While working on another social media project, I came across Anne Martin. She had written a letter on National Woman’s Party letterhead to Lou Hoover on July 10, 1917. This lengthy missive described in detail an incident at the White House where suffragists were arresting for their efforts. Martin was seeking support from Lou for the suffrage cause. If Lou replied, no carbon copy exists here.
Anne Martin was a Stanford classmate of Lou Henry who had last crossed the Hoovers’ path in 1910 in London. Martin, fired by the zeal of British suffragettes, left her home in Nevada and joined the protests in London. She was arrested. When Herbert Hoover came to post bail, she explained that her goal was martyrdom via a hunger strike in jail. Baffled, Hoover bailed her out, not once but twice. After the second bail, Hoover was relieved to learn that Martin planned to return to the United States and seek martyrdom there.
Martin did just that. She returned to Nevada and worked to secure passage of a women’s suffrage amendment in the state legislature. Her letters to Lou Hoover in 1911 and 1912 were often on suffrage letterhead, contained news clips on suffrage, and frequent reference to the amount of work to be done. Martin’s efforts were rewarded. By dint of the legislature voting in favor of suffrage in 1911 and 1913, Nevada women gained the right to vote in state elections in 1914. With state success in hand, it was natural that she would devote energy to the suffrage cause at the national level. Hence the July letter.
Martin’s zeal was not diminished by failure to achieve a suffrage vote in Congress in 1917-1918. She took matters into hand and campaigned to be elected Senator from Nevada in 1918. Martin’s platform highlighted a living wage and reasonable hours for workers, support for America’s war effort, but at the same time protecting the principles of liberty upon which our democracy was founded, and peace based on Wilson’s fourteen points. Her platform made no mention of suffrage for women. Martin’s effort fell short. Lou Hoover wrote Anne Martin a conciliatory letter November 8, 1918: ‘I am so sorry that you haven’t got something you wanted…. I cannot always feel that it would be best for the country if its course followed the direction you sometimes think wise.’ Lou closed: ‘Want something I can help with next time! Yours always with love.’
Here two strong-minded, independent women, who shared experience as westerners and Stanford graduates, came down on different sides of the suffrage issue. History has many such stories. Life is complicated, nuances abound, simple solutions are rare