By Julia Vogt
Undergraduate student, Simmons College
“Berry” Pottier was most famously involved in the National Woman’s Party (NWP) demonstration on February 24, 1919, in which many suffragists gathered in Boston to appeal to President Wilson as he arrived at the harbor on his return from the peace conference in Versailles. These women reportedly stood silently, holding banners and signs calling for Wilson to take action and pass the suffrage amendment for the good of American women everywhere. This demonstration was organized by Alice Paul, who was touring the U.S., setting up demonstrations in key cities at the time. Several news sources reported that between 13 and 22 women (numbers vary) were arrested after refusing an order to move by Boston police. The women were placed in the Charles St. Jail and held on bail because they refused to pay their fines. The Suffragist reported that Miss Pottier and her fellows suffered poor sanitation and rough treatment by guards during their stay and also noted that the women threatened to go on hunger strike to assert their status as political prisoners and to protest the refusal of judges to grant them a public trial. On February 28 Berry and the remaining women sent President Wilson an appeal from within the jail asking him to secure passage of the Suffrage Amendment.
Prior to this critical year Berry had been an assistant to Miss Katherine Morey in charge of the NWP Eastern Division tour of Massachusetts during which she helped arrange open-air meetings in preparation for the election in September of 1915. That October she was photographed with several other women riding in a car during a Suffrage parade in Boston which involved over 8,000 women and men, including students from local colleges and women’s groups. Her involvement seemingly grew, for in December of 1918 she was again photographed by the Boston Globe as part of a group of delegates who planned to leave for Washington in order to arrange a meeting with other National Woman’s Party members and march into the Senate to demand the passage of the Anthony Amendment.
Following her arrest in 1919, Berry continued her work with the NWP on suffrage, most notably as a chairman of the tenth district in Boston. She was appointed to this post in March. Her main charge was to convince her congressman, at the time John F. Fitzgerald, to pass the suffrage amendment by utilizing inside information about his weaknesses, affiliations, and potential points of connection.
In addition to her critical action as a suffragist on the ground, Berry Pottier was also a dedicated financial supporter of the National Woman’s Party, donating varying amounts over the course of many years.
Unfortunately, very little is available concerning Berry’s personal life. Doris Stevens’s Jailed for Freedom identified her as an art student. Some contemporary newspapers gave her first name as Mary. She was likely Mary Lucy Pottier, who was born in Ware, Massachusetts on December 23, 1883. Her parents were Onesime and Philomene Pottier, both born in Canada to French-speaking families. Her father’s profession was listed as a factory operative. Berry appears to have lived her life as a single woman dedicated to the suffrage cause, as almost every mention of her refers to her only as Miss Berry Pottier. Her death date, and any further information about her possible family and career remain unknown.
"Arranging for Suffrage Parade," Boston Daily Globe, 26 Sept. 1915: 47.
Baptism of Onesime Pottier in Canada. N.d. Ancestry.com, accessed 27 Apr. 2016.
Births Registered in Ware, Massachusetts 1883. Ancestry.com, acccessed 27 Apr. 2016.
"Boston Suffragists Leave Tonight for Washington," Boston Daily Globe, 13 Dec. 1918: 5.
"Boston Suffrage Prisoners Release," Suffragist 7:11 (1919): 5.
Index to Births in Massachusetts 1881-1885. N.d. Ancestry.com, accessed 27 Apr. 2016.
Irwin, Inez Haynes. The Story of the Women's Party. New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1921.
"Jailed 'Suffs' Send Wire to President," Boston Daily Globe, 28 Feb. 1919: 1-2.
"Massachusetts Woman May Head Suffrage Association," Boston Daily Globe, 2 Mar. 1919: 3.
"President Cheered from Pier to Hotel," New York Times, 25 Feb. 1919, Special: 2.
Stevens, Doris. Jailed for Freedom. New York: Boni and Liveright, 1920.
"Suffrage Victory Parade Sets a Record for Enthusiasm," Boston Daily Globe, 17 Oct. 1915: 1+.
"Treasurer's Report," Suffragist 4:23 (1916): 13.
"Treasurer's Report," Suffragist 6:25 (1918): 9.
"Treasurer's Report," Suffragist 7.11 (1919): 4.
"Women Jailed in Boston,” Suffragist 7.10 (1919): 7.
"19 Suffragists Spend Night in Jail," Boston Daily Globe, 25 Feb. 1919: 1-2.