THE LIZ LIBRARY: Women's Movement Documents Section

| BROWSE BACK |     | HOME |    | LIBRARY CONTENTS |     | BROWSE NEXT |     010-part3

SPECIAL REPORT - Part three of four parts.


Leslie Money Fuels New York Approval of Woman Suffrage


Highlights from The Record of
The Leslie Woman Suffrage Commission, Inc.1917-1929.
Rose Young wrote this official summation
of the Leslie legacy for the
American-National Woman's Suffrage Association in 1922.

On February 1, 1917, two and a half years after Mrs. Leslie's death, the Court ordered $500,000 paid to Mrs. Catt. On the sixth of the month Mrs. Leslie's jewels, appraised at $34,785, were turned over to her. Quick steps were taken by Mrs. Catt to incorporate a commission of women whom she wished to share the responsibility of administering the Leslie fund. The jewels were sold, the incorporation was completed and activities began.

In New York state a crucial referendum was in progress. In 1915 a suffrage amendment had been defeated in a referendum, but New York voters were to pass on the suffrage question again in November, 1917. The campaign was moving at a fast pace, but its leaders were impatient to whip up its activities still more, and to do this they needed money. Mrs. Catt says that one of the happiest days of her life was the February day in 1917, when, from the first receipts from the Leslie estate, she handed Mrs. Norman de R. Whitehouse, Chairman of the New York state campaign committee, $10,000, and to Miss Mary Garrett Hay, Chairman of the New York city campaign committee, $15,000.

The campaign did fly faster from that date and in November came a glorious victory. It was reported from many parts of the country that overnight suffrage sentiment doubled after the winning of New York state and certainly to that triumph was due the speedy submission of the federal suffrage amendment two years later.


The Commission met on the 29th of March, 1917, in a Headquarters furnished, equipped and ready for work. By-laws were adopted and a letter of gift to the Commission of all money's received, including that accruing from the sale of jewels, was presented by Mrs. Catt. This was accepted and all previous expenditures confirmed. With organization complete, the five incorporators, namely, Carrie Chapman Catt, New York, President; Mrs. Harriet Taylor Upton, Ohio, Vice-President; Miss Alice Stone Blackwell, Massachusetts; Mrs. Winston Churchill, New Hampshire; Mrs. Raymond Robins, Florida, met on March 29th and 30th and added four directors to their list, Miss Mary Garrett Hay, New York; Mrs. Percy V. Pennybacker, Texas; Mrs. Thomas B. Wells, New York; Mrs. Arthur L. Livermore, New York.

Miss Blackwell resigned on May 18, 1917, in order to accept a post of editorial writer for the Woman Citizen. Mrs. Churchill resigned on December 6, 1917, on account of ill health, but new directors were elected to fill the vacancies thus created. Mrs. Livermore resigned on January 20, 1920, in order to engage in partisan work and Mrs. F. Louis Slade was elected to the vacancy. Mrs. Franklin D. Roosevelt (Yes! Eleanor!) was added to the directors on June 26, 1926. On August 29, 1928, Miss Hay, who had served as vice-president and had borne the burden of management in the frequent absences of Mrs. Catt, died. On July 17, 1929, the last meeting of the Commission, Mrs. Mabel Russell was elected to the vacancy. When the last roll was called, of the twelve-year old Commission all directors except those who had resigned and Miss Hay, were still in service. Mrs. Catt served as president throughout the life of the Commission.

A bonded secretary and treasurer was at all times in charge of the Leslie funds and affairs until the close of the campaign in the United States. These had been Miss Gratia Goller who served from February, 1917, to May 1, 1918, Miss Nora Newell from May 28, 1918, to July 15, 1920, Miss Eleanor Bates from July 15, 1920, to October 1, 1922. On September 20, 1922, Mrs. Wells was elected secretary and treasurer and served until dissolution. Miss Henrietta Wald succeeded Miss Bates as assistant to Mrs. Wells and manager of the Headquarters, and also served until dissolution.

At the first meeting of the Commission Mrs. Catt presented the following qualifications for membership which were accepted and always rigidly respected.
        1. Each member shall serve without remuneration.
        2. No member shall profit directly or indirectly by the fund.
        3. At any time that three-fourths of the members shall request the resignation of any member, that request shall be considered obligatory.
        4. Whenever a death or resignation occurs, the vacancy shall be filled by a majority vote of the remaining members.


She also presented a plan for the use of the money which was unanimously accepted and followed. The plan was:

(1) A Leslie Woman Suffrage Bureau of Education shall be established under the direction of the Commission, the object of which shall be the widespread education of the people on the principles and operation of woman suffrage; by means of literature and press work, especially in those cities, states, and regions where suffrage organizations have not been strong;

(2) The Commission shall, in addition, grant such assistance as is possible to the auxiliary organizations of the suffrage movement;

(3) The Commission shall help all campaigns which, upon proper survey, indicate success;

(4) The Commission shall assist the National American Woman Suffrage Association to the utmost in the campaigns for the Federal Amendment.

This program was followed to the end of the campaign in the United States, after which help was extended to suffrage movements in foreign lands.

The first problem of how to spend the money appeared in the form of many embarrassing applications from state and city suffrage organizations, asking for help, and from many individuals seeking employment.


The President of the Commission met this situation with the public statement:

"The National Association and its auxiliaries now raise and expend about a million dollars per year. When it is remembered that the National Republican Committee reported the receipt and disbursement of about two and a half millions in the recent (1916) presidential campaign and the Democratic Committee nearly two millions, it will be seen that the addition of a million dollars to the propaganda of an active and growing movement is not a vast sum, thought it is much larger than any other bequest that has yet been received by suffrage. If the money should be used as a substitute for money which is now raised and expended through the regular channels, the Leslie bequest would in no sense aid the cause. Logic points clearly to the fact that it must be used to do things which the allied suffrage association are unable to accomplish with their present sources of revenue. No suffragist can therefore be excused from contributions on account of the establishment of this Commission."

It was thus decreed that no money should be given into the national suffrage treasury, or that of any state association, to pay ordinary expenses, such as the maintenance of regular routine work, and that there should be no division of the fund among the various state associations. It was made clear that the Leslie Commission would devote its fund to make possible new varieties of work.

An Executive Committee, composed of the New York members, Mrs. Catt, Miss Hay, Mrs. Livermore, Mrs. Wells, and Mrs. Slade, with Mrs. Upton representing the Middle West, had frequent meeting during the most active period, but it was at the annual meetings, at which all members were present or were represented by proxy, that the chief appropriations were made, reports heard, and votes taken.

The Commission served from March 29, 1917, to October 1, 1929, the twelve years which covered the climax of the suffrage movement in the United State and the world. All the directors gave their services without the slightest reward. The work involved sacrifice and nerve strain and close attention to many critical problems, but at the end there came a modest realizing sense that the Leslie fund, carefully administered, had at least brought the final victory at a date much earlier than would have been possible without it.

The Job Well Done:
Educating People that Woman Suffrage Essential to Democracy

   | PART ONE |    | PART TWO |    PART THREE    | PART FOUR |




© 1990-2006 Irene Stuber, Hot Springs National Park, AR 71902. Originally web-published at
We are indebted to Irene Stuber for compiling this collection and for granting us permission to make it available again.
The text of the documents in the women's history library may be freely copied for nonprofit educational use.

Except as otherwise noted, all contents in this collection are copyright 1998-09 the liz library.  All rights reserved.
This site is hosted and maintained by the liz library. Send queries to: Sarah at thelizlibrary dot org