Biographical Database of Militant Woman Suffragists, 1913-1920
 
Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
 
Biography of Edith Houghton Hooker, 1879-1948

 

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By Jill Zahniser
Independent Scholar

Social activist, community leader, suffragist.

Link to NWP Database

Another sketch for Edith Houghton Hooker can be accessed at https://mdwomensheritagecenter.org/suffrage-bios-directory/

Edith Houghton was born into one of Buffalo, New York's industrial elite families in 1879. Her father's family had founded the Corning Glass Works at Corning, New York. After an idyllic childhood imbued with liberal ideals, Houghton lost both parents within the space of two years beginning when she was twelve years old. The Houghton children, who included Edith's sister Katherine, were well-provided for; both girls were sent to private school and then college at Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania. Houghton graduated from Bryn Mawr in 1901 and met her husband Donald Hooker when both were attending Johns Hopkins Medical School. They married in 1905, had five children and adopted three others.

Like many educated women of her time, Houghton Hooker became interested in social work and founded a home for unmarried mothers. After a few years, she grew increasingly convinced that the vote was the key to greater equality for women. She founded the Just Government League in 1909 and later the Maryland Suffrage News, both of which quickly assumed a prominent place in the Maryland suffrage movement. By 1915, the Just Government League boasted 17,000 members.

Through her affiliation with NAWSA, Houghton Hooker came to the attention of Alice Paul, who was planning a grand suffrage procession on the eve of Woodrow Wilson's inauguration in March 1913. Paul elicited Houghton Hooker's support; Houghton Hooker became a mainstay of Paul's organization and soon invited her sister Katharine, now Katharine Houghton Hepburn and an influential figure in the Connecticut suffrage movement, to join her. The Houghton sisters lent considerable weight to Paul's effort to found an alternative organization to NAWSA in 1914. Houghton Hooker, however, argued strenuously for a more democratic structure than Paul desired. Nevertheless, the two women continued to work together.

Hooker played several leadership roles in Paul's Congressional Union and National Woman's Party, though she was not among the "Silent Sentinels" who picketed the White House in 1917. She served on the Executive Committee and as editor of The Suffragist at times. She raised and contributed money and continued to be an important source of support for Alice Paul. During the ratification campaign for the Nineteenth Amendment, Houghton Hooker led Maryland's ultimately unsuccessful effort.

After women won the vote, Houghton Hooker continued to play a prominent role in the National Woman's Party while supporting other reform causes. She edited the NWP's Equal Rights journal for thirteen years. She and Dr. Hooker were also noted figures in the civic life of Baltimore. Together, the couple founded Planned Parenthood of Maryland and a neighborhood community association, for which they later funded two recreation centers, one for African-American youth.

Edith Houghton Hooker died after suffering a stroke on October 23, 1948. The Maryland Women's Hall of Fame inducted her as a member in 1999.

An unusually detailed biography and genealogy of Edith Houghton Hooker, written by one of her granddaughters, Margaret Houghton Hooker Moser, is online at http://familytreemaker.genealogy.com/users/m/o/s/Margo-H-Moser-VA/WEBSITE-0001/UHP-0004.html. The Maryland Women's Hall of Fame published a biographical sketch at http://msa.maryland.gov/msa/educ/exhibits/womenshall/html/hooker.html. An obituary appeared in the NWP publication Equal Rights (Sept-Dec 1948), 51. The role of the Houghton sisters in assisting Alice Paul in 1914 is detailed in J.D. Zahniser & Amelia R. Fry, Alice Paul: Claiming Power (New York: Oxford University Press, 2014).

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