Can you imagine the U.S. Congress taking your citizenship away. That is what happened to Maud Howe Elliott (the daughter of Julia Ward Howe) and many other women. In 1907 the Congress passed the Expatriation Act which took citizenship away from American born women who had married a foreigner. Maud had married English artist John Elliott about 25 years before. What is interesting is that this applied ONLY to women. Men retained their citizenship if married to a foreign citizen. So when women got the vote in 1920, Maud could not cast a vote. She had to wait until another bill was passed. The Cable Act passed in 1922 BECAUSE women now had the vote and the politicians were anxious to solicit the votes of women. A newspaper article in June of 1923 records that Maud had petitioned the Superior Court in Newport in order to regain her citizenship under the Cable Act.*

I consider Maud to be a “Portsmouth Suffragist” although Newport and even Boston lay claim to her. She spent fourteen summers at her parents’ homes at Lawton’s Valley. As her mother Julia grew older, she spent more time with her at the Oak Glen home on Union Street. After her mother’s death in 1910, Maud and her husband John lived at Oak Glen. Oak Glen was a base of operation for the Newport County Suffrage League when Maud became president. Maud was a busy woman and she hesitated about taking on the presidency of the league.

Sept. 6, 1912: “Miss Cora Mitchell asks me to take the presidency of the Newport County Suffrage League. I delayed decision but suppose I shall in the end accept, unless we can find another person. With the heavy work I have undertaken as secretary of the Art Association and for the Progressive Party, this seems the last straw. **

Maud’s connections with both the Art Association and the Progressive Party drew many new women to the suffrage movement. As a co-founder of the Art Association, she had a great impact on Newport culture. She founded the Rhode Island Woman’s branch of the Progressive Party and she worked tirelessly for the party’s candidates. Most of the local suffragists favored the Republican Party.

Maud and the other ladies of the Newport County League did not believe in the militancy of the English suffragists or even noted Newport socialite Ava Belmont. However, they were not hesitant to press their case. Maud and others from the League “botton-holed” Rhode Island legislators in 1914. When the “Antis” (those against suffrage) rented a theater in Newport, Maud and two other League ladies came to refute their arguments. Maud was an excellent spokesman for the suffrage cause and she energized a new group of suffragists among Newport women and the summer socialite community.

*Rutland (Vermont) Daily Herald, June 5, 1923

** Maud Howe Elliott: Three Generations. Little Brown, 1923.