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 III

Women Delegate Candidates Lost But Cause Gained Ground

Not a single female candidate for constitution convention delegate, whether at-large or district, won in the November 1914 election. But their collective candidacies did win a victory of sorts three months later after intensive follow-up lobbying by the suffragists, Davis included, that began immediately in the wake of the seeming setback dealt them by the defeat of their delegate candidacies.

Letterhead of group promoting women constitutional convention candidates.
The November 1914 Carnegie Hall rally at which, as already indicated, British suffragist Christabel Pankhurst and Commissioner Davis shared the stage with other leading suffragists, took place only two days after Election Day. The women, with the help of some men, raised $105,619 to finance their coming campaign to win November 1915 passage of a state constitutional amendment enfranchising NY women.

In effect, they didn't skip a beat gearing up from the 1914 election two days in the past for the election 12 months in the future. Talk about persistence and determination!

The New York State Legislature in early February adopted a resolution to submit the woman suffrage question to a statewide referendum the following November. That legislative action had the effect, if not the intent, of removing the female vote issue from constitutional convention consideration and of separating that question on the ballot (and perhaps in voters' minds) from whatever proposed constitutional revisions the convention would eventually submit to the electorate.

Throughout the months leading up to November 1915 election, Commissioner Davis and the other New York suffragists campaigned tirelessly for passage of "their" amendment.

The sepia image of Cooper Union is based on a Wikimedia Commons photograph taken by David Shankbone. Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, established in 1859 by Peter Cooper, is among the nation's oldest and most distinguished institutions of higher learning. To access its own history web page, click the image.
Under a headline proclaiming ANTI-VOTES CLAQUE ATTACKS MISS DAVIS, the Times on March 3, 1915, described the activity of some young men who showed up and made their presense known at mass meeting the previous evening in Cooper Union.

The topic was "Women and Politics" but the claque applauded all remarks its members made unfavorable to women.

The young men, not usual Cooper Union habituês, sat at one side of the hall.

While not disorderly, they cheered whenever a negative phrased question was asked by one of them.

The meeting had been sponsored by the Manhattan Woman Suffrage Party and the People’s Institute. The Times reported:

Dr. Katharine B. Davis, Commissioner of Correction, spoke, and one question that the claque applauded was called out by a young man from that side of the room:

“Why are conditions so bad in the jails . . . .

Penal reformer Thomas Mott Osborne's introduction of limited self-government among inmates at Sing Sing when warden there and at Auburn through his friend Warden Charles Rattigan prompted some to seize on the concept as a way to challenge and embarrass the Fusion Progressive administration of John Purroy Mitchel. Osborne, a force in Democratic politics upstate, occasionally bolted the party such as when he ran for Lt. Governor on the Citizen's Union ticket. Osborne's middle name came from the Mott branch of his family that included Lucretia, the abolitionist and suffragist Quaker minister who helped organize the 1848 Women's Rights Convention in Seneca Falls. For more about Thomas Mott Osborne on our site, click the above image of his statue in Auburn.
"Dr. Davis is too mild. She can't handle them [the inmates]. See what Osborne is doing at Sing Sing. . . ."

The claque also applauded loudly when another young man suggested suffragists should flatter men and not treat them as enemies if their votes are being sought to win passage of woman suffrage amendments to the state and federal constitutions.

The women in the audience reacted loudly and negatively to the notion they were against the male gender.

The meeting chairperson, Mrs. James Lees Laidlaw, lectured the young questioner that suffragists were not men haters and that if any men haters sought to join the suffrage ranks, they would be shunned and given no place or standing in the movement. Her response drew universial approval from the women in the audience.

The Times reported that Davis did not reach the hall until 9:30, explaining that she had been to Albany on behalf of a bill for her department:

[Dr. Davis] had waited to see it into the Senate and Assembly before she left Albany.

She said it seemed unnecessary to talk suffrage when it would be so much better service to talk of ways and means of improving conditions . . .

“But it does seem strange, doesn't it,’ she said, “that I, a non-voter, am at the head of the Department of Correction, and I have 7,463 prIsoners under me, most of them men. 1 have in the department working under me between 600 and 700 men, my subordinates. On Nov. 2 they can all vote to decide whether I shall vote, and the prisoners who are out will also have their say about it.

