In 1892, Hannah Knox Luscomb took her five-year-old daughter, Florence, to listen to Susan B. Anthony converse. The speech made such an impression on Florence that she at all times started her life story with this second, which impressed her lengthy profession as an activist. She would start as a school scholar, working in live performance with a gaggle of MIT alumnae who performed key roles within the quest to earn ladies the appropriate to vote.
Having been raised by her mom to develop what she known as “an independence of thoughts,” Luscomb set her sights on attending MIT when she completed highschool. “Most of my boy classmates had been going to MIT,” she later recalled pondering. “Why shouldn’t I’m going?” So she enrolled on the Institute to check panorama structure, and with three of her male classmates, she walked six miles each day from Allston to MIT’s Boston campus and again.
Though she was certainly one of simply 12 ladies amongst 1,200 college students, Luscomb described MIT as “a preview of heaven.” When a male scholar launched a mouse beneath her seat in a lecture, she calmly pronounced it a nice-looking mouse. Nor was she fazed by the inhospitable reception MIT gave to suffrage activism. “Any notices of the suffrage conferences put up on the bulletin boards had been instantly torn down,” she would later recount. That didn’t cease her from becoming a member of the School Equal Suffrage League. She additionally turned an officer within the Cleofan, the society for ladies at MIT. “I burned with indignation at this insult to my human dignity,” she later mentioned of being denied the appropriate to vote.
Already a fiery and persuasive public speaker by the point she entered MIT, Luscomb turned recognized for her open-air speeches. Whereas nonetheless a scholar, she volunteered to talk in rural cities on trolley excursions sponsored by native ladies’s suffrage teams. Wherever the trolley would cease, she’d disembark and ship an impassioned speech whereas standing on high of a Moxie field borrowed from the closest drugstore.
Fellow suffragist Katharine Dexter McCormick, Class of 1904, additionally took half in such trolley excursions. Over two months in 1908, McCormick and different members of the Massachusetts Girl Suffrage Affiliation (MWSA) visited three cities a day, talking 97 occasions to a complete of about 25,000 folks. “One lengthy scramble,” McCormick known as it in a letter to her husband, “with hardly a second wherever for a lot as a recent washing or a shampoo.” Alongside the best way, additionally they joined a circus parade; of their cease in Lawrence, Massachusetts, they went up in a scorching air balloon and rained leaflets on the group.
Of their quest to persuade ladies they deserved a voice in democracy, the MIT suffragists had been undaunted by naysayers. “Equal suffrage is just not held again by opposition,” Luscomb mentioned in a speech to the MWSA. “That helps us. We’re handicapped by indifference and its ensuing ignorance.”
As they sought to fight that indifference, the suffragists weren’t afraid to trample on conference. When police tried to dam McCormick from talking on Nantasket Seashore, she waded into the ocean and gave her speech because the water lapped round her knees. McCormick went on to function an officer within the distinguished Nationwide American Girl Suffrage Affiliation from 1912 to 1920, managing state-level strategic plans, coaching delegates within the efficient use of publicity, and managing NAWSA’s inside operations.
On the flip of the century, the mere proven fact that McCormick and Luscomb spoke outdoor was thought of radical. Respectable ladies had beforehand been anticipated to talk solely at indoor lectures. However when Mary Hutcheson Web page (Class of 1888) cofounded the Boston Equal Suffrage Affiliation for Good Authorities (BESAGG) in 1901 with Maud Wooden Park and Pauline Agassiz Shaw, they’d damaged floor by adopting ways utilized by British suffrage activists, together with door-to-door canvassing and open-air speeches. BESAGG turned a very powerful and most progressive (that’s, least anti-immigrant) suffrage group in Massachusetts. However Web page left the general public talking to others, focusing as a substitute on fundraising, writing, and recruiting different gifted ladies to the trigger.
Web page wasn’t the one MIT alumna to wield her pen in assist of suffrage. Eugenia Brooks Frothingham (Class of 1899), a widely known novelist, printed an essay titled “Fears of the Anti-Suffragist” in 1914. And when Luscomb earned her MIT diploma in 1909, she joined the Waltham-based architectural agency of fellow MIT suffragist Ida Annah Ryan, Class of 1905, and collectively they sponsored a ladies’s version of the Waltham day by day paper in 1913. (In 1906, Ryan had been the primary girl to earn a grasp of science diploma from the Institute and the primary girl within the nation to earn a grasp’s in structure; hers was one of many nation’s first ladies’s architectural companies, specializing in municipal buildings and staff’ housing.)
Ryan, a member of the Waltham Equal Suffrage League, gave Luscomb permission to take summers off to work on suffrage activism, however by 1918 Luscomb had left structure to work for suffrage full time. Her speeches may very well be heard at rallies and factories throughout the US and even in London: at her peak, she gave 255 speeches in three years.
On the brick sidewalk on the nook of Winter and Tremont Streets throughout from Boston Widespread, Luscomb usually stood and offered copies of the suffragist newspaper Girl’s Journal from her tote bag beneath a hawker’s license. She additionally labored for BESAGG, serving as its assistant govt secretary. Decided, cussed, and tireless, she was motivated by what she described as an “nearly compulsive want to be busy and helpful.”
Six months earlier than the passage of the 19th Modification in 1920 gave ladies the appropriate to vote, McCormick cofounded the League of Girls Voters with Carrie Chapman Catt, turning into its first vice chairman. Later in life, she would fund the event of the contraception tablet and the development of MIT’s McCormick Corridor, offering the primary housing for ladies on the Institute.
In the meantime, the indefatigable Luscomb discovered many different causes to combat for, protesting McCarthyism, the Vietnam Battle, and nuclear weapons and serving as govt secretary of the Boston chapter of the Girls’s Worldwide League for Peace and Freedom. Each summer time into her 70s she climbed Mount Chocorua from her one-room wood-heated cabin within the White Mountains of New Hampshire. At 89, she was nonetheless chopping wooden and planting a vegetable backyard there. By no means having married, Luscomb lived for many years in co-ops with a lot youthful roommates. In 1976, she was profiled by the Boston Globe whereas residing in a commune in Cambridge. “I like residing with younger folks,” she advised the Globe reporter. “It retains me present. We’re a very good left-wing group right here, though I suppose I’m probably the most radical.”