Jeannette Roosa Davis, her husband Loyal, & the Anti-Suffragists of Glens Falls
In researching the suffrage movement using local newspapers to uncover the names of women involved in the cause, I came across a small group of women on the other side. Yes, Glens Falls had a contingent of "Antis", or anti-suffragists who I am just beginning to identify.
The letter to the editor transcribed below was probably written, at least in part, by Jeannette Roosa Davis (Mrs. Loyal L.), who was president of the Glens Falls branch of the New York State Association Opposed to Woman’s Suffrage. She was also president of the Monday Reading Club, one of the many local study clubs for women, from 1914-17 & again in 1925-26. Because the MRC was a member of the Federation of Women’s Clubs and would have sent an officer as a delegate, it was likely one of the 73 women to oppose the suffrage resolution was Mrs. Davis.
Post-Star (Glens Falls, NY Warren County). January 27, 1915. P.5.
ANTIS OBJECT TO WORD “UNANIMOUSLY”
Reporter’s Error Brings Communication From Opponents to Woman Suffrage
In justice to Mrs. George Notman* of Brooklyn, it must be said that during her address Monday afternoon before the members of the Political Equality club, she did not use the word, “unanimously,” to which the contributors of the appended communication take exception. What Mrs. Notman really said was that “It was a thrilling moment when the State Federation of Women’s Clubs declared in favor of the enfranchisement of women.” In writing a report of the meeting, a representative of the Post-Star inadvertently injected the word “unanimously” in to the “endorsement” paragraph credited to Mrs. Notman, hence the following:
Editor The Post-Star:
Allow us to correct an error in a recent issue of your paper. In an account of the meeting of the Political Equality club held on Monday afternoon at the home of its president, the speaker of the day is reported to have said: “It was a thrilling moment when the State Federation of Women’s clubs last fall in Binghamton unanimously declared itself in favor of the enfranchisement of women.”
As a matter of fact the Federation did not “unanimously declare itself in favor of the enfranchisement of women.” The suffrage resolution was adopted by a vote of 227 to 73, but immediately upon its adoption the following minority report was presented and accepted:
“Anti-suffrage protest--the minority delegates of the New York State Federation of Women's clubs wish to present and place on record a protest against what undoubtedly will be quoted as a unanimous endorsement of woman suffrage by the 289,000 women belonging to the clubs of the New York Federation.
“The majority of delegates came to this convention uninstructed on this vital and important question, and therefore it is manifestly unfair to place them in a position as having endorsed woman suffrage on behalf of the club they represent. This protest was signed by a number of representative women of the state Federation and placed on the ‘records’.”
of Glens Falls
*Katharine Parker Howard Notman (1859-1946) was the chairman for the 11th campaign district of the Empire State Campaign from 1913-1917. Her vast district covered Rensselaer, Saratoga, Washington, Warren, and Essex counties with Troy being her southernmost headquarters, and her summer home “Eaglestowe” in Keene Valley being her northern most headquarters.
In the May 19, 1915 issue of the Post-Star, an article about the anti-suffrage club stated it formed the day before & the following women were elected officers:
Honorary president, Helen E. Foulds (Mrs. Thomas H.); president, Jeannette Roosa Davis (Mrs. Loyal L.); first vice president, Arabella W. Andrews Haviland (Mrs. Willis); second vice president, Mary L. Kiley (Mrs. James S.); third vice president, Jessie E. West Achenbach (Mrs. William T.); recording secretary, Mrs. Edsall D. B. Elliott; corresponding secretary, Amoretta M. Bullard (Mrs. Frederick H.); treasurer, Mrs. Daniel L. Robertson; assistant treasurer, Miss Madora Marsh; directors, Elizabeth Wilson (Mrs. Charles Henry), Mrs. Emily J. Adamson (widow of William R.), Mrs. Howard H. Pruyn, Mrs. Dudley M. Hall, Miss Josephine Demarest, Miss Phoebe Mills, Glens Falls; Mrs. Mary VanDerwerker, Hudson Falls.
The same article states anti-suffrage activity started three years prior, in 1912. However, the pro-suffrage Glens Falls Political Equality Club elected officers as early as 1894, and held successful conventions in 1894 (regional) and 1900 (state) bringing in national speakers like sisters Susan B. & Mary S. Anthony, Carrie Chapman Catt, and Rev. Dr. Anna Howard Shaw.
1915 was a contentious year. The NY State Legislature announced that the (male) voters of the state would finally be able to vote on whether to allow women to vote in all elections, not just school elections. Suffragists launched the Empire Campaign to canvass all adults to gauge where New Yorkers stood on this hot topic. Glens Falls Suffs began canvassing in May 1914 to prepare for the November 1915 vote. The Antis were a bit behind in organizing.