"But I will tell you what I am going to do. I am going into the workhouse and penitentiary and I am going to give suffrage talks there.”

On March 10, 1915, Commissioner Davis shared the speakers platform with entertainer Lillian Russell. The occasion was Suffrage Day at the Made-in-the-USA Exposition. It was Miss Russell's first formal woman suffrage speech as such, according to the Times of that date. However, her suffragist sympathies were well known. Her mother, quite a visible feminist in her era, Cynthia Leonard, had run for mayor on a Women's Rights platform in 1888, receiving a total of four votes.

Woman Suffrage Telephone Day at DOC

Graphic pen sketch of Mary Garrett Hay, NYC Woman Suffrage Party head. She was a State Commission on Prison Reform member as was Thomas Mott Osborne, later Sing Sing warden.
One example of the suffragists' intense efforts was known as Telephone Day among those committed to the cause.

On July 29, 1915, each member of various participating suffragist organizations was supposed to call five men to find out how they planned to vote on the women's vote amendment Nov. 2 and to ask whether they thought the amendment would be approved.

Miss Mary Garrett Hay, head NYC Woman Suffrage Party with a claimed membership of 100,000, oversaw her organization's participation in the event and placed several calls herself.

Burdette G. Lewis, shown above at his swear-in as KBD's Deputy Commissioner, later was her successor as Commissioner.
The next day the Times did a detailed story -- with sundry quotes -- on how the phoners called various public officials and other leading citizens as part of the all-day drive. KBD was not left out, even though she was an officer in the Woman Suffrage Party:

"How are you going to vote, Commissioner?" called Miss Mary Garrett Hay to Katharine B. Davis, Commissioner of Correction, who was not to be neglected when every other city official was called.

"Well, I wish I could vote for the women," answered Commissioner Davis, “but this is one time when I will have to turn you over to the First Deputy."

"I'm heartily in favor,” said Deputy Commissioner Burdette G. Lewis, to whom Commissioner Davis handed the phone. “I will vote for you Nov. 2 and I think you are going to win, but you will have a hard fight.”

By the end of the year, Lewis would become Commissioner after Davis' appointment as head of the then newly-launched NYC Parole Commission, an agency whose establishment she had advocated and initiated.

She had promoted parole as major reform for the city's jails because it introduced good behavior and rehabilitation incentives into the municipal correction system where certain convicted felons were serving sentences of up to three years, mostly in the Penitentiary on Blackwell's Island.

Planning Ahead to Use the Vote to Promote Good Government

Click above image, based on the logo elements of the Women's City Club of New York home page, to access the website's history page.
While a few suffragists spoke exclusively in narrow terms of gaining the vote in order to advance a selective agenda of gender-specific demands, Davis and many others argued for the vote as means of advancing the cause of good government in general, benefiting all, male and female.

With such promotion of good government and civic betterment as its goal, a committee, consisting of KBD and six other prominent women, announced two months before the November 1915 referendum it had begun formation a Women's City Club of New York. The Times of August 11, 1915, reported:

To prepare for the full exercise of their influence when they shall have the vote. prominent New York women yesterday announced a plan for the founding of a woman's city club, analogous in purposes and formation to the men's City Club. Among the leaders in the movement are Mrs. Norman de R. Whitehouse, Miss Alice Carpenter. and Commissioner of Correction Katharine B. Davis, and Mrs. Claudia Q. Murphy.

Click the above graphic pen sketch of NYS Woman's Suffrage Party leader Mrs. Norman DeR. Whitehouse to access the web site of Triptych, a digital initiative of Bryn Mawr, Haverford and Swarthmore College libraries, where resides the image that inspired it.
The Times said the organizing committee anticipated its membership roster would include women from every part of the city, would reflect a variety of interests, and would get involved in all civic and reforms issues.

The committee sent a letter to 100 women whom it to recruit as charter members of the Women’s City Club. It read:

"You are invited to join a temporary committee which has been organized to form a Woman’s City Club of New York. The object of this club will be to take up various city problems as they present themselves, to back all movements for city betterment along social and political lines, and to form a centre of civic interests for the women of New York.

"The Pheips-Stokos estate has been approached and has favorably received the idea of providing and furnishing a suitable clubhouse which will make possible membership dues of only $20 a year. . . ."

