The History of Women Suffrage* notes that the work of the Newport County Woman Suffrage League was “at first largely carried out by an active group of philanthropic women of Bristol Ferry.”  In other blogs we have talked about some of the ladies who were founding members:   Sarah Eddy, Mary Ballou, Sophie and Cora Mitchel, Clara May Mitchel and Emeline Eldredge.  Who were some of the other women who served in leadership roles while the suffrage movement was centered in the Bristol Ferry neighborhood?   Some of the women had deep Portsmouth roots and were the typical wives, mothers and daughters – Lillian Wheeler Boone, Edith Chase, Letitia Lawton, Pearl Hicks, Marjorie Hicks, and Hannah Hall Sisson.

The philanthropic work these women (neighbors and friends) did drew them together.  Many of the women were active in St. Paul’s Episcopal Church.  The ladies of St. Paul’s were not just focused on religious causes. They were active in charitable outreach to the poor, young girls and the disabled.  The women were active in the fabric of Portsmouth society.  Many  helped organize the Newport County Agricultural Fair  Two were teachers at Bristol Ferry School.  Many of the women were also active in the Women’s Christian Temperance Union.

The Newport County Woman’s Suffrage League was a sub-group of the American Woman Suffrage Association.  This organization believed in organizing at the local level and the Bristol Ferry group was a good example of the effectiveness of this strategy.  The Bristol Ferry women had advantages.  1.  Within the neighborhood there were women (Sarah Eddy and Mary Ballou) who had contacts with the national and state organization.  They regularly attended conferences and brought the information back to Portsmouth.  They circulated the suffrage publications. 2. The Bristol Ferry area is a natural neighborhood bounded by the Town Pond and shoreline of the bay.  The Social Studio and the Town Commons served as hubs of community gathering.  3.  Bristol Ferry was the transportation hub of Portsmouth.  This was before the Mt. Hope Bridge was built and Bristol Ferry landing was a junction of railroads, steamboats, and ferries.  The Fall River Line stopped there for easy access to New York. 4.  Bristol Ferry was a cultural and artistic center for Portsmouth.  There was a community of artists.

*The History of Woman Suffrage, Volume IV by Susan B. Anthony and Ida Husted Harper