THE LIZ LIBRARY: Women's Movement Documents Section

| BROWSE BACK |     | HOME |    | LIBRARY CONTENTS |     | BROWSE NEXT |     010-part4

SPECIAL REPORT - Part four of four parts.


Hundreds of Thousands of Words Poured out of the Leslie Bureau to Every Newspaper in the Nation.


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.

As conceived by Mrs. Catt, the Leslie Bureau of Suffrage Education had for its aim the education of the American public to the point of seeing woman suffrage as essential to democracy. As resolved by the first meeting of the Leslie Commission, the Bureau was to serve as the chief work of the Commission for the ensuing two years. The task of the Bureau was the dissemination of suffrage material through every available avenue of publicity. It was to be news purveyor, publicity expert and propaganda carrier.

The field of the Bureau was the American press in its most extended application. The American press in 1917 comprised approximately 25,000 publications. Of these, 2,500 were dailies, 16,000 were weeklies and semi-weeklies, 3,233 were issued monthly. And there were, besides, semi-monthlies, quarterlies, etc.

By prearrangement the Bureau was to be serve the national suffrage association as publicity agent, and the avenues of expression and education through which the association was at that time reaching the public with the suffrage message were to be brought together as departments of the one agency.

Miss Rose Young (author of the summation of the Leslie bequest) and press chairman of the national association, was appointed director of the Bureau and its organization and staffing were turned over to her. She departmentalized its work as follows: the News Department, the Feature Story Services, the Field Press Department, the Research Department, the Department of Editorial Correspondence, and the Woman Citizen, or Magazine Department.


When organized, with department heads, clerical staff and multigraph and mimeograph operators, the Bureau had an office personnel of twenty-five people. To house it and the equipment for its various services, the entire fifteenth floor of a large office building at 171 Madison Avenue was rented by the Commission and the work began.

To the News Department was assigned the detail of reaching and stimulating public interest in woman suffrage through the news columns of the press. The department was responsible for the issuance of daily news stories, stories of the political status of suffrage, interviews with suffragists, timely statistics on suffrage, challenges to anti-suffragists, answers to their answers, and reports of suffrage activities all over the country. Besides its daily story, it issued a weekly bulletin, and an information service. It was immediate business of the director, with the assistance of Miss Betty Graeme for a time, and later, Miss Marjorie Shuler.

A department of special features inaugurated by Miss Young for the national association's press department, prior to the establishment of the Leslie Bureau, had proved effective in coaxing public attention to suffrage and was taken over bodily by the Bureau as the Feature Service Department. Its business was to supply special stories and interviews, biographical matter and personality sketches. A regular detail of the service was the supplying of articles on call to magazines. Miss Mary Ogden White was selected as department chairman.

There were two methods of production for the News and Feature departments. One method was by word of mouth, as in "telephone business" with the offices of newspapers and news agencies, and in the face-to-face interviews with reporters in the Bureau's offices. When suffrage was to the front, is in the great drive for presidential suffrage initiated by Mrs. Catt, or as in some political crisis for the suffrage amendment in Congress, there were daily interviews with reporters for newspapers or syndicates. Thousands of columns of newspaper stories, based on these interviews, were returned by clipping bureaus. Often an interview found its was into the editorial columns of the press. If was reckoned by painstaking staff members that the volume of so-called "talked business" totaled not less in visible, printed returns than the returns on the written stories that emanated from the Bureau.


The other method of production for News and Feature Service was by written output. For a typical twelvemonth, this output amounted to 250,000 words, sent out as news and feature stories in mimeographed form. The matter went directly to New York City papers, to feature syndicates, to individual writers and to national news agencies, like the Associated Press. Mimeographed matter sent on the Information Service amounted to 100,000 words for the same period. It went the press chairman state suffrage associations, to be used by them locally.

The biographical material issued for the same period came to 91,000 words. The mimeographed sheets of this service were freely resorted to by news and feature writers and organization workers. Through it there could be kept before the public the character of the personnel of active suffrage workers and speakers, as well as the quality of the endorses of suffrage of high degree in every rank of life. In connection with the biographical service, a photonews service was also kept going, supplying mats, photographs, cartoons, and half tone cuts, on call from reporters and editors.