Graphic pen sketch of Alice Duer Miller, playwright, novelist, poet, columnist, and screenwriter whose poem, book and column title Are Women People? became the rhetorical question catchphrase of the suffrage movement.
It was signed:

"Woman’s City Club Committee:

Although the Times initial story about the club's formation used the singular possessive "Woman's," the plural possessive "Women's" was used in its next story and all subsequent stories. Perhaps because Davis and the other ladies organizing it were so identified with the Woman Suffrage cause, the singular form of the feminine noun was used by force of habit. On Jan. 23, 1916, the Times reported that the recently-started Women’s City Club of New York was to open the next day as headquarterd in the late Alfred Vanderbilt's apartment on the Vanderbilt Hotel top floor and had slated its election of officers for Jan. 31, adding that:

. . . . on the ticket for Executive Committee will be many of the names of those now occupying the positions, temporarily, Mrs. Norman de R. Whitehouse, Chairman; Dr. Katharine B. Davis, Mrs. Claudia Q. Murphy, Mrs. V. G. Simkhovitch, among others.

KBD Hosts Suffragist Tea in Municipal Building

On Oct. 8, 1915, what in retrospect appears one of most unusual though delightful gatherings ever to be set within the Municipal Building took place at the close of the official work day. The Times the next day reported:

Graphic pen sketch of Municipal Building inspired by a January 11, 1912 photo showing it under construction. The view looks south from Lafayette St. with horse-drawn vehicles in foreground. For the original photo on the Department of Records and Information Services, click the image.


Women Employees of the City
Promise to Join

Votes-for-Women Parade


Commissioner Of Correction Says
All Men Under Her Will
Vote “Right” on Nov. 2

More than 400 persons attended a suffrage tea party on the fifth floor of the Municipal Building yesterday as guests of Commissioner of Correction Katharine B. Davis and a committee of assistants, young women from the city departments in the building. .

The purpose of the party, that began at 5 p.m. in a large Municipal Library room, was to ask the 500 female staffers in the building's city government offices to march in the big Oct. 23 suffrage parade. By 5:10 p.m. all the chairs were taken and situation was strictly Standing Room Only.

The Times continued: . . . by the time [tea] was served, the Commissioner, from an improvised rostrum in the centre of the room, was making a speech.

She told the girls of the building . . . that she had been asked to form a [parade] brigade of women in the service of the city.

"Women need the vote for their own protection," said Dr. Davis, "but I don't want to appeal to you to consider it for selfish reasons, but for higher motives, to make the Government the best that it possibly can be for the people. We [here] are in the heart of things and we know more about it than most people [not employed here]. We know the workings of the different departments . . . ."

Dr. Davis said the 25 men in her department [office] would all vote for the suffrage amendment.

Graphic pen sketch of Mary Belle Harris inspired by a photo that was taken circa 1894, well before she became Blackwell's Island workhouse women's division superintendent under KBD. Mary Belle later headed a federal penitentiary for women in West Virginal. Click sketch to access original photo on the Bucknell University Women's Resource Center history page. Miss Harris' father was the university president John Harris.
Reportedly, most women attending signed the yellow pledge slips vowing to parade on the 23d. Those who didn't took the slips with them to decide later.

More than 125 slips had been signed by the building's distaffers prior to the tea rally.

The parade's Municipal Department contingent were to wear white and the 50-cent parade hat of white felt.

Around it were to appear the colors of the then recently-adopted city flag -- orange, white and blue. The new flag, described as the first ever officially adopted by the city, was raised over City Hall June 24, 1915, to mark the 250th anniversary of NYC government.

The tea party committee included Miss Mary E. Brennan of the Controller’s office, Miss Ida Fingerhut, secretary to the City Chamberlain; Mrs. Anna Von Hohoff of the Municipal Library; Miss Charlotte Eaton of the Board of Estimate and Apportionment office, and Miss Emma Finn, secretary to Commissioner Davis.

Miss Mary Harris, Superintendent of the Woman’s Division of the Workhouse, assisted. Louis Kugelman, the building superintendent, served as master of ceremonies.

Miss Mary Brennan was to be marshal of the parade's municipal contingent.

