The Suffrage Movement at Connecticut College

Student Activism

There was no formal club or organization at the College whose mission was to win the right to vote for women. Professor Susan Noel, chair of the History Department, encouraged political engagement by her students, although her primary interest was in the peace movement and American acceptance of the League of Nations. Frederick Sykes, the first president of the College is quoted as saying, “Give women the vote and you arm a soldier in the welfare of humanity.” His wife also hosted activists on campus.

The issue may not have been extensively discussed, but the Connecticut College News editorialized in favor of the issues in 1917 and a 1919 issue includes a first-person account of two students gathering signatures for a petition in New London. When Connecticut College students were finally able to cast a ballot in the 1920 election, 21 elected to do so (because the voting age was 21 at the time, only seniors would have been eligible).

Mary Foulke Morrisson

In addition to being one of the longest serving trustees of Connecticut College, Mary Foulke Morrisson was a tireless advocate for the causes of women’s rights, the poor, and peace. The daughter of literary critic and progressive activist William Dudley Foulke, she was educated at Bryn Mawr College and after marrying Chicago business executive James Morrissonshe began working with Jane Addams at Hull House. Settlement house work led her into anti-war and suffrage activism. She worked with Carrie Chapman Catt in the American Women’s Suffrage Association and helped push through a suffrage plank in the 1916 Republican platform.

After the passage of the 19th Amendment, she helped organize the League of Women Voters, becoming its first vice president. She also founded the Illinois league and upon relocating to Connecticut, the Connecticut league. In 1937 she was invited to join Connecticut College’s Board of Trustees, where she served for 28 years.

Chase Going Woodhouse

Chase Going Woodhouse was not among the generation of women who fought for the right to vote, but she was among the first to assume leadership roles in the decades following the passage of the 19th Amendment. Woodhouse began teaching in the Department of Economics at Connecticut College in 1934 following a teaching stint at Smith College, work in the federal Department of Agriculture, and a deanship at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

Woodhouse emphasized practical action to her students. She founded the Institute of Women’s Professional Relations to help women college graduates enter into the professions and reduce pay disparities with their male peers. She encouraged engagement with politics and was active in the New London Democratic Party. In 1940 she was elected Secretary of State, becoming the second woman to win statewide office in Connecticut. Shortly before taking office she was interviewed by The Connecticut College News. Following a single term, she won a seat in the House of Representatives, becoming the second woman in Connecticut to be elected to Congress. She lost her seat in the Republican landslide of 1946 and then won it back in 1948, serving for a second single term.

The Suffrage Movement at Connecticut College