Most of the copy sent out on all these services was circulated by syndicated chains of papers, so that they were printed editions of ten and twenty million. Sometimes the clippings returned on one story alone would swamp the filing resources of the Bureau.

Plate services, the preparation of special suffrage editions and suffrage supplements were other details that these two departments, working conjointly, made part of their program. When a state entered a suffrage campaign, it was the routine to send plate "insides" to the weekly papers scattered over it, and to supply material with which the local suffragists could issue "special suffrage editions" of local papers, loaned for the occasion by friendly editors. In the successful 1918 campaign in South Dakota, for instance, 284 papers used the plate issued by the Bureau. In Oklahoma's succesful campaign in 1918, 264 papers carried Bureau plate, and in the Michigan campaign, the same year, 165 papers made used of it.

Through its News and Feature departments, the Bureau served, too, as watch dog and defense guard against anti-suffrage attacks, often of a virulently personal nature. Following up anti-suffrage charges of "free love" and lack of patriotism, refuting them, compelling newspapers that let themselves be used as vehicles for such charges to retract and apologize, was a regular detail of the routine of the Bureau until suffrage was won.

The work of the Departments of Field Press, of Editorial Correspondence and a Research cannot be measured by visible and countable returns as in the case of the news and feature service. They were, all three, intensive, working agencies through which suffrage education was carried forward at various points of contact with organization worker, press and general public.


One of the Bureau's ideals was to function with the press departments of state suffrage associations as a coordinated whole, and one of the first tasks assigned the chairman of the Department of Field Press, Mrs. Rose Lawless Geyer, was a campaign of correspondence with the press chairmen of the state suffrage associations, whereby national and local press work were brought into effective relation. Then, a census of the leading newspaper of the United States was taken, state by state, with a view of determining the stand of their editors on the suffrage question. With the aid of the local chairmen, press surveys were made until all, or most, of the leading papers could be classified as favorable, non-committal or unfavorable. The survey went deeper yet and classified papers whose editors were willing only to use suffrage news and those who went a step farther and wrote editorials in behalf of suffrage.

State by state this department worked with the state press departments, supplying them with information, arguments, statistics, news and features, written often especially for the special state, so as to be adapted to the needs of the local situation. In state after state, from a rather weak beginning, a notable local strength developed, so that the Bureau soon had a good local publicity agency with which and through which to work.

The demand for historical and statistical information had engaged the attention of a Research Department for the national suffrage association before the inauguration of the Bureau. It was made a department of the Bureau, its chairman, Mrs. Mary Summer Boyd, continuing in that capacity in the new organization. The department of field press activity centered on the suffrage worker. The Research Department's work was for the service of general public as well as the worker. "Detail, truth and timeliness" was the favored slogan of its chairman, who was at endless pains to read all three into the work of her department. The department collected and verified suffrage date, made investigations, and supplied basic information on statistical and historical questions.

An experiment that had likewise been serving the national association before the Bureau was founded was the exclusive consideration of editorials on woman suffrage, the answering of editorial attacks and the educating of editors on the suffrage question. It had been initiated by Mrs. Ida Husted Harper, and she and her experimental became one of the features of the Bureau's program. Sometimes she wrote to set an editor right on some suffrage issue about which he had shown himself uniformed. Sometimes she thanked editors for their support of suffrage, sometimes she protested at prejudiced hostility in editorial effusions. Never before had the editorial fraternity been brought into direct relation with suffrage headquarters and they showed themselves responsive to the attention bestowed upon them. When at last suffrage was won for women, the number of outstanding papers that were editorially hostile was negligible.


The sixth and last department of the Bureau was its magazine, the Woman Citizen. When the Bureau was founded there were three suffrage publications in the eastern field. These were the Woman Voter, a vital little monthly but of circumscribed appeal, being the local organ of the Woman Suffrage Party of New York City, the National Suffrage News, the organ of the national suffrage body, and the Woman's Journal. The organ of no association, the Woman's Journal had, nevertheless, been the acknowledged mouthpiece and defender of the woman movement for forty-seven years. It was now purchased by the Commission for $50,000 and merged with the other two papers, and the Woman Citizen, a political weekly for women emerged.