Post-Star (Glens Falls, NY Warren County). October 25, 1915. P.12.
WOMEN WON’T HAVE WATCHERS AT POLLS
Both Suffragettes and Antis Will Leave it to the Men
INTEREST IS INCREASING
Neither the suffragists or the antis will have watchers at the polls a week from tomorrow, Definite statements to this effect were made last evening by members of both organizations, and voters who expected t o enjoy the novelty of women at the polls are doomed to disappointment.
Mrs. W. D. Hodgson, president of the Political Equality club and Mrs. Nordstrom of Lake George, county leader, were in New York yesterday and no statements could be secured from them, but Mrs. Daniel F. Imrie, secretary of the county organization, said no watchers would be at the polls November 2, in the interest of the suffragists.
Mrs. Loyal L. Davis, president of the Glens Falls Association Opposed to Woman Suffrage, emphatically declared that no anti-suffragists would act as watchers.
“If the time ever comes when women vote, then we will go to the polls, but until that time comes we will remain away,” Mrs. Davis said.
Increased interest in the suffrage question has been noted during the last week or two, due principally to the whirlwind campaign both sides have set in motion for the final appeal to the voters. Until a short time ago, men displayed comparatively little interest in the question, but now it is evident that interest in suffrage is running ahead of the constitutional amendments and the canal referendum.
Both sides are confident of victory. The suffragists are certain there will be a majority for equal suffrage , and the antis are just as positive that the proposition will be defeated. The latter declare the result in New Jersey indicates the result in New York state.
The politicians are non-commital, when asked their opinion of the result, and when a man who has been in the political game a long time cannot make some kind of a prediction on an election, there is little chance for the ordinary voter to come anywhere near hitting the mark. One politician, whose opinion is sought by those who desire to “be on the inside,” politically speaking, summed up the situation thus:
“The voters are’nt [sic] telling how they’re going to vote on the suffrage question, and when they don’t talk, how is anybody going to get a line on them?
But who was Jeannette Roosa Davis & why was she opposed to women having the right to vote? According to census records, Jeannette Roosa was born in December 1876 to Theron & Mary J. Roosa. The family was living along Lake Erie in Portland, Chautauqua County, NY in the 1880 census. Father Theron (30), mother Mary (22), grandmother Jeannette (67), Edward (2), and the younger Jeannette (4). By the 1900 census, 23 year old Jeannette was teaching in Johnsburgh, Warren County, NY & boarding with three other teachers at the home of Wesley Kenwell & family. By 1905 she had met & married attorney Loyal L. Davis (42). They were living with Loyal's mother Eliza H. Davis (70) & their one year old daughter Jessie at 12 Pine Street in the then village of Glens Falls.
In 1910 Loyal was listed as the head of household at 12 Pine in the recently incorporated city of Glens Falls. Daughter Jessie was five & son Joseph was two. Loyal's mother Eliza was no longer living with the family as of the 1915 census.
That same census year, Jeannette Davis addressed the Mother's Club at their picnic meeting in Crandall Park. Members of the Mother's Club included her fellow Monday Reading Club members, Mrs. Edward Reed & Mrs. L.F. Stickney, as well as noted Suffs Anna Murray and Dr. Annetta E. Barber. Her address was published in it's entirety in the Post-Star of June 9, 1915. Below is an excerpt.
“The mother is, largely, the maker of the man. It would be a good thing for our nation if more women recognized that they now possess the greatest right, the most noble franchise, that can be possessed--the power of developing character. Many mothers forget their responsibility or deliberately evade or neglect their duty. When I speak of the great character in making possibilities that come to the mothers, I do not care to have it understood that I think the father has no duty to perform in the character building of his children. He has, most emphatically; but in his struggle to support the family, he does not have the opportunity to exercise his influence that the mother has. The mother is with the children during the years when the character is developing. The law makers of our state recognize this need in keeping the mother and children together when they passed the widowed mothers’ pension law, which makes the penniless widow and her children wards of the state.
“Conservation is the watchword of the age. We anti-suffrage women believe in the conservation of our American womanhood, for her highest and noblest duty, homemaking and motherhood. Woman has through all the ages ruled the domestic realm. She has always led the social world and been the mainstay of the religious world; we also find her a prominent factor in philanthropic and civic movements.
“Now suffragists are demanding a place in the political world. Is it possible for women to disperse their activities over such a broad field and accomplish good work in all lines? Which department will be neglected by the feminist and the lover of excitement? The domestic realms will undoubtedly be the first to suffer loss...
