The Portsmouth Historical Society curator’s committee is working on displays for next season that are centered around the 1920s. I chose to work on the women’s suffrage movement in Portsmouth because I thought I had an abundance of material on it already. Little did I know that when I began to research again, I would see ever widening rings of Portsmouth families and neighbors that were part of the movement. The short list of Portsmouth women active in the movement has begun to grow and grow. In subsequent blogs I will focus on these women individually.

Whole generations of families (women and men) were active in promoting the cause of the right of women to vote. The Mitchel Family, the Ballou Family and the Howe Family were prime examples of movement activity passing from one generation to another. The Bristol Ferry neighborhood in general was a “hotbed” of women’s rights efforts. Our Portsmouth women had connections, too. There was a natural connection to other women on the island through the Newport County Women’s Suffrage League. Through Portsmouth artist and reformer Sarah Eddy national leaders such as Susan B. Anthony came to visit Portsmouth. Through the hospitality of the Ballou Family, Rhode Island and Providence leaders came to visit and speak. Julia Ward Howe was a national leader in her own right and gave the Portsmouth women a connection to Massachusetts women as well.

These women were reformers and were involved in other efforts. Abolition, temperance and social welfare issues were part of their heritage. After women got the vote, they devoted their energies to the League of Women Voters and local political parties (primarily the Republican Party).

My research is continuing, but a blog enables me to revisit blogs as I uncover more information. My goal is to focus on the women individually or in families. What is their background, education, and what other causes were important to them? How did they fit into the life of Portsmouth?

Letitia Lawton, Cora Mitchel and Emeline Eldredge