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Ida Husted Harper

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Ida Husted Harper
Ida Husted Harper photograph by Aime Dupont.jpg
Born February 18, 1851
Franklin County, Indiana
Died March 14, 1931(1931-03-14) (aged 80)
Occupation Author, journalist, suffragist

Ida Husted Harper (February 18, 1851 – March 14, 1931) was an American author, journalist and suffragist. A prominent figure in the women's suffrage movement in the U.S., she wrote columns on women's issues for newspapers and handled press relations for several suffrage campaigns. She wrote a three-volume biography of suffrage leader Susan B. Anthony at Anthony's request. Harper and Anthony together wrote the fourth volume of the History of Woman Suffrage, a project that Harper completed by writing the fifth and sixth volumes herself after Anthony's death.


Ida Husted Harper was born in 1851 in Fairfield, Franklin County, Indiana to John Arthur Husted and Cassandra Stoddard. When she was ten years old, her family moved to Muncie, Indiana in search of a better school system. Harper graduated from high school in 1868 and entered Indiana University as a sophomore. She left the university a year later at the age of eighteen to become the principal of the high school in Peru, Indiana.[1] In 1871, she married Thomas Winans Harper of Terre Haute, Indiana, who went on to become the city attorney and the chief legal counsel for the Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen, a trade union whose main officer was Eugene V. Debs, a socialist leader who also lived in Terre Haute.[2]

Despite her husband's disapproval, she began writing articles for the Terre Haute Saturday Evening Mail and several Indianapolis newspapers under a male pseudonym.[3] Later, under her own name, she wrote a column for the Terre Haute newspaper called "A Woman's Opinions". Her column included topics that were traditional for women's columns, such as food and fashion, but they also discussed women's rights.[4] From 1883 to 1894, at the invitation of Debs, she wrote a monthly column called "The Woman's Department" for the magazine of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen.[5]

In 1878, Harper met Susan B. Anthony, a leader of the National Woman Suffrage Association (NWSA), when she spoke in Terre Haute under Debs' sponsorship. The NWSA was one of two rival women's suffrage organizations that later merged into the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) under Anthony's leadership. In 1887, Harper served as secretary of the Indiana chapter of the NWSA. In that capacity she coordinated thirteen district conventions in a drive for the passage of a state bill to allow women to vote in municipal elections.[6]

At her initiative, Harper and her husband divorced in 1890.[7] Two weeks later she became the managing editor of the Terre Haute Daily News. She stayed in that position for only a few months, a period during which she and the newspaper successfully supported a slate of reform candidates in the city election.[8] She left that job to move to Indianapolis to be with her daughter Winifred, who was going to May Wright Sewall's Girls' Classical School, which offered rigorous college preparatory courses. Sewall, its principal, was also chair of the NWSA's executive committee. Harper joined the editorial staff of the Indianapolis News, a newspaper to which she contributed long after she left Indiana.[9]

In 1893, Harper moved to California to be with her daughter while she was attending Stanford University. Harper also enrolled at Stanford but did not earn a degree.[10] In 1896, Susan B. Anthony placed Harper in charge of press relations for the NAWSA's campaign for a women's suffrage amendment in California.[11] Harper also began to assist Anthony with her writing. Anthony praised Harper, saying, "The moment I give the idea—the point—she formulates it into a good sentence—while I should have to haggle over it half an hour."[12]

In 1897, Anthony asked Harper to write her biography. Harper moved into Anthony's home in Rochester, New York, to sort through her papers and distill them into what eventually became a three-volume biography. According to Harper, Anthony's papers occupied "two large rooms filled, from floor to ceiling".[13] Working directly with Anthony, Harper published the first two volumes of the biography in 1898. She published the third volume in 1908, after Anthony's death. Harper also worked with Anthony to publish the fourth volume of the six-volume History of Woman Suffrage in 1902.[14]

From 1899 to 1902, Harper was in charge of the press committee of the International Council of Women, which Anthony had been instrumental in creating, and wrote articles for International Suffrage News, which was published in Europe.[15] In 1910, she became head of the NAWSA's national press bureau in New York City, supplying information and developing a market for articles about women's suffrage in magazines and newspapers around the country.[16]

Harper continued to write for newspapers in several major cities, including a woman's column in the New York Sunday Sun from 1899 to 1903 and a women's page in Harper's Bazaar magazine from 1909 to 1913. She also lectured around the country and testified in favor of women's suffrage before several congressional committees.[17]

In 1916, she moved to Washington, D.C., to take charge of the Editorial Correspondence department of the Leslie Bureau of Suffrage Education (a part of the NAWSA's Leslie Woman Suffrage Commission), which strove to improve public understanding of the women's suffrage movement. Her department was responsible for responding to a steady stream of newspaper editorials about women's suffrage from all over the country, praising the editors when they supported suffrage and trying to answer their objections when they opposed it.[18]

In 1922, after the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which guaranteed the right of women to vote, Harper published the fifth and sixth volumes of the History of Woman Suffrage.

Harper was a Unitarian by religious affiliation.[19] An active member of the American Association of University Women, she made her home in the last years of her life in that organization's headquarters building in Washington. She died in Washington on March 14, 1931.[20]


Major works

Booklets and other

  • The Associated Work of the Women of Indiana (1893)
  • Suffrage A Right (1906)
  • Woman Suffrage Throughout the World (1907)
  • A Brief History of the Movement for Woman Suffrage in the United States (1907)
  • How Six States Won Woman Suffrage (1912)
  • Suffrage Snapshots (1915)
  • A National Amendment for Woman Suffrage (1915)
  • Story of the National Amendment for Woman Suffrage (1919)

See also


  1. ^ Opdycke
  2. ^ Jones, p. 82
  3. ^ Opdycke
  4. ^ Jones, pp. 82–83
  5. ^ Jones, p. 79
  6. ^ Jones, pp. 97–98
  7. ^ Jones, p. 88
  8. ^ Jones, p. 96
  9. ^ Phillips
  10. ^ Opdycke
  11. ^ Jones, p. 98
  12. ^ Quoted in Opdycke
  13. ^ Harper, Ida Husted (1898–1908), Vol. 2, The Life and Work of Susan B. Anthony, p. 909
  14. ^ Opdycke
  15. ^ Opdycke
  16. ^ Opdycke
  17. ^ Opdycke
  18. ^ Harper, Ida Husted, ed. (1922), Vol. 5, History of Woman Suffrage, National American Woman Suffrage Association, printed by J. J. Little and Ives, New York, pp. 527–528, 570–571. Opdycke says Harper was in charge of the entire Leslie Bureau, but that is contradicted by Harper herself in this cited work (which was written by Harper), which says that Rose Young was the bureau's director.
  19. ^ Phillips
  20. ^ Opdycke


  • Jones, Nancy Baker (June 1977). "A Forgotten Feminist: The Early Writings of Ida Husted Harper, 1878–1894". Indiana Magazine of History. 73 (2): 79–101.  The PDF file on this web page contains page numbers from the magazine article but the text file does not.
  • Opdycke, Sandra (1999). "Ida Husted Harper". In Garraty, John A.; Carnes, Mark C. American National Biography. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-520635-5. 
  • Philips, Clifton J. (1971). "Harper, Ida A. Husted". In James, Edward T. Notable American Women 1607–1950. 2. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University. 

External links

This page was last edited on 28 April 2018, at 03:47.
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