Officers and National Organizers T-Z
Mabel Vernon was born in Wilmington, Delaware. Her father was editor and publisher of the Wilmington Daily Republican. Part of a large Quaker-Presbyterian family, she went to Swarthmore with Alice Paul and graduated in 1906. During her college career she won awards as a debater. Vernon taught Latin and German in a Pennsylvania high school before attending a National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) conference in Philadelphia in 1912. She later returned to school and earned a master’s degree in political science from Columbia University in 1924.
At Paul’s invitation, Vernon worked as a regional fund-raiser and recruiter for the Congressional Union for Woman Suffrage (CU) shortly after its formal organization in 1913. The following year she led the CU campaign against Democratic congressional candidates in Nevada along with Anne Martin. She soon headed the push to establish state branches in several western states. When the CU asked Sara Bard Field and other suffrage envoys to travel cross-country by automobile in 1915, Vernon worked as the advance person, organizing events and meetings in several major cities. She joined Alice Paul and others in testifying for woman suffrage before the House Judiciary Committee at the end of that year.
Vernon has been described by her fellow activists as the first, and perhaps the most outstanding, of NWP organizers. She was named secretary of the newly formed NWP in June 1916. The following autumn, Vernon worked as a regional organizer, doing street speaking and holding rallies to encourage citizens not to support the reelection of legislators opposed to a federal suffrage amendment. She participated in the 1919 “Prison Special” tour, which did much to dispel popular fears of NWP militancy and win sympathy for the sacrifices that NWP activists had made for the suffrage cause. During the two years leading up to the ratification of the 19th Amendment, Vernon reprised her role as a regional organizer, working especially in Georgia, Kentucky, and Delaware.
Vernon was also notable for her audacious demonstrations during major presidential addresses–calling out to President Wilson during his Independence Day speech in 1916. After Wilson’s closely contested reelection in November 1916, she and other NWP activists secured front-row gallery seats for his annual address to Congress. During the speech, Vernon and the others unfurled a suffrage banner from inside Vernon’s coat, an action that won publicity across the country. Vernon was also among the first group of NWP women sentenced to brief terms in the District jail when she was charged with obstructing traffic while picketing the White House in June 1917.
Vernon remained active in the NWP in the 1920s and served as its executive secretary. Deeply involved in the Women for Congress campaign, she participated in a 1926 transcontinental motor trip that encouraged support for female candidates for office. Vernon also worked for the Equal Rights Amendment. In 1930 she shifted her activism to the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom. From the 1930s through the 1950s she devoted her time to the issues of disarmament, peace, Latin American rights, and international relations. She shared a Washington, D.C., residence with her close companion and fellow activist Consuelo Reyes-Calderon, from 1951 to 1975.
Born Ruza Wenclawska in Poland, Rose Winslow was brought to the United States as an infant with her immigrant parents. Winslow’s father worked as a coal miner and steelworker in Pennsylvania. She began working as a mill girl in the hosiery industry in Pittsburgh at age 11 and was also employed as a shop girl in Philadelphia, but was forced to quit work temporarily at age 19 when she contracted tuberculosis, leaving her disabled for the next two years. Winslow became a factory inspector and a trade union organizer in New York City with the National Consumers’ League and the National Women’s Trade Union League. In addition to her labor and suffrage activism, she was an actress and poet.
Winslow’s NWP activism is emblematic of the somewhat uneasy role of working-class women and labor rights advocates in the suffrage movement, as well as the NWP’s stated–but imperfectly realized–desire to reach out to women across the social spectrum. Winslow differed with Alice Paul over the former’s desire for outreach to male miners and factory workers and whether the NWP program was too focused on upper- and middle-class women.
Winslow brought her speaking and organizing powers first to the Congressional Union for Woman Suffrage (CU) and then to the NWP by addressing gatherings on the streets, in union halls, and at suffrage rallies. In February 1914 she and Doris Stevens spoke at a mass meeting for working women, after which a contingent of working women marched to the White House to meet with Woodrow Wilson on suffrage rights. That same year, Winslow joined Lucy Burns as leaders of the CU campaign in California to urge voters to oppose Democratic congressional candidates. Later, she worked similarly with other organizers in Wyoming during the electoral campaigns of 1916.
Winslow, like Inez Milholland and many of the other speakers sent out by Alice Paul on extensive speaking tours, displayed great energy at the podium or on the platform, but suffered privately from periodic collapse and exhaustion. Paul became irritated with Winslow when she became incapacitated, despite her history of ill-health. Demonstrating persistency and endurance was, after all, part of the NWP strategy.
Winslow was a leading demonstrator on the picket lines in the 1917 silent protests at the White House in Washington, D. C. She subsequently served time in the District jail and the Occoquan Workhouse.
In October 1917 Winslow and Alice Paul combined forces to set examples by refusing to eat or do work while they were imprisoned. Their actions demonstrated that they were political prisoners who refused to be classified and treated as criminals by the courts for exercising their First Amendment right to public assembly. Weakened by their hunger strike, Winslow and Paul were subjected to force-feedings. Their determination helped inspire other suffragists to perform acts of civil disobedience–defying court authority to convict them on false charges and placing even more pressure on the Wilson White House to accede to suffrage demands.