Sarah Palin
12/4/2006 - ?

1/3/79 – 1/3/85

Bement Davis
1914 & 1915

Mary M. Lilly
1919 - 1928
©Foursome of Ticket Firsts:
Sarah Palin, Geraldine Ferraro . . . .
Katharine Bement Davis? Mary M. Lilly?
-- Chapter I

Commissioner Davis' Celebrity Preceded Ballot Placement

After making allowance for the limited forms of news media in place then (chiefly newspapers and magazines), the celebrity that Mayor Mitchel conferred on Miss Davis by his appointment of her as Correction Commissioner was somewhat akin to that conferred on Ferraro and Palin by Mondale and McCain, respectively, in our own mass media era.

As the first female ever to command a large uniformed (and overwhelmingly male) law enforcement force of a major city in the United States, and as the first female to run any municipal agency in NYC, Katharine Bement Davis (KBD) became a national figure, one of the most well-known women in America of her time. She had nationwide name recognition.

Whereas Palin and Ferraro -- already well known in their respective home bases -- acquired national celebrity by virtue of their VP candidacies, Davis' constitutional convention candidacy came about, at least in part, because she had already acquired national celebrity.

King Victor Emmanuel, Pope Pius X and President Taft honored
Katharine Bement Davis for her work aiding Sicilian earthquake victims.
Even before Katharine's appointment to head the NYC Department of Correction, she was well known among social reformers, club women and penologists across the country for her pioneering work as superintendent of Bedford Hills Reformatory and as head of a settlement house in Philadelphia. She came to the attention of the more general American public in 1909 when King Victor Emmanuel, Pope Pius X and President Taft honored her for her months of volunteer work leading recovery efforts in the aftermath of the devastating earthquake of Dec. 28, 1908 in the Messina region of Sicily.

Katharine had been in the resort area of Syracuse on a long-postponed, much-needed vacation away from the NYS reformatory when the quake struck. As its survivors streamed into that small town from their destroyed villages and as most tourists fled the scene for happier holiday locales, Davis stayed and organized recovery and relief programs for the quake victims.

NAWSA leader Carrie Chapman Catt was quick to see the potential value to the suffrage cause if this woman -- who had become NYC's Correction Commissioner and thus a national celebrity -- could be enlisted in the campaign.

Commissioner Davis' Grandma an Abolitionist & Feminist

Carrie Chapman Catt, who led the suffrage movement to passage and ratification of the 19th Amendment, made her home in New York (Bensonhurst, Manhattan, Briarcliff Manor and New Rochelle) from 1892 until her death in 1947. The following year a postage stamp honoring her and two organizers of the 1848 Women's Rights Convention in Seneca Falls (Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott) was issued to commemorate the convention's centennial.
On KBD's very first day as Commissioner, Catt made her a guest of honor at a reception in Woman Suffrage headquarters, 47 East 34th St., Manhattan, a healthy walk north from Department of Correction headquarters on East 20th St.

Davis was asked if she was interested in the cause and would consider participating in it. KBD explained she had been interested in it from childhood when her grandmother Rhoda Bement told her stories about the now-celebrated Women’s Convention at the Wesleyan (Methodist) Chapel at Seneca Falls, N.Y. Rhoda had played a significant role in the development of the chapel as center for abolition and suffrage activity.

Its site is now a national women’s history shrine as the "birthplace" of the Women's Rights Movement. There Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s call for woman’s suffrage was formally proposed and adopted in 1848.

Five years earlier -- on Sunday, October 1, 1843 -- Mrs. Bement, then a member of the First Presbyterian Church, confronted that church's acting pastor, the Rev. Horace P. Bogue, about his not announcing an abolitionist meeting despite her providing notices for him to do so.

Abigail Kelley Foster.
The above graphic pen sketch was inspired by an American Antiquarian Society web site image. Click to access. The site also refers to a play sponsored by the Worcester Women's History Project, Yours for Humanity - Abby about the 19th-century abolitionist and women's rights activist considered radical in her time.
Although the church was on record condemning slavery, that condemnation did not include advocating abolition.

In the weeks and months preceding the Bement-Bogue verbal clash in the First Presbyterian Church vestibule, Seneca Falls had been the setting of a series of abolitionist meetings, including several in August featuring Abigail Kelley Foster as the main speaker.

