A Division Among the Suffragists: Julia Ward Howe and Susan B. Anthony


Susan B. Anthony painted by Sarah Eddy

When Susan B. Anthony visited Portsmouth in 1901, she went to visit Julia Ward Howe. What was extraordinary about that visit is that it probably would not have happened a dozen years before.  Until I began to research the local suffragists, I was not aware that there were divisions among them.   I will try to explain the differences between the various suffrage groups.

During the Civil War activists for women’s rights set aside their cause.  As they took up their activities again,  many of them sought to combine their cause of rights for women with rights for African Americans.  The American Equal Rights Association was formed in 1866 with the rights of women and blacks as their cause.  In November of 1868 there was a regional meeting in Boston of the Women’s Rights Convention.  Some of those who participated in that meeting (Lucy Stone, Henry Blackwell, Isabella Beecher Hooker, Julia Ward Howe and T.W. Higginson) founded the New England Woman Suffrage Association (NEWSA). Julia Ward Howe was the first President.   Frederick Douglass spoke at the first convention and said “the cause of the negro was more pressing than that of the woman’s.” Julia Ward Howe is recorded as saying at the convention that she would not demand suffrage for women until it was achieved for blacks.

This did not sit well with those who were more focused on the woman’s cause.  In May of 1869 Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony and others formed the National Woman Suffrage Association (NWSA).  To counter this organization, the executive board of the New England Woman Suffrage Association formed the American Woman Suffrage Association (AWSA) in November of 1869.

What were the goals of each group?

AWSA – Julia’s group – Headquarters in Boston

  1. Focus on the vote for women and largely ignored other women’s rights issues.
  2. Supported winning suffrage state by state instead of federal approach
  3. Supported the Republican Party
  4. Used a delegate system
  5. Men were full members and served as officers
  6. AWSA was the more conservative and larger group.
  7. Opposed confrontational strategies.
  8. Published “Woman’s Journal”

NWSA – Susan B. Anthony’s group – Headquarters in New York

  1. Advocated for range of reforms for equal rights for women – not just the vote.  (Discrimination, pay issues, marriage and divorce laws).
  2. Condemned passage of 14th and 15th amendments unless woman’s suffrage was included.
  3. Female led group.  All members were women although men could be affiliated.
  4. Sought a national, constitutional change to insure voting rights.
  5. Sought help from Democrats as well as Republicans.
  6. Had a “top-down” organization.
  7. Published – “The Revolution”

After the 15th Amendment was passed in 1870, voting rights for blacks was no longer an issue.  In 1878 a woman suffrage amendment was proposed and Congress defeated it, so the NWSA began to use the state by state approach, too.  Those active in woman suffrage were discouraged and tired of the divisions. There was little difference between the two groups at that time.   Lucy Stone  proposed at a AWSA convention that the organization should approach the NWSA and women in the two groups began to negotiate an alliance.  In 1890 the two organizations merged into the National American Woman Suffrage Association.

Oak Glen – home of Julia Ward Howe

Susan B. Anthony wrote to her sister.  “I went in the carriage one afternoon to call on Julia Ward Howe, whose summer home is six miles from here; she was charming and I had an interesting time.”  Two great leaders in the suffrage movement were meeting in Portsmouth through the efforts of Sarah Eddy.  The woman’s suffrage cause was much stronger together than it had been divided.

Resources:  I recommend the online articles by “ThoughtCo” on the various groups.  This one is on AWSA, but there are others on NWSA and the American Equal Rights Association.

