By Melanie Zagorski, Undergraduate, Loyola University Chicago
Mabel Zarifa Lamberson was born on February 23, 1875, in Ithaca, Wisconsin. She studied at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, in the College of Letters and Science on the Modern Classical course track. On June 25, 1895, she married Bertram Sippy, a well-known doctor specializing in gastroenterology. By 1920 the Sippys resided in Chicago with four children. Bertram taught at a Medical College and the large household included his mother and two servants. Bertram passed away in 1924.
Sippy’s contributions to the suffrage movement were more organizational than militant. She was a member of various women’s clubs around Chicago, and hosted frequent events at her home on Woodlawn Avenue in Chicago. In 1904 she joined the Chicago Women’s Club. By 1912 she was chairman of their Equal Suffrage Committee and officer of the Political Equality League, a society auxiliary to the club. She also became President of the Sherman Park Women’s Club, eventually serving as their delegate to the November 1915 State Convention in Springfield. This group grew to forty members by 1913. Sippy often hosted events for the group at her home, including a “musicale” in March of 1915. She was also on the executive committee of the Chicago Peace Society that year.
Sippy played a notable leadership role in the National Woman’s Party (NWP) after it split from the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) to pursue the goal of a federal suffrage amendment. In 1916, she served as the organization’s state chairman for Illinois, and on the National Committee of state chairmen. Among her actions as chairman, she headed several 1916 deputations to Illinois Congressmen to convince them to vote for what would become the 19th Amendment. One of these deputations met with Illinois Congressman John Sterling on November 27th. Sippy marched with fifty women to see him at the Chicago Court House, carrying banners of purple, white, and gold. Sterling promised to support the constitutional amendment for woman suffrage.
Sippy also headed a committee to distribute suffrage literature at the polls in Chicago in November, 1916. The leaflets urged “Suffrage First,” and “Vote Against Wilson.” The Chicago Tribune warned of a “Suffrage Army of 1,500." The women aimed to visit every polling place in the city in their effort to deny a second term to President Wilson, who did not support woman suffrage by constitutional amendment.
As an educated, upper class woman, Sippy contributed her money and her time to the cause of women’s suffrage. She rose in the ranks of the National Woman’s Party to the position of state chairman, where she organized important lobbying efforts, but she also worked on the local level with Chicago area women’s clubs. Like many other women of her time, she used her unique position of privilege and social consciousness to the benefit of the women’s suffrage movement.
In 1940 Mabel Sippy, now widowed, lived by herself in Evanston, IL and she died at a summer home in Michigan in 1964.
University of Wisconsin, Catalogue (Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin, 1893), 253.
Chicago Women’s Club, Annual Announcement of the Chicago Women’s Club (Chicago: The Club, 1912).
Illinois Federation of Women's Clubs, Directory and Register of Women's Clubs, City of Chicago and Vicinity (Chicago: Linden Bros. & H.H. De Clerque, 1915), 276.
Official Register and Directory of the Women’s Clubs in America (Boston, Mass: Helen M. Winslow, 1913), 71.
American Peace Society, The Advocate of Peace (Washington, D.C.: American Peace Society, 1915), 68.
James Langland, comp., The Chicago Daily News Almanac and Year-Book for 1917 (Chicago: Chicago Daily News, 1917), 272.
“Backing up the Suffrage Amendment in the States,” The Suffragist. No. 50 (1916), 5.
“Women’s Party to Man Polls,” Chicago Tribune, November 7, 1916.