Officers and National Organizers I-S
Often referred to as “Mrs. Lawrence Lewis” in suffrage literature, Dora Lewis was from an influential Philadelphia family. She was part of the earliest core of activists who worked with Alice Paul, Lucy Burns, and others in the 1913-15 period of internal conflict–between the members of Congressional Union of Woman Suffrage (CU) who favored more innovative methods over the more staid leaders of NAWSA. Lewis was a member of the initial executive committee of the NAWSA Congressional Committee in 1913; she remained a central figure throughout the NWP’s major public demonstration campaigns.
Lewis was among the outspoken hunger-striking suffragist prisoners and she received some of the most brutal treatment at the hands of wardens at the District jail and the Occoquan Workhouse. During the infamous “Night of Terror” of November 15, 1917, at Occoquan, Lewis was hurled bodily into her cell. She was knocked unconscious and feared dead when she collided headfirst against her iron bed frame. Lewis and Lucy Burns were initial leaders of the hunger strike in Occoquan; both grew so weak that they were held down by attendants and force-fed through a tube.
Lewis was the primary speaker at a protest held in memory of Inez Milholland at Lafayette Square in Washington, D.C., on August 6, 1918. When she was dragged away and arrested before finishing her first sentences–much to the consternation of the gathered crowd–other speakers rose to take her place. One after another, they too were arrested.
Lewis began the NWP’s watch fire protest when she set to flames copies of Woodrow Wilson’s speeches in a demonstration New Year’s Day, 1919. She was arrested for her part in the actions.
In the summer of 1919, Lewis was among NWP organizers who worked in Georgia to try (unsuccessfully) to secure that state’s support in the ratification process for the 19th Amendment. When Georgia repudiated ratification, she moved on to Kentucky, which ratified the amendment in January 1920. Lewis also served as treasurer and as member of the executive committee of the NWP.
Anita Pollitzer (1894-1975)
Anita Lily Pollitzer was from Charleston, South Carolina, where her father worked as a cotton exporter and civic reformer. Her mother, Clara Guinzburg Pollitzer, was the daughter of an immigrant rabbi from Prague. Pollitzer graduated from Hunter College and taught German before marrying freelance press agent Elie Charlier Edson in 1928. Edson encouraged Pollitzer in her career and her studies.
Pollitzer also trained as an artist in New York City and studied with Alfred Stieglitz. She graduated from the School of Practical Arts at the Teachers College at Columbia University in 1916, where she was a good friend of Georgia O’Keeffe. Pollitzer also earned a master’s degree in international law from Columbia University in 1933.
Pollitzer turned to the suffrage cause while at home on a vacation break from school. Her two sisters, Mabel and Carrie Pollitzer, as well as two aunts, were active in the local suffrage movement. Her family was supportive of her move to Washington after her graduation from college to work for the NWP.
Pollitzer became a stalwart of both the suffrage and equal rights movements. She traveled extensively across the country to speak, organize, and participate in picketing. As a young activist, Pollitzer was praised by her co-workers and NWP head Alice Paul for her ever-sunny disposition and effectiveness in fund-raising and speaking. As she became older, her leadership was publicly and privately challenged.
Pollitzer had a personal hand in the lobbying effort that helped secure the ratification of the 19th Amendment. In August 1920, the night before a special session of the Tennessee legislature voted on the amendment, she dined with legislator Harry T. Burn. The next day, Burn cast the critical vote making Tennessee the 36th and decisive state to ratify the amendment.
Pollitzer’s career in the NWP extended well after suffrage was won. She began a long-time stint as a member of the NWP executive committee in 1921 and served as national secretary (1921-26), national congressional secretary, Congressional Committee vice-chairman, national vice-chairman (1927-38), and national chairman (1945-49). When Alice Paul proposed the introduction of the Equal Rights Amendment in Seneca Falls in 1923, Pollitzer seconded the proposal. She wrote for Equal Rights and testified repeatedly before congressional committees, working nationwide to bring the ERA successfully to the Senate calendar for the first time in 1938.
That same year, Pollitzer was influential in the passage of the National Fair Labor Standards Act and joined with Paul to form the World Woman’s Party (WWP), which worked for recognition of women’s equality in the United Nations charter. Pollitzer was a delegate to the San Francisco conference of the United Nations in 1945, the same year that she succeeded Paul as NWP chairman. She became vice chairman of the WWP, and she and Paul were also active together in the International Woman Suffrage Alliance. Pollitzer was honorary national chairman of the NWP from 1949 until her death. She died in Queens, New York, at the home of a caretaker.
Born in Omaha, Nebraska, Doris Stevens graduated from Oberlin College in 1911. She worked as a teacher and social worker in Ohio and Michigan before she became a regional organizer with the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA). In New York, she was friends with leading members of the Greenwich Village radical scene, including Louise Bryant and John Reed. In 1914 Stevens became a full-time organizer, as well as executive secretary, for the Congressional Union for Woman Suffrage (CU) in Washington, D.C. After working on the East Coast, including in Newport, Rhode Island, in 1913-14, she moved west to Colorado (1914), and then to California (1915). She organized the first convention of women voters at the Panama Pacific Exposition in San Francisco in 1915 and the NWP election campaign in California in 1916.
Over the years, Stevens held several important NWP leadership positions, including membership on the executive committee. She served as vice chairman of NWP’s New York branch, spearheaded the NWP Women for Congress campaign in 1924, and worked in states where female candidates were among contenders for office. She also served as Alva Belmont’s personal assistant.
Stevens was arrested for picketing at the White House in the summer of 1917 and served three days of her 60-day sentence at Occoquan Workhouse before receiving a pardon. She was arrested again in the NWP demonstration at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York in March 1919. Stevens published the quintessential insider account of imprisonment of NWP activists, Jailed for Freedom, in 1920.
Stevens clashed with Alice Paul and led an unsuccessful attempt to challenge the leadership of Paul’s successor, Anita Pollitzer. She was part of an internal dispute over the NWP’s emphasis on the World Woman’s Party and international rights rather than domestic organizing. During these tensions, a dissenting faction of NWP members tried to take over party headquarters and elect their own slate of officers, but Pollitzer’s claim to leadership was supported by a ruling of a federal district judge. Stevens parted ways with the NWP in 1947 and turned instead to activity in the Lucy Stone League, another women’s rights organization. In the 1950s she was a supporter of McCarthyism and anti-communism. In her last years, Stevens supported the establishment of feminist studies as a legitimate field of academic inquiry in American universities.