The 1919 School for Citizenship

 Women on steps and pamphlet

 

Welcome to UNH's webpage on the 1919 School for Citizenship -- a week-long event educating women on the power of their votes, which took place in July 1919 at the New Hampshire College (NHC, now UNH).  This page was created by the students and professor of HUMA 700 in the spring of 2021 to commemorate this important event which took place on our own grounds and the intrepid women who pioneered it. 

 

In July of 1919, New Hampshire College hosted America’s first ever Citizenship School for women, led by Mrs. Mary I. Wood of Portsmouth. On the horizon was the ratification of the 19th Amendment giving women the right to vote. Mrs. Wood recognized that thousands of women's votes were going to be contributing to democracy, but the women lacked basic citizenship knowledge. She said "Let's have a school for citizenship!" (Dearborn Independent 11/8/1919). NHC President Ralph D. Hetzel coordinated with Mrs. Wood and welcomed the School for Citizenship to the college campus. Mrs. Wood asked Mrs. Nancy Schoonmaker of Connecticut to use her citizenship lectures as a model for the course schedule and integrate her knowledge and writing skills into the school, and she invited several other prominent suffragists, such as Mrs. Antoinette Funk of Chicago, to participate. Important men leaders from NHC, Dartmouth, the political parties, and from various organizations around the state also contributed. From July 8th to 12th, 200 women attended the intensive week-long schedule that included courses on political science, civics, and reconstruction problems. Mrs. Wood later reported that, "The purpose of the school was to show the relation of politics to the home and family" (Arizona Republican 1/29/1920). It was "the first time...in the history of the world that a state college cooperated with the women of a state in such an undertaking" (Arizona Republican 1/29/1920).

There were three, three-hour, lectures per day and scheduled mealtimes, at which time the attending women would “debate upon every stage of citizenship” and “admit they dream citizenship.”  The lectures were given by many female speakers, and some male lecturers as well.  Topics included parliamentary law (Mrs. Mary. I. Wood), general issues of citizenship (Mrs. Nancy M. Schoonmaker of Connecticut), the responsibility of citizenship (Miss Edna Wright of Milwaukee), municipal problems (Professor D. C. Babcock of NHC), evolution of modern government (Mrs. Ellis Meredith of Colorado), responsibility of women toward jury service (Mrs. Ellis Meredith of Colorado), “National Problems” (Professor James Richardson of Dartmouth), Americanization (Mrs. Helen Rand Thayer of Portsmouth), child welfare (Mrs. Frank S. Streeter of Concord), community service (Dr. G. L. Hanscome) and thrift (Mrs. Myra B. Lord of Boston).  Local and national representatives from the two political parties each had an evening to present their platforms. Maj. Frank Knox, editor of the Manchester Union, along with Dwight Moody, chair of the NH GOP, and Miss Mary Webb of New York, spoke for the Republicans and Robert Murchie, chair of the NH Democratic party, as well as Mrs. Antoinette Funk of Chicago, spoke for the Democrats. The first session of the School commenced with the words of Mrs. Wood: "If women voting means doubling the votes of men, our object is defeated.  We must contribute strength and intelligence of our own. There can be no division upon strictly party lines.  There must be the aim of good principles, good men, good government." As the school came to a close, the Citizenship School for women became a break-through program that ignited similar schools around the United States, fueling the women’s suffrage movement to make monumental change.  

 

"Morning, afternoon and evening this school for women voters goes kindly, merrily on at State College, New Hampshire. It has something of the seriousness of Sunday School, where good children, the future women voters, have learned well their golden texts. It has also something of the air of a sewing circle, where nobody's going to be fooled; where, therefore, everybody puts their heads together in earnest gossip. And it has, abundantly, the character of the Granite State, where it is held." (Boston American, 7/10/1919)

"The college dormitories were opened to the visitors and from all over the State there poured into the little town farmers' wives and city women, industrial workers and professional women, suffragists and anti-suffragists, all animated with the common desire to make themselves into the best kind of citizens." (American Review of Reviews, 1921)

"Heed all you politicians of the dubious ways, for women, with votes soon, up at the voters' school in New Hampshire send it out -- 'And before we cast ever a vote, we mean to find out who are our friends and who are our enemies.'" (Boston American 7/9/1919)

"Anti-suffragists are sitting side by side with suffragists at this first school for women student voters. Women of fashion and club women of the type of Mrs. Charles Sumner Bird, Mrs. Trueworthy White and Mrs. George W. Perkins, who are among the Boston women enrolled for the course, listened with no less interest than the farmers' wives, who are coming in great numbers from the surrounding country. From local farmhouses women drive to school in buggies and automobiles, bringing their lunches, and in many cases several of their children with them. The trains bring as many more of the sturdy women, who divide their conversations as they go to and from the station between heated debates on vital questions of national importance and neighborly confidences over their concern as to whether their husbands have found the puddings and raspberry turnovers which they left in the icebox. The lecture hall is crowded; there is no eight-hour day for the women; through three solid sessions of at least three hours each morning, afternoon and evening they are in the classroom: they are devoting all their waking hours to mastering every bit of available knowledge useful for prospective voters. At mealtime they discuss citizenship. Until far into the night they sit up debating upon every phase of citizenship, and some of them admit that they dream citizenship." (Boston Post 7/10/1919)

 

Contact us with questions at:

Annelise Papinsick, amp1099@wildcats.unh.edu

Virginia Walsh, vbw1001@wildcats.unh.edu

Dr. Nicole Ruane, Nicole.Ruane@unh.edu