By Annie Frantel, graduate student; Julie Kellndorfer, undergraduate student; and Brooke Lowell, undergraduate student, Simmons College
Nellie M. Gross of Boston was involved in political action and community service throughout her adult life. She was born in 1859 in Canada, and emigrated to the United States in 1885. She was married to J. Irving Gross, who was a descendant of a signer of the Declaration of Independence. Gross appears in local newspapers many times, for political reasons as well as more mundane events. She was involved in the Boston chapter of the Women’s Relief Corps, and was involved in the annual convention of Army nurses that took place in Boston in 1904. She and other women in the “information committee” met incoming trains to guide the delegates attending the convention from other places; they also manned the headquarters at various hotels for the duration of the convention. For this, her photo with the other members of her committee appeared in the Boston Herald. Her husband and father both served in the Civil War, and she found a Lincoln campaign button from the Civil War in a Winchester antique shop in 1921. This discovery was reported in the Boston Globe.
On the political side of things, Gross’s involvement in protest and campaigning is well documented. She was arrested five times in Lafayette Square near the White House the week of August 12, 1918 and was sentenced to fifteen days in the District Jail. She and thirty-seven other women represented the National Woman’s Party, protesting the Senate’s delay in passing the suffrage amendment. Gross was honored along with 25 other suffragists at an NWP conference on December 15, 1918 for being imprisoned that year. In 1919, Gross was among the picketers in the Boston Common demonstrating for President Wilson’s visit, urging him to press for passage of the suffrage amendment. Due to their refusal to disperse, she and the other protesters were arrested and sent to the Charles Street jail. In 1921, Gross was the manager of the Women’s Campaign Headquarters for Mayor James M. Curley, who won the election in December of that year. In a newspaper interview for this event, Gross spoke with enthusiasm about the many women of Boston who promised to vote for Curley, particularly in Ward 7 where she had lived for 25 years. At the time of her husband’s death in February of 1925, she was living on Falmouth Street in Boston. She and her husband had no children.
“26 Suffragists To Get Tribute,” Washington Herald, 15 Dec. 1918, 4.
“Brave Women, Annual Convention of Army Nurses,” Boston Daily Globe, 16 Aug. 1904, 11.
“Funeral Tomorrow of J. Irving Gross,” Boston Daily Globe, 12 Feb. 1925, 14.
“Mrs. Gross ‘Overwhelmed’ With Joy at the Victory,” Boston Daily Globe, 14 Dec. 1921, 10.
“Old Lincoln Medal Found,” Boston Daily Globe, 27 Nov. 1921, 59.
“Seize Suffragists Near White House,” New York Times, 13 Aug. 1918, 9.
U.S. Federal Manuscript Census, 1920.
“Women Jailed in Boston,” The Suffragist 7:10 (1 March 1919), 4-5.
“Women Who Will Meet Trains and Guide Delegates Coming to Boston for the Relief Corps Convention,” Boston Herald, 31 July 1904, 33.