From the Lawrence House to the State House

July 19, 2012 § 2 Comments

The Dana-Thomas House Foundation is hosting “Jazz in Bloom,” its annual fund raiser, Saturday night. One hundred guests are expected, and I was reminded of a party Susan gave which I reference in Chapter 9 of Susan Lawrence: The Enigma in the Wright House. This is the report of the event in the April 15, 1909, Illinois State Journal:

A reception for the Chicago women who are in the city in the interests of the suffrage bill was given yesterday by Mrs. Susan Lawrence Dana at her residence on South Fourth street.  Before the reception, luncheon was served in the north dining room to the distinguished guests, numbering more than a hundred.

The decorations were simple but perfect in appointment.  Yellow, the suffrage color, was in general evidence.  Yellow tulips were scattered here and there about the table, one at each plate, and great candles with soft yellow shades cast a soft glow over the half darkened room and when the guests departed, each wore a tulip.

The Springfield news story continued with the names of all 115 guests. Jane Addams of Hull House fame topped the list.

I discovered in an April 15, 1909, issue of the Chicago Tribune what the suffragists did the rest of their day in Springfield. According to the reporter identified only as C.S.R., the women came to testify before Illinois lawmakers. Evidently the group walked the three blocks between the Lawrence House and the State House and descended on the legislators with yellow “jonquils” (according to C.S.R.) in hand at 2 o’clock in the afternoon. They began their testimony in support of the Billings bill in the Senate chamber before the Senate Elections Committee. The measure would grant state-wide suffrage to women. Actually only the chair of the committee and one other senator were present as four of the suffragists (including Jane Addams) spoke to a chamber filled with women. The chair then allowed two representatives of the Illinois Association Opposed to the Extension of Suffrage to Women (IAOESW) to speak. Mrs. J.C. Fairfield, secretary, and Mrs. Caroline Corbin, founder and president of the organization, argued that women’s suffrage would undermine the traditional family and ultimately harm women. (Click here for more details.) Their remarks were met with brief “hisses” from the biased audience.

 While the representatives of the IAOESW were speaking, the main event, a joint session of the House and Senate Charter Committees scheduled for 3 o’clock, was convening in the House chamber. The floor of the chamber and the galleries were completely filled with women, and a good number of legislators were in attendance. A petition with hundreds of signatures was dramatically unrolled and wrapped around the pillars of the hall and across the Speaker’s podium. The presiding chair turned the meeting over to Jane Addams who introduced 17 speakers each of whom was limited to three minutes to tell why women should vote. (Miss Addams tapped the speaker on the shoulder if she was going overtime.) Many of the speakers had been on Susan’s guest list.

 The day’s efforts gleaned a small victory. According to C.S.R., five senators who were in favor of the Billings Bill were summoned to the Senate chamber when the chair called for a committee vote on the measure. They made a quorum, voted yes, and passed the bill out of the Senate committee. Of course, it didn’t go any further, but the suffragists were accustomed to setbacks. They continued the fight until 1920 when the 19th amendment of the constitution was passed. I’m sure that very few of their battle days, however, started as pleasantly as the day they were so graciously entertained at the Lawrence House.

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§ 2 Responses to From the Lawrence House to the State House

  • Sue Haury says:

    Roberta, you are having far too much fun blogging! I enjoy all your updates about Susan and her house. The account of the legislature in action (from the link to the Chicago Tribune) gave me a giggle. Seems they must always have acted thus.

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