Lippitt House Museum's 19th Amendment Commemoration
Elizabeth Buffum Chace
Rhode Island Suffrage Leader
1806 - 1899
The march towards universal adult suffrage was a winding path in the 19th and 20th centuries. The Lippitt family and the servants who lived and labored at 199 Hope Street witnessed and participated in these changes. During Henry Lippitt’s tenure as governor, male foreign-born veterans were given the vote in Rhode Island. However, when he ran for office in 1875, his employee William Mason, the Lippitt family’s waiter, was the only other person (besides his 27 year-old son Charles) who was eligible to vote in the Lippitts' fourteen-person household. Their three daughters, 18 year-old son, the five other servants residing in the house, and even Henry’s wife Mary Ann Balch Lippitt could not participate in the election.
A lesser-known part of the “Votes for Women” movement was its fierce resistance, even amongst women. The anti-suffrage campaign was supported by several members of the Lippitt family. Middle daughter Mary Lippitt Steedman (1858-1938) was against women’s suffrage and even petitioned the United Sates House of Representatives to not extend the vote to women. Daughter-in-law Margaret Farnum Lippitt (1860-1940) was a leader in Rhode Island’s anti-suffrage campaign. She promoted her position at public forums debating suffragist leaders and testified at a Rhode Island General Assembly committee hearing. As exemplified in the Lippitt family, women were not a unified political block on the issue of suffrage.
But even with the Constitutional voting protections of the 15th and 19th Amendments, and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, there are still threats to voter participation today. Part of Lippitt House Museum’s mission is to encourage people to be civically engaged in their communities. The museum’s 19th Amendment Centennial programing strove to raise awareness about the past struggles for voting rights and encourage people to protect and exercise their vote today. The work isn’t done—we’re still at!
Suffrage in Rhode Island: A Lippitt Family Perspective
Lippitt House Museum and Brown University’s John Nicholas Brown Center for Public Humanities and Cultural Heritage partnered on a project that examined suffrage expansion in Rhode Island and connections to the Lippitt family. Travel the interactive timeline below that was developed by students and features key events in both Rhode Island and United States suffrage history.
The bicycle became a symbol of the women’s rights movement in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Both Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton are credited with declaring "woman is riding to suffrage on the bicycle."
Photo - Abby Lippitt Hunter on the Lippitt House lawn, 1890s
The (Unfinished) Legacy of the Women's Suffrage Movement: The Vote, Equity & Reform
In 2020, Lippitt House Museum partnered with the Providence League of Women Voters to host a Community Discussion Series in commemoration of the 19th Amendment. This series addressed issues suffragists fought for and how we can take action and promote change on matters still important 100 years later. This discussion centered around the question:
In the last 100 years, what progress has been made on the issues promoted by suffragists - not only voting access but also criminal justice reform and equal pay?
Mary Lippitt Steedman