Capitol Hill Tour
6 Women, 1.4 miles
8th Street SE & Pennsylvania Avenue SE
Elizabeth Haines moved with her three children to DC from Ohio after the death of of her husband. Mahlon Haines was a storekeeper and she continued in this business after his death. Her first store was in Anacostia, but eventually it expanded enough that she was had to move it to a larger building on the Hill. Outgrowing even that, even after expanding into the building next door, she bought a plot of land and built an even larger three-story storefront at the corner of 8th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue SE (which is now the Dunkin Donuts on Barracks Row) in 1892.
Her store was a full-fledged department store, with fifty different departments occupying the lower two floors. The third was rented out. There was a severe economic depression from 1893 to 1897 (the Panic of 1893), but her store survived. Bad luck struck again when a fire damaged a good portion of her store in 1905, but she again pulled through. She sold it in 1910 to Milton Ney and Joseph Goldberg, who continued to run it for many years as a department store. After the sale, she moved to Florida and married a former governor of the Philippines.
619 D Street SE
Emily Edson Briggs
Emily Edson Briggs was a journalist who wrote under the pseudonym of Olivia.
She lived in SE Capitol Hill in a house formerly owned by Francis Scott Key (who wrote the Star Spangled Banner). She purchased the house after the death of her husband in 1872.
Briggs was one of the first female journalists to cover the White House (during the Lincoln presidency)
and was the very first woman admitted to the Congressional Press Galleries. In 1882, she was elected the first president of the Woman's National Press Association.
She originally moved to DC with her husband in 1861 when he got a job as a clerk in the
House of Representatives. She grew up in Ohio and, before the move, had been a teacher. She wrote a letter to the editor of the Washington Chronicle defending the employment of women in government. The owner of the newspaper noticed the letter and offered her a position as a columnist on the spot.
She wrote for the Washington Chronicle and its sister paper the Philadelphia Press for more than twenty years.
Her articles focused on all sorts of happenings on the Hill, covering dramatic scenes on the floor of Congress, inaugurations, and notably the impeachment of Andrew Jackson. She used her column to advocate for civil rights and women's suffrage (although she died ten years before the 19th Amendment was ratified).
While she did occasionally publish things like lists of the most eligible DC bachelors, the level of political commentary in her work was unprecedented for a female journalist.
Library of Congress,
101 Independence Avenue SE
Matilda Young was the youngest suffragist to be arrested while picketing the White House in 1917 -- she was 19 years old and sentenced to 15 days in the District Jail. She was with a group of 30 other women protesting outside the White House for the right to vote. They were only there for 15 minutes when they were arrested for blocking traffic. She was arrested for a second time in 1919 when she burned one of President Woodrow Wilson's speeches in a "watchfire demonstration", again outside of the White House. She was sentenced to five days in jail for this, but an additional three days were added to her sentence when she applauded the other suffrage protestors in court.
Her story doesn't end there. She went on to organize and curate the DC Children's Museum in the 1940s, which had educational exhibits, hosted a variety of clubs, and gave lessons on many different subjects. She was also an original member of the Children's Book Guild of Washington, which was founded by three female children’s book authors: Catherine Coblentz, Alberta Graham, and Eloise Lownsbery.
Those three women met when working at adjoining desks in the Library of Congress and decided to start
the guild as a way to encourage quality children’s literature. Most members of the guild were authors but some,
like Young, joined because they too were involved in education.
Although her connection to this site may have been unclear at first, this is why I have chosen to honor Matilda Young outside of the Library of Congress. Not only was she a daring suffragist, but she was also incredibly involved in her community, giving back in ways that were traditionally feminine but still unprecedented.
United States Capitol,
First Street SE
Jeannette Rankin was the first woman elected to the House of Representatives. She was a Republican representative of Montana in 1916, four years before the passage of the 19th amendment guaranteed all women the right to vote. In 1916, only twelve states out of the forty-eight gave women suffrage. Rankin was very involved in the women’s movement, lobbying for the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) and organizing the New York Women’s suffrage party. Rankin was notable not only because she was female, but also because she was a pacifist.
She was elected right before the US entered World War I, and she was one of only 50 representatives to vote against the war (373 voted yes). This vote was unpopular with NAWSA, who believed that she would make the suffrage movement look weak. Her constituents in Montana also did not agree with her and she lost reelection in 1918.
Despite the pressure she faced, Rankin chose to stick to her principles and do what she believed was right. She ran for Congress in 1940 and was elected again, becoming the only Congressperson to vote against World War II after the attack on Pearl Harbor, for which she drew even harsher criticism for her pacifism.
Supreme Court of the United States,
1 First Street NE
Belva Lockwood was both the first woman admitted to the Supreme Court Bar and the first woman to argue a case before the Supreme Court. The Court initially refused this, but she lobbied Congress for three years until an act was passed to remedy the situation. She was admitted in 1879.
Much of her work follows this pattern. Law was a male-dominated field and much of what she did wasn’t
allowed until she flew in the face of precedent. She was left a widow with a toddler at the age of 22. Undeterred, she attended and graduated college in 1857. She was a champion of women’s education, believing that it was necessary to prevent the dependency of women on others. She went on to attend law school at what is now George Washington University, amidst the protests of her male peers. In 1884, she ran for president, despite the fact that she herself, or any other woman, could not vote in the election.
Lockwood ran for president a second time in 1888, both times as a candidate for the Equal Rights Party.
She hoped that this would speed the acceptance of women in politics, but her campaign was not a publicity stunt. She ran on a 15-point platform addressing a variety of policy issues. She was defeated by a large margin both times.
She ran a law practice out of her home, with the help of her second husband. A majority of her early clients were working class, and she represented them in the District Police Court. It was unusual for a female lawyer to deal with criminal cases, but Lockwood was undaunted. She also argued a large number of equity court cases for women who were seeking divorce.
Her practice thrived, and after the death of her husband, she purchased a 20-room house from which she ran her practice. It occasionally doubled as a boarding house and was conveniently located near the District Courthouse and the DC legal newspaper. She shocked her neighbors when she bought an adult tricycle at the age of 51, which she would ride around town as she dropped off papers and ran errands.
Belmont-Paul Women's Equality National Monument,
144 Constitution Avenue NE
Mabel Vernon attended Swarthmore with Alice Paul, the main leader of the campaign for the 19th amendment. Through her, Vernon became part of the suffrage movement. She was the first paid organizer recruited by Paul. Vernon organized many events for NAWSA and the National Women’s Party (NWP).
She helped set up the Woman’s Suffrage Parade in 1913 that took place the day before the inauguration of
President Wilson (the Women’s March is a continuation of that tradition). She also scheduled the cross-country automobile trip undertaken by Sara Field in 1915 to raise awareness of the cause. (Road trips then were far more difficult and dangerous than they are today. Many roads were unpaved, maps were often inaccurate, and cars were more likely to have mechanical problems.)
Vernon testified for women’s suffrage in front of the House Judiciary Committee in 1915, and was named
Secretary of the newly formed NWP in 1916. She was also one of the first suffragists arrested for
protesting outside of the White House in 1917.
She disrupted the Independence Day speech given by President Wilson in 1916, calling out “Mr. President, if you sincerely desire to forward the interests of all people, why do you oppose the national enfranchisement of women?” She was removed by security when she repeated this a second time, after the President did not respond. She also disrupted an address he gave later in the year, smuggling in a suffrage banner which she unfurled while he spoke.