was elected treasurer of the NAWSA (National American Woman Suffrage Association), and held that post for sixteen years. She was also elected president of the Ohio Woman’s Suffrage Association from 1899 to 1908 and from 1911 to 1920.

She was an effective fundraiser, appealing to members of NAWSA on the fiftieth anniversary of the Seneca Falls Conference to renew their membership, reminding women “We believe that womankind should be eternally grateful to those pioneers.” She was also an astute politician who saw the value in publicity. Between 1902 and 1910 she edited Progress, a monthly suffrage paper that would become the official newspaper of NAWSA. Progress acted as a clearing house for other suffrage organizations, advertising monthly suffrage events throughout the nation so local residents could attend.

While working for suffrage Harriet became the first woman elected to the Warren, Ohio Board of Education, eventually becoming its president. After the ratification of the 19th Amendment she wrote children’s books, and continued working for public causes until her death in 1945. She was inducted into the Ohio Women’s Hall of Fame in 1891 to “publicly recognize her outstanding contributions” to her home state.

Happy Birthday, Harriet Taylor Upton!

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