Biographical Sketch of Lois Warren Shaw

Biographical Database of Militant Suffragists, 1913-1920
Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Lois Warren Shaw, 1884-1964

Link to NWP Database

By Lisette Labbé and Sarah Hummel, undergraduates, Saint Anselm College

Lois Warren Shaw was born on September 5, 1884 (though some accounts indicate 1874) in the town of Westbrook, Cumberland County, Maine, in an area known as Cumberland Mills. Her father, John E. Warren, was the nephew of successful Maine paper mill operator Samuel Dennis Warren, and was an actively religious man. John became an agent of S.D. Warren & Company in 1884, after Civil War service as First Sergeant of the Seventh Battery of his hometown, Wauwatosa, Wisconsin. The Warren family was notably prominent in the Boston, Massachusetts area, suggesting that Lois Warren was raised in a financially comfortable household. Lois’s mother, Sarah Harriet Brown, was the daughter of Silas and Elizabeth Brown, also of Wauwatosa. Lois was raised alongside three brothers: Joseph A. Warren, John B. Warren, and Mortimer Warren. Lois Warren received post-secondary education at Radcliffe College and Vassar College; interestingly, Lois’s Vassar roommate, Elsie Hill, also became an active suffragist and was arrested for the cause.

On September 5, 1905, Lois Warren married Harvard College graduate Winfield Lowry Shaw. Shaw, born in Portland Maine in 1878, graduated from Harvard in 1900. The couple raised five daughters: Janet (1906), Lois “Michael” (1907), Catherine (1908), Mary (1909), and Rhoda (1911). In February 1918, Winfield Shaw became Vice President and General Manager of Manufacturing at the W.H. McElwain Company, and the family moved to 16 Salmon Street, Manchester, New Hampshire. It was here, in New Hampshire’s largest city, where Lois Warren Shaw became actively committed to women’s suffrage.

One of Lois Warren Shaw’s first major debuts in militant suffrage occurred on the morning of February 24, 1919. To greet President Woodrow Wilson upon his return from negotiations at Versailles, thousands of people flocked to Boston, including a group of militant suffragists representing the National Woman’s Party. Lois Warren Shaw was one of these suffragists. Carrying a banner made by Mrs. Samuel Warren which read “Mr. President, you said in the Senate on September 30, ‘We shall not only be distrusted but we shall deserve to be distrusted if we do not enfranchise women.’ You alone can remove this distrust now by securing the one vote needed to pass the suffrage amendment before March 4.” Lois was one of twenty-two women arrested that day for “loitering more than seven minutes.” Her sister-in law, Mrs. Mortimer Warren, was also arrested but was immediately released. The women picketing were instructed by Mrs. Agnes H. Morey, Massachusetts State Chairman of the National Woman’s Party, to not dispute arrest but if pressed for explanation, to state that they were “transgressing no law.” Refusing to move, despite orders from the police, the women were taken by patrol wagons to Joy Street Station, and were housed in the Charles Street Jail, dubbed the Boston Tombs, overnight. The next morning, on the second floor of the Boston Court House, the suffragists were given a “select trial”; it was not open to the public, but friends and family of the women were present. One by one, the women were tried, but refusing to own guilt in their “crime” the judge sentenced the women (some of whom were dismissed for being minors) to eight days in the Charles Street Jail after all refused to pay a fine (though that sentence was extended to ten days). In jail, the women threatened to undertake a hunger strike and accounts of the deplorable sanitation and living conditions of the jail resulted in formal complaints against the institution. Winfield Shaw wired a motivating message to his imprisoned wife: “Don’t be quitters. I have competent nurses to look after the children.” Some of the women’s bails were paid by an unknown figure referred to as “E.H. Howe,” but one source indicates that her sister-in-law, likely Mrs. Mortimer Warren, paid Lois Warren Shaw’s bail. By March 1, all of the women had been released from the jail. On February 27, Alice Paul, avid suffragist leader, announced that the women who had been imprisoned in the Boston demonstration would receive the prison gate medal, the hard-fought symbol of militant suffragist activism.

Lois Warren Shaw’s involvement in the suffrage cause did not end with the demonstration in Boston. At a business luncheon on April 21, 1919, Lois was elected as the State Chairman of the New Hampshire branch of the National Woman’s Party, shouldering the responsibilities of her predecessor, Miss Sallie Hovey. During a party hosted at her Manchester home to honor suffragists Mrs. H.O. Havemeyer and Alice Paul, Lois assisted in the launch of the New Hampshire campaign to pressure Governor Bartlett and his Council to call a special legislative session to ratify the constitutional amendment for woman suffrage. Governor Bartlett expressed interest in calling a special session, but progress was slowed by the ambivalence of Senators Moses and Keyes, members of the Governor’s Council, and by the timing of the resolution; the state legislature was not in session, so the issue was tabled and reopened at a new session. Lois Warren Shaw was instrumental in her role as Chairman, “arousing the interest of suffragists, raising funds to finance the campaign, and organizing deputations to interview members of the Legislature.” Lois herself contributed $25 to the National Headquarters, and her husband contributed $100. Addressing Senator Moses, Lois brazenly stated: “You and your group will be politically responsible for the passage or the defeat of the suffrage resolution in the 66th Congress.… You would win our profound admiration if … you would now declare your support of a measure which is just and politically expedient.” The efforts of the New Hampshire branch of the National Woman’s Party were successful in pressuring legislative action; on September 9, 1919, the New Hampshire legislature held a special session to address the resolution. The suffrage amendment passed the New Hampshire House of Representatives by a vote of 212 to 143, and on September 10, the Senate passed the resolution 14 to 10. Within one year from New Hampshire’s ratification, the Susan B. Anthony suffrage Amendment - now known as the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution - was enacted.