Lewis, Jone Johnson. “American Woman Suffrage Association.” ThoughtCo, Jun. 4, 2018, thoughtco.com/american-woman-suffrage-association-3530477

Mary Ballou: “A Rhode Island Suffrage Pioneer”

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Back in 1920 when Rhode Island ratified the Nineteenth Amendment, the Providence Journal named Mary Ballou (of Providence and the Bristol Ferry neighborhood of Portsmouth) as a “Rhode Island Suffrage Pioneer.”  The newspaper quotes her as saying, “I am glad to have lived to see this day.”  Indeed, Mary had been fighting for suffrage since she joined the Rhode Island Woman’s Suffrage Association in 1868.  When Rhode Island passed a Presidential Suffrage Bill in 1917 which allowed Rhode Island women to vote in the presidential election, she was interviewed by the Journal and was asked to express her thoughts.  “It marks the beginning of the end of what has been for me a long and often hopeless appearing fight.  I have worked for suffrage for almost fifty years and when I celebrate by 80th birthday next week I will have a real cause for celebration.  I hardly expected to live long enough to see old hide-bound Rhode Island take its place at the head of the processional of progress in the East.”  (ProJo 4/18/1917)

Mary belonged to the Bristol Ferry group of suffragists who became a “nerve center” of the Rhode Island suffrage movement. Its members were a diverse group of women.  What was Mary’s background?  What roles did she play in the suffrage movement?  Did she continue her activism after voting rights were passed?

Mary Rathbone Kelly Ballou was born in 1837 in Blackstone, Massachusetts.  Her father was a successful factory owner.  On her mother’s side she descended from Rhode Island’s Hazard family.  Her grandmother, Alice Peckham Ballou, was a Quaker minister.  Mary was raised as a Quaker and attended what is now Moses Brown School in Providence where her grandfather was principal. After graduation, Mary became a teacher.

In 1867 Mary became the wife of Barton A. Ballou who was a leader in the Providence jewelry industry.  Mary’s husband was active in the Providence community.  He was a trustee of James Eddy’s Bell Street Chapel.  Eddy was Sarah Eddy’s father and I suppose Mary and Sarah Eddy would have known each other from those early days in Providence.  Mary and Barton raised three children, Frederick, Charles (Rathbone) and Alice.  Even as a newlywed and young mother, Mary was active in the Rhode Island Woman Suffrage Association (RIWSA).  She served as Treasurer and Vice President of the RIWSA and she carried over her interest in suffrage to her summer home on Bristol Ferry Road in Portsmouth.   She hosted weekly meetings with friends and neighbors Cora Mitchel, Emeline Eldredge, Sarah Eddy and others.

Mary Ballou and Sarah Eddy were listed as part of the Rhode Island executive committee of the New England Woman’s Suffrage Association in 1909.  Julia Ward Howe, another summer Portsmouth resident, was elected as the President of the Association at their Boston meeting.  Mary would host combined meetings of the Providence and Newport County Woman’s Suffrage League.

The Ballous had extensive properties on Bristol Ferry Road.  Portsmouth became their summer home around 1900 and that was about the same time that Sarah Eddy came to make Portsmouth her home as well. Newspaper accounts say that John Manchester built their home in 1900, just as he built Sarah Eddy’s home and the Social Studio.   Sarah and the Ballous were next door neighbors.  The Ballous often hosted events jointly with Sarah, especially the yearly outing for the residents of a home for elderly black men and women in Providence.

Barton Ballou was a very successful man, and his home in Portsmouth reflected his wealth.  In 1902 the family had a tennis court laid out on their property.   The Fall River News in 1900 reports that he “has a handsome locomotive, fitted with two one-horse power engines of the marine pattern.”  A Fall River Evening Journal article (6/14/1914) describes how Ballou and his automobile would come to the rescue when a fire breaks out in the caretaker’s cottage of the Eddy estate.  Ballou drove the power station engineer and fire extinguishers to the site of the fire.  The extinguishers help to put out fires on Sarah’s roof that had been started by burning embers.

The Ballous continued to add to their property on Bristol Ferry Road.  The Ballous and Sarah Eddy were sold property held by Suffrage Leader Cora Mitchel and her family.

