Women’s Suffrage: Mabel Speaks

Women’s Suffrage: Mabel Speaks

Mabel Potter, a senior at Pembroke College, the Women’s College in Brown University, is one of the speakers listed on the Program of the Twenty-eighth Annual Meeting of the Rhode Island Woman Suffrage Association to be held in the House of Representatives, State House, Providence, Oct. 14th & 15th, 1896.

Other speakers included:

  • The Rev. Anna Garlin Spencer, the first woman ordained as a minister (Unitarian) in Rhode Island.
  • Elizabeth Buffum Chace, an activist in anti-slavery, women’s rights, and prison reform from a family of anti-slavery Quakers.
  • Henry Brown Blackwell, an early advocate of women’s suffrage and abolition.  He also worked against deportation of political refugees, the Armenian massacres of 1895, and supported economic reciprocity with Canada.  He had married Lucy Stone; they published a joint protest against inequality in marriage law.  Henry devoted time and money to help his wife organize the American Women Suffrage Association.  (She  died in 1893.)
  • Julia Ward Howe, abolitionist, suffragist, co-founder of the American Women Suffrage Association, and author of The Battle Hymn of the Republic.
  • Mary A. Livermore.   She had been instrumental in procuring and distributing supplies of food and medicines for Union troops during the Civil War and devoted her life to women’s suffrage and the temperance movement.
  • William Lloyd Garrison, Jr.  He followed his more famous father’s footsteps as an advocate of the single tax, free trade,  women’s suffrage, and repeal of the Chinese Exclusion Act.
  • There were other, less well known, speakers including local clergy and a rabbi.

What most of the speakers said might be inferred from historical records and their recorded addresses on suffrage.

What Mabel, apparently the youngest speaker and only college student, had to say, I wish I knew, although I hope to find some hints in her voluminous yet-unread correspondence.  I assume she had participated in monthly meetings of the Providence, Rhode Island, Women’s Suffrage group and had impressed its members favorably, perhaps volunteered to speak.

A most intriguing part of the program is “Singing.  John W. Hutchinson.”  The lyrics are more detailed, with more wide-ranging vocabulary than most modern protest songs, and to be included in my next post.

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