As all the Bureau's facilities were serving the national suffrage association as publicity agent, so now the Woman Citizen was offered the National as official organ.

The first issue of the Woman Citizen bore date of June 2, 1917. It carried two legends. One was:

"Continuing the Woman's Journal - Founded 1870 - By Lucy Stone and Henry B. Blackwell, as a weekly newspaper devoted to winning equal rights for women and published weekly in Boston, Massachusetts from 1870 to 1917."

The other was:

"The Woman Citizen is published weekly by the Leslie Woman Suffrage Commission in the hope that it may prove a self-perpetuating memorial to Mrs. Frank Leslie's generosity toward the cause of woman suffrage and her faith in woman's progress."


Its leading editorial said, "The Woman Citizen recognizes in every woman capacities which make of her a municipal, a state and a national, as well as a domestic asset." The magazine would, its editor promised, try to reflect woman as the world was beginning to know her, that is, as producer, wage-earner and citizen, as well as home maker.

For the ensuing four years the magazine was published weekly, sometimes limited to 24 pages for an issue, sometimes carrying as many as 96 pages in special editions.

As an official organ it was able to disseminate suffrage propaganda more intensively and picturesquely than could have been done in any other way.

The progress of the suffrage movement in the United States and abroad had been incredibly fast during 1917 and 1918. It was faster yet for 1919. By the end of that significant year the women of twenty-eight foreign countries had the vote. In the United States there were fifteen full suffrage states and thirteen states in which women could vote for the president of the United States. In two other states, Texas and Arkansas, they had primary suffrage, and as both states were overwhelmingly Democratic, a vote in the primaries meant a vote for the presidential electors of these states. The grand total of electoral votes in the thirty states where women had a voice in the choosing of the electors was, therefore, 326. The total vote of the Electoral College was at that date 531.


As early as 1918 Congress had seen the handwriting on the wall and had passed the federal suffrage amendment. By the spring of 1920 thirty-five, out of a necessary thirty-six, states had ratified it. Thereafter, all suffrage effort was concentrated on the winning of the thirty-sixth state. When Tennessee ratified in August of that year, the needed three-fourths of the states had enrolled for the amendment and the suffrage struggle in the United States was over.

In the summer of 1920, all the departments of the Bureau save the magazine ceased to function.


The Suffrage Bureau of Education, with its press literature and publicity features, did not include all the activities of the Leslie Woman Suffrage Commission. A general education through independent distribution of literature was undertaken at once and continued throughout the remaining years of the campaign in the United States.

Both Protestant and Catholic clergymen in the states where women were enfranchised were circularized and their opinions on the effect of woman suffrage solicited. The testimony contained in the replies was compiled into three leaflets; "Turn on the Light," "Living Witnesses" and "Opinions of Catholic Clergymen." These were distributed to 200,000 clergymen in states where women were unenfranchised.


A million congressional speeches on the subject of woman suffrage were distributed to most states in the Union. These were packed, a thousand speeches in a postal bag, and franked to various states where workers had, in advance, pledged themselves to deliver the speeches in person or to send them to carefully selected lists by mail.

Addressing of such literature throughout the United States was done, almost entirely, by volunteer workers who gave many weeks and months to it. This distribution of literature was, of course, in addition to that done by the National American Woman Suffrage Association and its auxiliaries.

When the American campaign for woman suffrage had ended victoriously, the Leslie estate had not been closed and there was money still due Mrs. Catt from the estate. Help was therefore given to the woman suffrage movements in foreign lands, the total amount thus contributed being $116,180.97.


That these contributions materially furthered the cause of woman suffrage in one country after another is indicated by numerous letters in the files of the Commission. In thanking the Commission for its "timely help," the Swiss Suffrage Association's treasure wrote, "I feel confident that your generous gift will enable our movement to make new progress."
        The International Woman Suffrage Alliance's treasure went on record with enthusiastic thanks to the Commission "for backing us up once more so generously." The French Union for Votes for Women testified to its "deepest gratitude for the inestimable help" the Commission had given.

The Japanese suffragists were moved by the gifts of the Commission to make ready for "a real telling push at the most necessary moment in our movement." The Hungarian Feminist Association testified to its gratitude for the Commission's generosity to it and for "the motherly care with which you come to our aid when you know us in need." From Madras, India, the Women's Indian Association wrote through its general secretary to express its thanks for what the Commission had done for the cause of woman suffrage in India.