The Ballous even bought Julia Ward Howe’s home on Union Street – Oak Glen.  In July of 1931 Oak Glen, the home of Charles (aka Rathbone) Ballou, hosted a public meeting of the Rhode Island League of Women Voters.  Two of Mary’s children, Charles Rathbone Ballou and Dr. Alice Ballou Eliot, organized the event.  They followed in the footsteps of their mother.  Two years after the passage of RI Presidential Voting rights for women, the National American Woman Suffrage Organization was transformed into the League of Women Voters.  Its aim was to support the new voting rights and  expand the role of women in the political sphere.  Mary Ballou’s activism was carried over to this organization in 1919 when the Rhode Island division got its charter.  In 1930 the Rhode Island League of Women Voters recognized Mary on the National Honor Role of the League of Women Voters.  Mary died in 1926, but her efforts to win rights for women was still recognized.

What was the Social Studio?

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When I first became aware of Sarah Eddy, I started collecting postcards of the “Social Studio”  which Sarah founded.  Just what was the Social Studio?   As I read the newspaper and magazine accounts from early in the Twentieth Century, it seems the Social Studio had many purposes.   It was a community gathering place (a social center), an arts and crafts school (a studio), a clubhouse for young people, an art exhibit space, an arts and crafts store, and a school for humane education.

The earliest account of the Social Studio was in a Fall River Evening News article in December of 1902.  The article reports that John E. Manchester will be in charge of the building process.  It also says that Miss Eddy has had other work done by Manchester during the last four years.  That helps us date Sarah’s cottage and when she may have come to Portsmouth as around 1898.  This article states that the studio will be for “public uses such as woodwork carving, lectures, stereopticon views, suppers or any object which will benefit those who attend.” The article says that  “It will contain a hall, 22×36, and a kitchen on the first floor, with rooms above, and will be artistic as well as ornamental.”

According to another Fall River Evening News article (2/24/1903), the Social Studio opened less than two months later at the end of February.   The studio is featured as a “spot for people to gather and spend an evening. The Social Studio is fitted with a piano, reading matter, etc… The studio was built under the direction of Miss Sarah J. Eddy and it was through her courtesy that the public was invited to gather at the place on Saturday, and to attend the meetings each Friday evening.”  The activities would soon grow to many more days of the week and throughout the year.

What kind of activities took place at the Social Studio?   Again, the newspaper articles and the postcards help us to understand what went on.  Among the first activities arranged by the Social Studio were boys clubs and girls clubs. The 1906 article in Good Housekeeping lists sixty members in the boys club and thirty five girls in their club.    Many articles tell of plays being performed and there was even an orchestra connected to the Social Studio Boys’ Club.  Handicraft Magazine in 1911 tells of an arts and crafts exhibition and sale.  Lessons were given in various household arts such as wood carving, weaving, and basket work.  Up for sale were Irish crochet lace, intricate metal work (repousse), hand carved pieces including a serving tray and Japanese ideographs (writing). The Social Studio had an artist’s cooperative called “associated workers,” adults who had their work on sale at the studio and they would pay a certain number of cents for each sale.  These workers would leave a sample of the work and the Social Studio would take orders for them.

“The Commons Magazine” lists classes in pyrography (wood burning), drawing, water color painting and raffia.  According to this magazine, the classes were “conducted by competent teachers, a nominal fee being charged for instruction.”  Good Housekeeping Magazine in 1906 adds embroidery and sewing to the list of lessons.  There were many different types of clubs.  The reading club met on Tuesday  afternoon and the social club met on Tuesday evenings.  Among the first clubs organized were those concerned with teaching about the protection of animals.  This topic was particularly dear to Sarah’s heart. Children were taught to know and love the birds and not to disturb nests.  The idea of “Bands of Mercy” came from Sarah Eddy’s 1899 book – “Friends and Helpers.”  Sarah believed that when children learned to respect animals they would learn to respect the rights of people as well.

“Kindness to all living creatures” is one of Sarah’s mottos.  The “Golden Rule” club with smaller children (20 members) gave a portion of their work and time to help others.  The “Estrelles Band of Mercy” have assisted families by donating vegetables, clothes and small amounts of money.

