By Kristen Weischedel, graduate student, Archives/History MS/MA, Simmons College
Wilma Cox Henderson was born to Jessica Lord Cox Henderson, prominent local suffragist, and Walter Bryan Henderson in Wayland, Massachusetts, on March 7, 1904. Because her mother was an activist, Wilma was introduced to many social justice causes at a young age, and soon began to take part in these protests, most notably for women’s suffrage and feminism.
At the age of 15, Wilma was arrested along with her mother and 20 other National Woman's Party suffragists in the Boston area who staged a protest at President Wilson’s return from Europe on February 24, 1919. These suffragists demonstrated against the president, because he still failed to adequately support Congressional passage of the constitutional amendment granting women the right to vote; the NWP had picketed the White House since January 1917. The police intervened and arrested these women for violating a city ordinance. Wilma was afterwards released when the police discovered she was a minor.
Wilma Henderson later joined the National Woman’s Party and lobbied for the passage of an Equal Rights Amendment, which aimed to make discrimination on the basis of sex illegal. Wilma participated in the Woman’s Party Lobby Committee, which urged members of Congress to pass the ERA. She interviewed members of the Republican National Committee in 1923, and was pictured at NWP headquarters with Richard Bennett about the same time.
Wilma Henderson married Frederick T. Allen on August 5, 1931. The two moved to Cedarhurst, Long Island. Shortly after, Wilma and her husband Frederick had their first son, Anthony Allen, on June 4, 1932. Her second son, Steven, was born in September 1936. Wilma Henderson Allen died on July 13, 1962, at age 58. She was survived by her two sons and husband.
Ancestry.com. Massachusetts, Birth Records, 1840-1915 [database online].
"Arrest Of 22 Suffragettes," Boston Daily Globe, 24 Feb. 1919.
“Edmonston, Washington, D.C. A group of young members of the National Woman's Party before the Capitol…”. [Ca, 1923] Image. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/item/mnwp000193.
“Legislation for women and children,” Equal Rights. 11:9 (1924): 3.
Library of Congress, “Tactics and Techniques of The National Woman’s Party Suffrage Campaign,” American Memory. https://www.loc.gov/item/mnwp000328/
“Mrs Huck joins group in Washington,” Equal Rights. 1:44 (1923): 357.
Doris Stevens, Jailed for Freedom (New York: Boni and Liveright, 1920) 361.
Wayland High School History Project, “Over Here and Over There: Wayland during the World War I Era, Ch. 1: Family Life.” http://whshistoryprojectwwi.weebly.com/ch-1-family-life-1800s-1952.html.