Sarah Eddy was a woman of many causes and in a sense many of them are intertwined.  Her work on woman’s suffrage is part of a larger effort of encouraging kindness and fairness to all.  She advocated for humane treatment of animals, temperance, fair treatment of black people and for arts and cultural education. The motto of her Social Studio, a neighborhood meeting center, was “All men’s good be each man’s rule and universal Peace Lie like a shaft of light across the land.”  Sarah’s goal was teaching kindness to every living creature and humane treatment of animals was her passion until her death in Portsmouth in 1945.

Sarah was born in Boston in 1851 and her family moved to Providence in the 1860s.  She studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and the Arts Students League of New York.  She was back in Providence by 1880 and was active in the art community. By 1900 Sarah seemed to move permanently to the Bristol Ferry area of Portsmouth.   Sarah never sold any of her work – she gave it away.  She thought of her art as a way of reaching out to help others. She was a painter, sculptor and master photographer.  She continued to paint even into her nineties.

Even though she was a photographer, she made a habit of avoiding her image being taken.  We have only one photograph of her that appeared in a journal for humane treatment of animals.  One newspaper account seems to capture her spirit: “Miss E(ddy) is an enthusiastic humanitarian and vegetarian, a believer in woman’s rights and dress reform, and withal an artist and a lovely little lady. (Times-Picayune-New Orleans, 10/31/1887)

She followed in her mother’s footsteps with her commitment to suffrage.  She was part of national, state and local organizations.  She was never a leader, but she was an organizer and worker for the cause. Sarah had lifelong membership in the National American Woman Suffrage Association.  She was a delegate to national conventions in 1904 and 1906. She was on the executive committee of the Rhode Island Woman Suffrage Association in 1886 and she chaired their legislative committee in 1905.  Sarah organized “parlor meetings” when there was a push to pass a state constitutional amendment giving women the vote.

FR Evening News 11/12/1918

In Portsmouth Sarah Eddy  was a part of the Bristol Ferry women who organized the Newport County Woman Suffrage League in 1908. Gradually the Suffrage League grew throughout Aquidneck Island.  Sarah protested against paying her Portsmouth property taxes because she had no representation.  Sarah the philanthropist didn’t hold grudges.  After women could vote, she donated a storage cabinet that was sorely needed by the Portsmouth Town Clerk.  Sarah’s home on Bristol Ferry or her Social Studio across the street was often a meeting place for the Newport County Woman Suffrage League.  It was the scene of celebration after the vote was won and it was the place for the centennial meeting of the League.

Sarah brought national and state leaders to Portsmouth.  She encouraged her Bristol Ferry friends and neighbors to be active in the cause.  She hosted meetings large and small.  Sarah Eddy was a force in the woman’s suffrage movement in Portsmouth.