According to The Commons Magazine: “Such a social and educational center would be a great gift and open up wonderful privileges and opportunities in the lives of country boys and girls, who, after the day’s work, might satisfy a legitimate cravings for amusement and society in a more wholesome manner than loafing about the post office or store, retelling petty gossip or engaging in the more dangerous pastime of immature lovemaking.”

Although the Community Christmas Party continued on for many years, most of the activities for children seemed to taper off by the First World War.  The Social Studio continued to be a gathering spot for adults up until the 1930s.  All types of organizations used the Studio and it was frequently used for church gatherings.  Every women’s church group in Portsmouth used the Social Studio for fundraisers and socials and it became a summer chapel for St. Paul’s Episcopal Church.  Sarah Eddy’s close friend Emeline Eldredge was the director of the Social Studio for around twenty years and her death in 1934 may have contributed to the ending of activities.

The Social Studio is still a useful building today. It is a family home and although there have been additions and modifications, it is still recognizable as the gathering place it once was.

A Rhode Islander at the Alamo: Albert Martin

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The Alamo today

On a recent visit to the Alamo, I was surprised to see the Rhode Island flag displayed. The flag was in honor of Albert Martin, a Providence native who was among those who died defending the Alamo against the Mexican forces under General Santa Anna.  I knew about such heroes as Davey Crocket and Jim Bowie, but I had not known that a Rhode Islander was among those considered a hero during the Texas fight for Independence.  This was, in part, due to the fact that Martin was inaccurately listed as being from Tennessee.  It took a long time for the error to be corrected.

Who was Albert Martin?  How did he get to Texas?  What role did he play in the battle for Texas independence?

Albert Martin’s name on Memorial outside Alamo

Albert Martin was born in Providence in 1808 to Joseph and Abby Martin.  It seems he might have had some military training.  Some accounts say he attended what is now Norwich University.   At the time it was called “The American Literary, Scientific and Military Academy” and was located in Connecticut.  Other sources say he was admitted to West Point in 1824.  Military training would have come in handy when the family moved to Texas.

The family had been prominent merchants, but they fell on hard times.  The family was lured to the Texas area by the promise of land grants. The newly independent Mexican government wanted to populate the area.   Joseph, Albert and an older brother left Rhode Island in 1832.  They came by way of Tennessee and spent some time in New Orleans along the way.  They moved to Gonzales, Texas in 1835 where they ran a general store – a part of “Martin, Coffin & Company.”

Albert Martin arrived in Texas just in time to take a role in the battle for Texas Independence.  As General Santa Anna attempted to get more centralized control over the Texas area, the Texians (Anglo-American settlers) and the Tejanos (the Texans of Mexican and Native American  descent) joined together to fight for independence.

Martin’s military training would come to play in three  battles.  He joined the Gonzales Rangers and was one of the “Old Eighteen” defenders. The people of Gonzales had been given an old six pound cannon that was to be used to defend against attacks by local tribes.  In September of 1835 the Texans were shinning up the cannon to use it in defense of their town, but then over a hundred Mexican troops came to take it back.  Albert Martin had buried the cannon in a peach orchard and he and seventeen other defenders taunted the Mexicans with the cry “Come and Take It!” This allowed the rebels time to gather 150 troops for the Battle of Gonzales. On a foggy night the Texans crept up on the Mexican forces.  As the fog lifted the two sides faced each other.  After some musket fire from the Mexicans,  the Gonzales cannon shot nails and old horseshoes at the Mexican troops and they turned and headed away.  The men of Gonzales were jubilant.  The Texas Revolution had officially begun. In December of 1835 Martin was involved in the Battle for Bexar.