KBD & 'Her Civil Service Girls' in Suffrage Parade

Above is a portion of a Library of Congress photo of the mammoth march up 5th Ave. Oct. 23, 1915, by suffragists seeking to drum up support for the November ballot amendment to give women in New York the right to vote.
The suffrage parade's success, in terms of eye-catching quality and massive quantity (the number of marchers was conservatively counted as 24,870), surpassed its organizers' expectations and even their wildest hopes.

But there was a downside to that success. The march up 5th Ave. started with the first contingent departing from Washington Square at about 3 p.m. It ended with the last contingent crossing the finish line at 59th St. more than four hours later. The sheer volume slowed the parade's pace and, as a consequence, the contingents on the streets intersecting 5th Ave. had to wait their turns much longer.

As the Times of Oct. 24, 1915, reported:

At 3 o'clock Dr. Katharine Bement Davis and her civil service girls were standing ready to march on one of the side streets a few blocks above Washington Square. At 6 o'clock they had been 10 minutes on the way and had reached 23rd St.

It was so with all later divisions. They had stood in the chill wind for hours, and they marched with more vigor than the women who had gone long before.

As events turned out, the November 1915 male voters overwhelmingly rejected all the convention's proposed constitutional revisions as well as the legislature's proposed amendment granting women the right to vote.

In only seven counties did the votes approving electoral enfranchisement of women exceed or very nearly exceed the votes disapproving: Broome, Chatauqua, Delaware, Nassau, Schenectady, Tompkins, and Cortland. The proposed amendment was rejected statewide by a margin of some 200,000 votes. It failed in New York City by a margin of more than 28,000 votes: 88,866 for, 117,616 against.

Elihu Root
had been president of the 1915 NYS Constitution Convention which Republican delegates controlled. Given his identification with the convention's proposed constitutional revisions, some Democratic Party leaders and some factions of the GOP feared voter adoption of them would enhance his possible candidacy for the U.S. Presidency, a prospect they viewed negatively but for different reasons. Root already had an impressive resume: U.S. attorney for NY's southern district, Secretary of War, Secretary of State, U.S. Senator. Image above is based on a painting shown on the website of the U.S. Army Center of Military History. Click to access.
In large measure, the defeat of the separate suffrage amendment was tied to the defeat of the proposed constitutional revisions authored by the convention.

Some Democrat party organization leaders viewed those proposed revisions as tainted since the convention had been run by Republicans in general, and by potential Republican presidential candidate Elihu Root in particular. At the same time, key upstate Republican leaders saw some elements of the revision proposals as disadvantaging their regional power bases and/or saw a potential Root presidential candidacy as favoring the downstate wing of their party.

These dynamics, functioning independently, had the combined effect of undermining whatever reform appeal the proposed changes in the constitution may have had on their merits. The change represented by the suffrage amendment could not survive those cross-currents.

In Face of Defeat, Fighting Spirits Rose High.

What survived, however, was the determination of the New York suffragists to persevere, to persist and to prevail.

The History of Woman Suffrage by Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, Matilda Joslyn Gage, and Ida Husted Harper (published in 1922) recounted that determination in the face of defeat:

On the night of November 2, [1815] Election Day, officers, leaders, workers, members of the [Woman Suffrage] Party and many prominent men and women gathered at [its] city headquarters in East 34th Street to receive the returns, Mrs. Catt and Miss Hay at either end of a long table.

At first optimism prevailed as the early returns seemed to indicate victory but as adverse reports came in by the hundreds all hopes were destroyed.

The fighting spirits of the leaders then rose high. Speeches were made by Dr. Anna Howard Shaw, Mrs. Catt, Miss Hay, Dr. Katherine Bement Davis, Mrs. Laidlaw and others, and, though many workers wept openly, the gathering took on the character of an embattled host ready for the next conflict.

After midnight many of the women joined a group from the State headquarters and in a public square held an outdoor rally which they called the beginning of the new campaign.

After months of intensive lobbying in Albany by the Woman Suffrage Party and other groups, the State Senate on April 10, 1916, approved by a vote of 33-to-10 a bill -- sponsored by State Sen. George Whitney of Saratoga and Assemblyman Henry Brereton of Warren, Republicans, and already passed by the Assembly -- to place on the November 1917 ballot the issue of amending the state constitution to give women the vote.

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.