By Hannah Gallucci, undergraduate, Saint Anselm College
Elizabeth Darrow was born on December 31, 1883 in Fargo, North Dakota. She was the second of five children born to Dr. Edward McLaren Darrow and Clara Louisa (Dillon) Darrow. After a childhood spent in North Dakota, she attended Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, New York, where she met and befriended Inez Milholland. Together the two women worked to bring the issue of suffrage to Vassar’s campus, “planning suffrage meetings, when gatherings of this kind were strictly forbidden at the school.”
Elizabeth graduated from Vassar in 1908 and married Stanley Sanborn O’Neil, a U.S. Congressman and suffrage supporter, in 1909. 1910 Census records show the couple and their newborn daughter, Mary Darrow O’Neil, living in Wauwatosa, a suburb of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in the home of Stanley’s parents, Charles Houston O’Neil and Clara Jane O’Neil. Sometime between 1910 and 1913 Elizabeth, her husband, and their daughter moved back to Fargo, as Elizabeth was elected Campaign Manager of the State Votes for Women League on October 18, 1913. Stanley passed away in 1916; his gravestone can be found within his family’s plot in Milwaukee.
From 1913 to 1920 Elizabeth worked with her mother, Clara Darrow, and sister, Mary Darrow Weible – President and Vice President of the state league – on the suffrage campaign in North Dakota. During a 1914 state referendum on woman suffrage Elizabeth wrote Minnesota’s Scandinavian Women’s Suffrage Association President, Nanny Mattson Jaeger, inquiring on “how to better use ethnic heritage to appeal to North Dakota’s Scandinavian population.” In 1916 Elizabeth was elected to be the National and First Congressional District Chairman of North Dakota for the Congressional Union.
Elizabeth was a principal organizer of the July 7, 1916 Fargo luncheon that met to “[organize] a state branch that, with the 34 similar state branches of the Congressional Union, will form a powerful support for the federal suffrage amendment.” She is recorded as having completed the work to get “the thousand or more copies of the…invitation ready to mail” for the luncheon. The Bismarck Tribune lauded the meeting, held at the Waldorf hotel, a major success for the league in its July 12, 1916 issue.
As a result of the league’s work, North Dakota granted women a limited right to vote in 1917. The bills were taken to the Governor’s office for signing by four women including Elizabeth as president of the state Congressional Union and her sister as vice president of the state Votes for Women League.
With woman’s suffrage partially secured in North Dakota, Elizabeth turned to the federal amendment. In 1917 Elizabeth hosted a meeting in her home to begin the state drive for federal suffrage and hosted Mabel Vernon, the National Secretary of the National Woman’s Party. She traveled to D.C. in March 1917 to represent North Dakota when the CU merged with the NWP; she also joined the White House picket demonstration on March 4. Elizabeth was listed as the State Chairman for North Dakota on the National Woman’s Party’s subsequent 1917 invitation to picket the White House and in 1919 she personally donated $25 to the NWP.
In 1919 Elizabeth relocated to San Francisco, California and married North Dakota native, George Edwards, changing her name to Elizabeth Edwards. They lived on Willard Street in San Francisco and in 1921 she gave birth to her second child, Jonathan Edwards. In 1922 she became widowed for the second time with the death of George. Elizabeth taught public school throughout the 1930s and 1940s. In 1971 her son, Jonathan, passed away and on January 17, 1972, Elizabeth passed away in San Diego, California. She was survived by her daughter, Mary Darrow O’Neil McBride.
A record of Elizabeth Darrow’s birth, death, marriages, and family tree can be found on the ancestry.com website under the “McBride Family Tree,” accessed at http://person.ancestry.com/tree/75481914/person/38390476989/facts. Although state birth and death certificates are not accessible to non-family members, supporting census records from 1900, 1910, 1920, 1930, and 1940 and social security index notes confirm family connections. Confirmation of her parents and siblings (the Darrow family) can also be found in the Jan. 25, 1917 issue of the Bismarck Tribune, https://www.newspapers.com/clip/4835078/the_bismarck_tribune/, and the Bismarck Tribune’s Jun. 21, 2008 article “Dr. Darrow’s family had impact on N.D.”, at http://bismarcktribune.com/news/local/eriksmoen-column-dr-darrow-s-family-had-impact-on-n/article_1cdc4259-89cc-545c-923c-ad6576f82859.html.
Mention of Elizabeth’s attendance at Vassar College and confirmation of her move back to North Dakota and Stanley O’Neil’s death can be found in the alumni newsletter the “Vassar Quarterly,” Volumes 1-2, https://books.google.com/books?id=Jp5GAQAAMAAJ&pg=PA149&lpg=PA149&dq=%22elizabeth+darrow+o%27neil%22&source=bl&ots=Hm2XDfZZiI&sig=yj4vJ_IGDiR-udo9CVlamAHjfYQ&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwj3g9fRk8PLAhUEcz4KHRwpAnkQ6AEIHTAA#v=onepage&q=%22elizabeth%20darrow%20o'neil%22&f=false, and the “General Catalogue of the Officers and Graduates of Vassar College”, Volumes 4 and 5, https://books.google.com/books?id=yo47AAAAYAAJ&pg=PA289&lpg=PA289&dq=vassar+college+o%27neil+1908&source=bl&ots=PnjVosawqm&sig=ULAEsQUEaOHV5pf1qq7JayGOGz4&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjkq_vRmsPLAhUMMj4KHQ25DXgQ6AEINzAG#v=onepage&q=vassar%20college%20o'neil%201908&f=false and https://books.google.com/books?id=x7zOAAAAMAAJ&pg=PA130&lpg=PA130&dq=vassar+college+o%27neil+1908&source=bl&ots=cMIum4_AVL&sig=OulFq3NvG8id21MiLOewfpDXHoc&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjkq_vRmsPLAhUMMj4KHQ25DXgQ6AEIMTAE#v=onepage&q=vassar%20college%20o'neil%201908&f=false. Her association with Inez Milholland is noted in the Bismarck Tribune in two separate issues: Nov. 19, 1916, p. 4 and Jan. 25, 1917, p. 5.
Accounts of her involvement in the North Dakota Votes for Women League as the campaign manager and First Congressional District Chairman can be found in History of Woman Suffrage, vol. 6: 1900-1920, “Chapter XXXIII: North Dakota,” online in “Women and Social Movements in the U.S. 1600-2000” at Link. More detailed records of her involvement and travels for the suffrage movement are noted in multiple issues of the Bismarck Tribune: Jul 1, 1916/ Jul 12, 1916/ Nov 19, 1916/ Jan 23, 1917/ Jan 25, 1917/ Feb 23, 1917/ Mar 3, 1917/ Mar 26, 1917/ Apr 3, 1917/ Sep 22, 1917, all found on newspapers.com. Elizabeth’s interest in bolstering Scandinavian involvement is cited in Anna Marie Peterson, “Minnesota’s Scandinavian Woman Suffrage Association,” p. 293, accessed at http://collections.mnhs.org/mnhistorymagazine/articles/62/v62i08p288-297.pdf. The Suffragist newspaper contains records of her hosting the inaugural meeting for the state drive for the federal suffrage movement in 1917, mention her on the picket invitation of 1917, and mention her in “Treasurer’s Report” for 1919. Mention of Stanley O’Neil’s suffrage support, Congressional seat, and death are found in Anne Firor Scott and William H. Chafe, Grassroots Women’s Organizations: Women’s Suffrage in Wisconsin Part 1: Records of the Wisconsin Woman Suffrage Association, 1892 – 1925 (University Publications of America, 1981) 16-17.