In February of 1836, Albert Martin arrived at the Alamo.  Beginning Feb. 23, 1836, a group of Texas rebels were holding a fort/church (the Alamo) from about 4000 Mexican forces under President/General Santa Anna.  The 13 day siege enabled Texas General Sam Houston to gather an army at San Jacinto.  Santa Anna had raised the flag that meant they would take no prisoners, so those defending in the Alamo knew what their fate might be.  The Texans replied with a shot of their cannon.  When the Texans learned that the Mexicans had requested to meet, both Jim Bowie and William Travis (co-leaders of the rebels) sent out emissaries.  Albert Martin went to speak for Travis.  Martin crossed the river under a flag of truce and met with Mexican Colonel Almonte on the footbridge. He said he was speaking for Travis and that if Almonte wanted to speak with Travis he would be received “with much pleasure.”   Almonte said he was just there to “listen” and stressed that the Texans’ only hope was to surrender.  Martin reported back to Travis.  Travis wrote to Sam Houston – “I answered them with a cannon shot.”

On February 24th, Colonel Travis decided to send off a letter for help.  Albert Martin would be his messenger.

Commandancy of the The Alamo

Bejar, Feby. 24th. 1836

To the People of Texas & All Americans in the World-

Fellow Citizens & compatriots-

I am besieged, by a thousand or more of the Mexicans under Santa Anna – I have sustained a continual Bombardment & cannonade for 24 hours & have not lost a man – The enemy has demanded a surrender at discretion, otherwise, the garrison are to be put to the sword, if the fort is taken – I have answered the demand with a cannon shot, & our flag still waves proudly from the walls – I shall never surrender or retreat. Then, I call on you in the name of Liberty, of patriotism & everything dear to the American character, to come to our aid, with all dispatch – The enemy is receiving reinforcements daily & will no doubt increase to three or four thousand in four or five days. If this call is neglected, I am determined to sustain myself as long as possible & die like a soldier who never forgets what is due to his own honor & that of his country – Victory or Death.

William Barret Travis.

Lt. Col.comdt.

P. S. The Lord is on our side – When the enemy appeared in sight we had not three bushels of corn – We have since found in deserted houses 80 or 90 bushels and got into the walls 20 or 30 head of Beeves.

Martin slipped out of the Alamo and the Mexicans made no effort to stop him.  He could hear the rumble of cannons behind him.  He reached Gonzales the next day.  Martin wrote on the back of that Travis letter “Hurry on all the men you can.”  He passed the letter on to a fresh rider, Launcelot Smithers who road on to San Felipe and arrived there February the 27th.  More couriers spread the word on to settlements to the Gulf Coast.

According to Martin’s obituary in the July 1836 Manufacturers and Farmer’s Journal, Martin’s father tried to persuade him not to go back to the Alamo and certain death.  Albert said “This is no time or such considerations.  I have passed my word to Colonel Travers, that I would return, nor can I forfeit a pledge thus given.”  He gathered a group of 62 who would go to the Alamo with him, but in the end only 32 from Gonzales arrived with him on March 1st.    Although the group was small, it did revive the spirits of the rebels.

March 6th was the final battle.  The battle took only 90 minutes.  Santa Anna would not allow a proper burial for the men who had defended the Alamo.  Their bodies were burned. The women and children were allowed to go to spread the message of the Mexican victory.

Martin’s  obituary goes on to say:  “Thus died Albert Martin, a not inapt illustration of New England heroism.”  Although Albert Martin has no burial place, Rhode Islanders did not forget him  There is a marker in a North Burial Ground, Providence.  “Albert Martin fell at the Alamo, Texas in defense of his adopted country, March 6, 1836.  Aged 28 y’rs and 2 mo’s.”


Lord, Walter:  A Time to Stand:  The Epic of the Alamo.  1961, Harper Row, NY.

Handbook of Texas Online, Bill Groneman, “MARTIN, ALBERT,” accessed December 02, 2019, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fma57.

Small State Big History:  http://smallstatebighistory.com/two-rhode-islanders-make-it-big-in-texas-albert-martin-at-the-alamo-and-shanghai-pierce-the-cattle-baron/