The League of Women Voters, organized by the National American Woman Suffrage Association, and agreeing to take up some of its unfinished tasks, received from time to time, $47,100.27.


The next step was to prepare the records of woman suffrage for reference by posterity. In 1880 Susan B. Anthony had received a bequest and had caused to be written three volumes of the History of Woman Suffrage. In 1890 she had gathered contributions and engaged Ida Husted Harper, giving her office space and equipment within her own home, to prepare Volume IV. Mrs. Harper was engaged by the Commission to write the next and last volume. That volume swelled into two volumes and there was more material from which to draw the contents of those two volumes than had been available for all the others put together. The printing was paid for and these volumes mostly distributed free to libraries all over the world. There is not a great nation which does not have at least one of them in its chief library.

[Ed. Note: There should be a copy of the six volumes in your local library. If there is not, find out what happened to it. The History of Woman's Suffrage was a gift to posterity at YOUR library and should remain. IT IS THE ONLY HISTORICAL RECORD OF WOMAN'S SUFFRAGE IN THE UNITED STATES.]

The Leslie Commission voted to purchase and to distribute to libraries one thousand copies of "Woman Suffrage and Politics," which had been compiled by Mrs. Catt and Mrs. Shuler and which represented an important phase of the suffrage campaign.

A little booklet on the "History of Woman Suffrage" was reprinted and contributed to several headquarters with the request that it be handed to inquirers.

Old suffrage journals of long ago, such as the "Revolution" printed in 1870, the "Woman's Advocate," and several others, were purchased or received as gifts, bound properly, and placed in libraries, and many cases of carefully filed woman suffrage material were deposited in state and national libraries.

With its work thus completed, its money mostly spent, the Leslie Woman Suffrage Commission came to dissolution with a sense that its complete duty had been performed.


The executors charged Mrs. Catt in their final accounting with the sum of $977,875.02 and for this amount she receipted to them at the appraised valuation as per the following statement:

It was a bedazzled day when, on February 6, 1917, the Leslie jewelry was brought to suffrage headquarters. From tarnished white silver settings, turned black by long storage in a bank vault, emeralds and rubies, diamonds and pearls flashed forth the appraised value of thirty-four thousand seven hundred and eighty-five dollars. As Mrs. Catt called in the staff to gaze upon the unwonted sight, she exclaimed: "I may have to retire from suffrage work and become a salesman of real estate and diamonds."

After several interviews the jewels were sold to the concern that had appraised them. They were unwilling, however, to accept as a purchase price the appraised valuation, and the loss on the sale of the jewels was $3,498.35. The check from the purchaser, together with the bonds and cash received from the Executors, was transferred to the Commission at its first meeting.

The Executors sold the best of the real estate turned over to Mrs. Catt the residue, which consisted mostly of houses very much out of date and of repair. An able woman devoted nearly all her time for six months to the business involved in holding and disposing of it. The process of converting this property into cash netted a loss of $72,397.20 from the total of $213,895.54, for which Mrs. Catt had receipted to the executors.


With all the adjustments, the sum of $933,728.88 was actually available for suffrage work. The exact amount that had been expended for suffrage work by the Commission at the date of dissolution, September 30, 1929, was $904,240.82, leaving a residue of $29,488.06.

At the last meeting of the Leslie Woman Suffrage Commission, July 17, 1929, it was unanimously voted that whatever funds might be left in the treasury at the date of dissolution should pass into the custody of the Leslie Continuing Committee, composed of Mrs. F. Louis Slade, Chairman; Mrs. Thomas B. Wells, Treasurer; Mrs. Mabel Russell, Secretary; and Mrs. Carrie Chapman Catt to be expended from time to time in aid of suffrage emergencies.

[Ed. Note: Thank you Mrs. Frank Leslie, aka Miriam Florence Follin. Although you wrote "I never had any childhood, for the word means sunshine and freedom from care. I had a starved and pinched little childhood, as far as love and merriment go," your legacy enabled other girl/women to have lives as full, happy human beings.]

   | 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