Abby Kelley, as she was mostly called, was well known for her fiery rhetoric opposing gradualism as an anti-slavery strategy, for her views that today would be called feminist, for her addressing so-called "promiscuous audiences" (mixed audiences, both genders), and for criticizing Northern clerics not breaking ties with Southern congregations viewed as tolerating slavery practiced by some members.

Rhoda Bement Upset Over Abolition Meeting Non-announcement

The Seneca Falls Historical Society's early engravings of the First Presbyterian Church of Seneca Falls were the basis of an original illustration that inspired the above sketch. The original appeared in Revivalism, Social Conscience and Community in the Burned-Over District: The Trial of Rhoda Bement published in 1983 by Cornell University Press. Its website no longer lists the title but the book can be found through Google Book Search. Click the above graphic pen sketch to access the Seneca Falls Historical Society website.
As one of Seneca Falls' most ardent abolition and temperance activists, Rhoda was busy with her friend Elizabeth Wilson M'Clintock of neighboring Waterloo that August and early October preparing an "Anti-Slavery Fair." Mrs. Bement and Miss M'Clintock had arranged for their fair to be held at Temperance Hall, Seneca Falls, Oct. 4 and 5 to raise money for the cause.

Three days before the scheduled opening of that anti-slavery fair, Mrs. Bement encountered Rev. Bogue in the church vestibule and challenged his claim he had not seen the abolition meeting notices that Rhoda accused him of ignoring.

Rhoda said that a week earlier she had given the first notice -- later testimony indicated it was for an Abby Kelley lecture -- to a church officer to pass along to Rev. Bogue to announce.

The pass-along method having failed to result in the desired announcement, the following Sunday she placed the second notice on the pastor's desk herself.

Had Rev. Bogue flatly said that he decided against announcing the meetings because he himself had been criticized by Abby Kelley during at least one of her abolition gatherings in August, who would have blamed him?

Instead, he persisted in claiming not to have seen the notices. So Mrs. Bement continued to express doubt about that explanation.

As this exchange between them in the vestibule grew more intense, and possibly louder, the audience of congregants witnessing it likewise increased.

Elders' Charges Against KBD's Grandma Bement

A facsimile of the cover of Revivalism, Social Conscience and Community in the Burned-Over District: The Trial of Rhoda Bement published in 1983 by Cornell University Press. Click the image to access a Google Book Search web page about the book and where to find it.
Rhoda's openly taking issue with the minister's veracity contributed to the congregation elders later trying her on charges of "unchristian conduct" toward the pastor.

She was also charged with

  • attending an August 1 lecture by Abby Kelley at a time when the church was holding a Sunday service, and
  • not attending Sunday services whenever Rev. Bogue officiated after her vestibule encounter with him but attending other services in the church when other ministers officiated.

The book subtitled The Trial of Rhoda Bement details the case brought against the woman from whom Katharine Davis received her middle name, one she always proudly included in her signature, never substituting the initial "B."

The book sets that case within the larger context of rural antebellum New York struggling with spiritual zeal -- in part a byproduct of earlier eras' religious revivals -- helping to fuel movements for social reform: temperance, abolition and gender equality.

Her "trial" is the lens used by the book's authors for viewing that context which the book's rather lumbering title Revivalism, Social Conscience and Community in the Burned-Over District attempts to encompass. ("Burned-Over District" refers to central and western New York State.)

The church trial ended, not surprisingly, in Mrs. Bement's expulsion. With her went a number of her supporters among the congregation. She and they joined the Wesleyan Chapel group which had spun off from the local Methodist Church in the spring of 1843 over the question of slavery condemnation versus abolition advocacy.

Correction Commissioner Davis, who was proud that her middle name came from her grandmother, insisted on fully including it in her own signature, never substituting the initial "B." The above facsimile (one letter has been deliberately altered by the webmaster as a safeguard) illustrates her typically flowing, large, bold handwriting.
For abolitionists, simply being against slavery in principle was not enough. For them, the principle had to be put into practice and that meant taking action to end slavery, even if doing so ruptured church ties with Southern congregations.

In her testimony about the church vestibule confrontation with Rev. Bogue, Rhoda recalled him as saying, "Mrs. Bement, I think you are very unchristian, very impolite and very much out of your place to pounce upon me in this manner."

Perhaps the expression "very much out of your place," if actually uttered by the minister, referred to her lay person status as a congregant, an ordinary member of the congregation without office or holy orders. But could Rhoda have interpreted his words as conveying she was "out of place" as a woman challenging authority?

