Katherine McCormick’s glamorous image graced the front page of national newspapers in October of 1913. The newspaper articles told of a scene at the Colonial Theater in Newport.  The Rhode Island Association Opposed to Woman Suffrage rented the hall for a free lecture by a noted journalist who opposed the suffrage movement.  The Boston Globe (11/11/1913) reported that after Talcott Williams spoke against “votes for women” the three women (Katherine McCormick, Maude Howe Elliott and Mrs. James Wentz) “arose one after another, and refuted every argument he had made.  Their pointed questions worried Mr. Williams considerably, it is said, but he stood his ground — that is, he remained on the platform until the end of the meeting.   The Anti-Suffragists, however, marched indignantly out of the hall – a pantomime of what they thought of the performance. Then the Suffragists forces ended the meeting with a demonstration for their ’cause,’ the Anti-Suffragists having paid for the use of the theatre for the evening.”

Who was  “Society Suffragist” Katherine Dexter McCormick?  Katherine was well educated.  She graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1904 with a degree in biology. That same year she married Stanley McCormick whose father, Cyrus McCormick, had patented the mechanical reaper.  By 1906 Stanley McCormick was diagnosed with a catatonic dementia.  Katherine had little say over Stanley’s care and she and all other women were kept from seeing him.  Katherine remained married to Stanley and sought to use new hormone treatments to cure him.  There were constant legal battles over his care.

She fought for a voice on other issues and by 1908 she began to be quite an active speaker and benefactor for the cause of woman suffrage.  Based in Boston, Katherine was an officer in the Massachusetts and national suffrage movement.  She became the first auditor for the National American Woman Suffrage Association in 1912 and 1913.  She went to the International Woman Suffrage Alliance Congress at Budapest and was elected to the International board.

How was Katherine connected to the Newport County Woman Suffrage League?  Mrs. McCormick spent her summers in Newport, renting properties on Bellevue Avenue.  When in Newport, Katherine would be a speaker for the league and she would host league meetings at her gracious homes.  The local suffrage league benefited from her state, national and international connections.  For example, she shared her personal experiences at the International Congress at Budapest at a time when news resources were limited to the newspapers.

She is quoted as saying:  “To come into contact with the suffrage movement means, to some individuals, to come into a larger world of thought and action than they had known before.  To others it means approaching the same world in a more real and effective way.  To all it gives a wider horizon in the recognition of one fact – that the broadest human airs and the highest human ideals are an integral part of the lives of women.” (Hutchinson Gazette, 10-12-1912)

When the vote for women was won, Katherine was one of the founders of the League of Women Voters.  She continued her philanthropy by funding housing for women at MIT and she provided necessary funding for the development of “the Pill” and research on the long term effects of the birth control pill.  She may have been a “socialite” but she used her considerable resources for social causes dear to her.