By Noelle Davis, undergraduate, Louisiana State University
Harriet U. Andrews was born on May 23, 1884, to George and Hattie Andrews in Illinois. She had two older siblings, Elizabeth and Charles.
In 1918, Andrews wrote an article on the art of lip-reading for The Volta Review, a periodical on speech and hearing disabilities. Her focus was on teachers and their techniques in a Boston school, though it is unclear whether she was a teacher herself at this school or the mother of a deaf child. In this particular article, Andrews declared herself both a vegetarian and a suffragist, and she went on to be actively engaged in the struggle for the vote with the National Woman’s Party.
In January of 1919, Andrews was arrested and jailed for five days for her involvement in the National Woman’s Party watchfire demonstration. At this demonstration, NWP members burned a copy of a speech by President Wilson in an urn guarded by Andrews and a small group of sentinels. When soldiers knocked over their urn, Andrews and her fellow militant suffragists lit the torches they were holding with the burning embers. Rioting continued around them; they were arrested.
Later that year, she would once again march at the Capitol. On October 28th, she marched the length of the Capitol grounds with twenty other women, each bearing the tricolor banners of the National Woman’s Party and carrying an American flag. Once the suffragists started to climb the Capitol steps, they were escorted from the grounds by a guard, who had taken the group’s American flag away from them, but allowed them to keep their NWP banners. Once they reached the boundary of the Capitol grounds, the guard returned their American flag to them. Unlike the watchfire demonstration, this protest ended without incident.
Apart from her involvement in the picketing, Andrews’s personal life is largely a mystery. She continued writing on the education of deaf children, publishing several articles for The Volta Review and publishing a book with Fred DeLand in 1931 titled The Story of Lipreading: Its Genesis and Development.
Her life apart from her activism is even more elusive. In addition to her work with the National Woman’s Party, she completed at least 3 years of college. According to 1940 census records, she was a widowed editorial assistant living in Washington, D.C. Death records indicate that she died in Los Angeles on March 7, 1959.
Andrews’s writing and information on her work with the deaf community can be found in several issues of The Volta Review from the late 1910s to the early 1920s. See Harriet U. Andrews, “A Little Cruise Among the Deaf II. Boston and Elsewhere,” The Volta Review 20 (1918): 563-68. Information on her work in the suffrage movement can be found in Doris Stevens, Jailed for Freedom (New York: Boni and Liverlight, 1920), p. 534 and Inez Haynes Gilmore, The Story of the Woman’s Party (New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1921), pp. 377, 393. Other information on her life can be found in US census records accessed via Ancestry.com.