In the 1920’s Lois Warren Shaw continued to be dedicated to women’s equality and workers’ rights. Lois’s daughter, Lois “Michael” Shaw, while describing her own involvement in Jane Addams’s Hull House in Chicago, Illinois, made brief reference to her mother’s role as a secretary to Jane Addams. Unfortunately, few accounts of such involvement remain; however, Jane Addams did have celebrated individuals assist with administrative duties at Hull House, so Lois’s involvement would not have been impossible. Lois Warren Shaw’s name appears on a 1920 list of contributors and subscribers of the American Civil Liberties Union pamphlet service. Additionally, in 1922, Warren Shaw signed her name on a National Woman’s Party pamphlet addressing gender discrimination laws in Michigan as a member of the National Council of the National Woman’s Party. Published issues of the NWP journal Equal Rights indicate that Warren Shaw remained active as a member of the National Council of the National Woman’s Party until at least December 1925.

Not much is known about the remainder of Lois Warren Shaw’s life. Either Lois, or her namesake, donated a piece of architectural molding to the Currier Museum of Art in Manchester, New Hampshire, in 1962. Lois died on February 6, 1964 in Grasmere, Cumbria, England. She is buried in the New Boston Cemetery in New Boston, New Hampshire. Lois Warren Shaw was described as having possessed a “great vigor” for the projects in which she was involved, and her contributions to the suffrage cause, on both a national and a state level, were instrumental in achieving the Nineteenth Amendment.


A record of Lois Warren Shaw’s birth and death dates, as well as an overview of her family, can be found in “Lois Warren Shaw,” FindaGrave, An additional source for birth and death dates, as well as links to genealogical overviews of her family, can be found in “Lois Warren,” Geni, A complex family history, including a detailed biography of Lois’ father, can be accessed in George Thomas Little, The Genealogical and Family History of the State of Maine (New York: Lewis Historical Publishing, 1909), 2:642-43. A biography of Lois’s husband, Winfield Shaw, birth dates of the couple’s children, and the family’s Manchester address can be found in the Harvard College Class of 1900 Secretary’s Fifth Report (Norwood: Plimpton Press, 1921), 418. Lois’s Vassar College education is evidenced briefly in Vassar College Bulletin, 25:3 (1895), 141. Likewise, Lois’s Radcliffe College education is verified in Harvard University Catalogue (Cambridge: Harvard University, 1905), 734. Extensive information regarding Lois’s arrest at the Boston demonstration, her husband, her relationship with Elsie Hill, and a photograph of Lois herself can be found in Doris Stevens, Jailed For Freedom (New York: Boni and Liveright, 1920), pp. 324, 346, and 368. Jailed for Freedom, p. 322, also makes note of Mrs. Mortimer Warren’s arrest, alongside a description of her husband that corresponds to the data found for Lois Warren Shaw’s brother, Mortimer Warren. Winfield Shaw’s comment cited above is also found in Jailed for Freedom, p. 324. An overview of the Boston demonstration and the twenty-two suffragist arrests, including that of Lois Warren Shaw, can be viewed in “Arrests 22 Militants,” The New York Times, February 25, 1919. More specific details about the demonstration, particularly regarding the suffrage banners and Lois Warren Shaw’s role may be found in “Reminding the President When He Landed in Boston,” The Suffragist, March 1, 1919. Specific charges and details of court proceedings may be found in “Boston Militants Fined: Three Pay $5 Each and 17 Go to Jail, Two Being Discharged,” New York Times, February 26, 1919. A description of the unsanitary conditions of the Charles Street Jail and the women’s treatment in prison can be found in “Boston Suffrage Prisoners Released,” The Suffragist, March 15, 1919. Lois Warren Shaw’s active leadership in the campaign for a special session in the New Hampshire legislature, is in “The Ratification Campaign,” The Suffragist, June 28, 1919. Lois’s appeal to Senator Moses, including a lengthy transcript of her own words (cited in sketch), can be read in “Interesting Deputations,” The Suffragist, April 30, 1919. The quotation in the final sentence of the sketch can be found in “Senator Keyes Pledged to Suffrage,” The Suffragist, 7:20 (no date provided). Details regarding the New Hampshire ratification of the suffrage amendment can be found in “New Hampshire Ratifies,” The Suffragist, September 20, 1919. Lois’s contribution to the ACLU can be seen in The Fight for Free Speech (New York: American Civil Liberties Union, 1921), 26. Lois’s membership in the National Council of the National Woman’s Party can be found in editor Burnita Shelton Matthews, Michigan Laws Discriminating Against Women (Washington, D.C.: Ransdell, 1922), 15. A photograph and a caption citing Lois Warren Shaw as a donor to the Currier Museum of Art, Manchester, N.H., can be found in Bill Veillette, The Rehabilitation of the Col. Robert Means Mansion, Amherst, New Hampshire (Amherst, N.H.: Bill Veillette, 2009). Brief reference is made to Lois Warren Shaw’s involvement with Hull House in “Another Hepburn Now In Limelight in West, Will Not Enter Films,” The Evening Independent, January 2, 1936, but no other information could be found to verify this statement.

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