Abolition, Prohibition, Feminism Connection

Before the National ParK Service restoration project began in the late 1980s, the Wesleyan Chapel had undergone many changes over the years following the 1848 convention. It had been an opera hall, a movie theater, an automobile dealership, and finally, a laundromat. Since there were no images available portraying the Chapel as it looked in 1848, a design was chosen that simply presents the remaining original portions, enclosed in a new protective structure. Click image to access NPS's website for the Women's Rights National Historic Park in Seneca Falls.
Historians have noted that, as women abolitionists worked to free slaves, they also found themselves increasingly resenting and resisting their own second-class status.

The refusal of some managers of abolitionist meetings and conventions even to seat the representatives of women abolitionist organizations was particularly galling.

Perhaps somewhat less immediately obvious to our contemporary mindset is how the Temperance Movement connected with abolitionism and the movement for women's rights. In bygone eras when women and children had few, if any rights, legal protections or even avenues for recourse to law, a man's habitual drunkenness constituted a real threat to them, to their very survival, because of their near-total dependence and vulnerability in the home and community.

Alcoholism was seen as a slavery that not only destroyed the male drunk, but also his family. The makers and sellers of liquor were seen as akin to slave masters and slavery traders profiting from the misery they helped to cause.

Refusing to acquiesce submissively to the abuses inflicted by intemperance, women organized to fight the "curse of drink" and the industry seen as promoting it.

Above is an image of the head and shoulders of a life-size statue of Lucretia Mott, one of the figures in The First Wave, an exhibit of bronze statues featured at the National Park Service's Women's Rights National Historic Park in Seneca Falls. The exhibit includes statues representing the five women who organized the First Women's Rights Convention, some of the men who came to participate, and a few anonymous others. Click the image to access the park website's relevant page. A Quaker (Society of Friends) minister by 1821, she traveled widely lecturing against war, intemperance and slavery.
By winning legal protections for women and children who so often were victimized when men lost self-control and/or employment due to drink, the temperance movement helped foster the women's right movement.

As a result of (pardon the use of late 20th Century terminology) raising consciousness among women about the inequities in domestic relations law, and empowering them to challenge those inequities through organized action in the public arena, temperance crusaders opened the door and pointed the way to campaigning for full equal rights, not just legal protections.

This was the background to emergence of the Wesleyan Chapel building -- whose construction was completed the same month Mrs. Bement confronted Rev. Bogue -- as a haven for women's rights speakers as well as advocates of abolition and prohibition, with gatherings open to all of both genders.

The chapel's reputation as a "free speech" institution made it the logical place to stage the first Women's Rights Convention that Elizabeth Cady Stanton of Seneca Falls and four other ladies (Lucretia Mott, Martha Wright, Mary Ann M'Clintock and Jane Hunt) organized for July 19-20, 1848.

That summer the M'Clintock home in nearby Waterloo became a planning center for the convention.

There Stanton consulted with Rhoda Bement's friend Elizabeth M'Clintock on the wording of the Declaration of Sentiments to be presented at the Convention for adoption. It included the historic proposed resolution:

“Resolved, that it is the duty of the women of this country to secure to themselves their sacred right to the elective franchise.”

The only name appearing in the convention notice they placed in the Seneca County Courier was that of Lucretia Mott, widely known Quaker minister and lecturer. A Philadelphian, she happened to be in the area for an extended stay with her sister Martha Coffin Wright of Auburn. During her stay with Martha, Lucretia visited Auburn Prison inmates, escaped slaves in Canada, and Senecas in western New York.

KBD's Mom, Grandma at 1st Women's Rights Convention

Above is an image of the head and shoulders of a life-size statue of Frederick Douglass, one of the figures in The First Wave, an exhibit of bronze statues featured at the National Park Service's Women's Rights National Historic Park in Seneca Falls. The exhibit includes statues representing the five women who organized the First Women's Rights Convention, some of the men who came to participate, and a few anonymous others. Click the image to access the park website's relevant page.
Elizabeth M'Clintock invited to the Convention the former slave, Frederick Douglass, who had become a prominent abolition activist, lecturer. and newspaper publisher.

He accepted the invitation, attended the Convention, and spoke in support of the Declaration of Sentiments resolution calling for women to secure the "sacred right" of "elective franchise."

An estimated 300 people attended the Convention over the course of its two days.

Davis family lore holds that, not only did Rhoda Bement attend the Convention, she also took along her 10-year-old daughter, Frances, who 12 years later became the mother of Katharine.