“In the political arena lurks a danger for some women and some homes, which all women, particularly all mothers, should carefully consider before they ask that women be allowed to take an active part in politics.
“The whole scheme of government is the science of protection, the protecting of life, liberty, property and pursuit of happiness. In the divine distribution of powers, the right of duty of protection… the male. This is true throughout nature and should continue to apply to the human family. Government of the science of protection in the hands of women is contrary to the laws of nature and proves to be a backward step in civilization. Men and women are simply different. Each sex is equally well qualified for its particular field of work. But some of us think it is not only a mistake but an injustice to add the burden of politics to the important existing duties of our women.
“It has been said antis have taken a ‘dog in the manger’ attitude, that we are ‘organized to prevent our sisters from getting the ballot.’ The anti attitude is defensive, not aggressive. We are organized to stand up for our rights to enjoy the privileges and discriminations made to our sex by the men of our state. This sex discrimination may be seen in the laws of our statute book, in our courts of justice and in public opinion. These special privileges must eventually vanish under equal suffrage.
"...We antis like being the privileged sex, and object to giving up one atom of universal discrimination made in our favor because the suffragist wants to vote.
“It is not a question of whether one woman wants to vote and another does not. A vote is a duty, not a privilege or a right. The all important point is, will equal suffrage benefit the state, our homes or our women..."
Mrs. Davis' husband also appeared to be anti-suffrage. Born in Bolton, Warren County on July 11, 1862 to Eliza Ann née Heist and Flavius Josephus Warren Davis, Loyal Davis served in Company K, 2nd NY Infantry Regiment in the Spanish-American War, practiced law, and was member of just about every fraternity in greater Glens Falls.
In 1917, when male voters were asked again to vote on the woman suffrage question, the Warren County Republican Committee met on the first of October. William Burdett proposed the following resolution:
"Whereas, the Republican party in both nation and state has endorsed woman's suffrage, and
"Whereas, a plank to that effect has been incorporated in the party platform, be it
"Resolved, that the members of the Republican committee of Warren county reaffirming faith in a government of the people, by the people and for the people do hereby recommend women as people and recommend their enfranchisement."
According to an October 2, 1917 article in The Post-Star, Loyal Davis & Henry W. Williams "offered arguments in opposition", & proposed a counter resolution to allow the question to be decided by the voters without the committee taking a formal stance. Burdett's pro-suffrage resolution was defeated by a vote of 4 to 20. Davis' anti resolution was adopted 20 to 4. On November 6, 1917. the majority of male voters across the state voted in favor of enfranchising women. Washington voted in favor. Glens Falls voted in favor, but the remainder of Warren County voted against.
Sometime between 1915-1920 Jeannette and Loyal Davis divorced. In the 1920 census, 42 year old Jeannette was listed as Head/Divorced, living with daughter Jessie (15), son Joseph (12), along with boarders Charles & Carrie Spurr, and James & Elizabeth Pearsall. Her occupation in the Glens Falls City Directory for that year was "manufacturer novelty- shop- own account." During this time her status in the Monday Reading Club is listed as "Honorary Member" (1917-1923) Was she unable to pay dues? Was she not able to participate in the study club due to her new duties as shop owner? Eventually Jeannette went back to teaching in Glens Falls & in Fort Edward, Washington County, NY & was president of the study club again in 1925. She would eventually move to Connecticut to live with her daughter Jessie where she died in 1948. I hope she voted.
Online resources used to write this post include nyhistoricnewspapers.org, newspapers.com, ancestry.com, The Suffrage Collection on nyheritage.org, New York State Division of Military and Naval Affairs: Military History website: dmna.ny.gov.
I also consulted the Women's study clubs collection, 1905-1958, Glens Falls City Directories, Warren County cemetery indexes, & the biographical vertical file of Loyal L. Davis all held in the Folklife Center at Crandall Public Library.
Based on my research, a biographical vertical file now exists on Jeannette Roosa Davis & is held in the Folklife Center at Crandall Public Library.
Suffragists Dr. Annetta E. Barber, Anna Murray, & Katharine parker Howard Notman are featured in the Folklife Gallery exhibition, Equali-tea: Suffragist Tea Cozies in Redwork, A Suffrage Centennial exhibition.
Tisha Dolton is Librarian/Historian at The Folklife Center at Crandall Public Library in Glens Falls, NY. Her areas of interest are suffrage music, suffragists of Warren and Washington Counties, local women and minority populations, and embroidery.
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