Since the Bements were still Seneca Falls residents in 1848 and members of the Wesleyan Chapel congregation, there is every reason to credit Davis family lore on this point.

Would Rhoda have passed up attending a Convention which her friend Elizabeth M'Clintock helped organize in the Wesleyan Chapel which Rhoda had joined five years earlier after her encounter with Rev. Bogue and her subsequent "trial"?

Above is an image of the M'Clintock House, home of Rhoda Bement's friend Elizabeth M'Clintock, where planning for the first Women's Rights Convention took place and where the convention's Declaration of Sentiments was drafted. The house also was a station on the Underground Railroad. To access its page on the National Park Service's Women's Rights National Historic Park website, click the image.
For its value in possibly shedding light on the remark attributed to Rev. Bogue that Rhoda was "very much out of place" in confronting him about the meeting notices, consider that the pastor was among the many local and vocal critics decrying the Convention and its resolutions.

According to an excellent article Birth of the Women's Rights Movement in Seneca County available in county historian Walter Gable's section of that county's official web site:

On the Sunday after the Seneca Falls convention, the Reverend Horace P. Bogue, pastor of the Presbyterian Church in Seneca Falls, preached a sermon opposing woman’s rights. Stanton and Mary Ann M’Clintock sat in the pews and took notes of what he said.

When NAWSA president Catt heard Correction Commissioner Davis tell some of the Women's Rights Convention-related stories she learned as a child at Grandma Bement's knee, the tales could only have served to strengthen the suffragist leader's determination to recruit Katharine to the cause.

Thomas C. McCarthy,



Commissioner Davis' Celebrity Preceded Ballot Placement . . . . Commissioner Davis' Grandma an Abolitionist & Feminist . . . . Rhoda Bement Upset Over Abolition Meeting Non-announcement . . . . Elders' Charges Against KBD's Grandma Bement . . . . Abolition, Prohibition, Feminism Connection . . . KBD's Mom, Grandma at 1st Women's Rights Convention.


KBD Agrees to Campaign for Suffrage If OK With Mayor . . . . City Hall Reporters Foresee Change Coming With KBD. . . . . . KBD Begins Suffrage Campaign: Pageant, Ball, Rally, Speeches . . . . KBD on TR Party State Ticket . . . . Mayor Mitchel Not Only OKs, But Endorses KBD Candidacy . . . .Support for KBD Candidacy Crosses Party Lines . . . . A Sister Reformatory Superintendent a District Delegate Candidate . . . .


Women Delegate Candidates Lost But Cause Gained Ground . . . . Woman Suffrage Telephone Day at DOC . . . . Planning Ahead to Use the Vote to Promote Good Government . . . . KBD Hosts Suffragist Tea in Municipal Building . . . . KBD & 'Her Civil Service Girls' in Suffrage Parade . . . . In Face of Defeat, Fighting Spirits Rose High. . . . .


Hughes Backs U.S. Suffrage Amendment, KBD Backs Hughes . . . . KBD a Leader on Hughes Women's Campaign Train . . . . 8 of 9 NY speakers on Hughes train not 'rich society matrons' . . . . Besides KBD: Mrs. Henry Moskowitz, Rebekah Bettelhelm Kohut, Mrs. Mary Antin, Mrs. Rheta Childe Dorr, Frances Alice Kellor, Mrs. Alice Snitjer Burke, Annie Smith Peck . . . . TR Welcomes Back KBD, Other 'Hughesettes' . . . .


'Women Owe No One Party for the Vote' . . . . NY State Voting Rights Win Sped 19th Amendment . . . . DOCer/Assemblywoman Helps Ratify U.S. Suffrage Amendment . . . . Mrs. Lilly: Wife, Mother, Widow, School Teacher & Administrator, Lawyer, Club Woman, Editor, Legislator, Penologist . . . . Mrs. Lilly's Interaction With Anna Moskowitz Kross . . . . Her 1 Year as Assemblywoman Seen by Supporters as Effective . . . . Appointed to DOC on Memorable Day in NY Suffrage History . . . . Lilly Re-election Bid Hit on Election Eve . . . . Mrs. Lilly's Interaction With Katharine Bement Davis . . . . What Would Davis & Lilly Have Thought of the Collective Fact of Ferraro, Clinton, & Palin Candidacies?
Source Notes
Copyright © 2008 by Thomas C. McCarthy and the New York Correction History Society
on main texts and captions, excluding material quoted and cited from other sources.
All rights on original text and caption wording reserved.