By Ashley Nicole Owens and Miranda Pikaart
Undergraduates, Meredith College
Abby Scott Baker was born on July 24, 1871 in Louisville, Kentucky. She came from a family with a history of generations of military service. Abby married Dr. Robert Baker and had three sons who served during World War I.
Abby Scott Baker was involved in the suffrage movement as early as 1913. In March of that year Abby was associated with Alice Paul and helped Paul and Lucy Burns plan a national suffrage parade the day before Woodrow Wilson’s inauguration. Baker served as treasurer for the Congressional Union in 1914 and in 1916 was a part of the CU’s “Suffrage Special” train tour of western states from April to May. She was in charge of handling the press for the tour, and argued that a national amendment was a much more expedient way for women to obtain the right to vote than the state-by-state process had proven to be. With these efforts, Baker was influential in establishing a foundation for the National Woman’s Party, which was formally organized in March of 1917.
Abby Scott Baker was one of the first picketers to protest in front of the White House and was arrested in September of 1917 and sentenced to 60 days in Occoquan Workhouse. From February to March of 1919, Baker served as the publicity manager and a speaker for the “Prison Special” which was a three-week lecture tour by formerly imprisoned NWP activists, speaking to audiences about their experiences in a jail to generate support for the cause of woman’s suffrage.
From 1917 to 1918, Baker was elected into the NWP’s executive committee and served as its press chairman from 1917 to 1918 and political chairman in 1917 and again from 1919 to 1921. She was an effective diplomat and lobbyist for the Congressional Union and later the National Woman’s Party and “interviewed practically every man prominent in political life.”
After the suffrage amendment was ratified, Baker became a member of the National Woman’s Party Committee on International Relations and the Women’s Consultative Committee of the League of Nations. Baker was among the NWP members who attended the Democratic National Convention of 1920 in San Francisco and successfully campaigned for a pro-suffrage plank for the party’s platform. She also represented the NWP at the League of Nations’ 1935 conferences in Geneva where the issue of equal rights was discussed.
Abby Scott Baker died on May 13, 1944 in Washington D.C.
Information about Abby Scott Baker’s life and involvement in the Woman’s Suffrage Movement is found in Doris Stevens’s Jailed for Freedom; The Story of the Woman’s Party by Inez Haynes Irwin; and the Library of Congress’s essays on Lobbyists as a part of “Selected Leaders of the National Woman’s Party.” See Press Chairman Baker’s article, “The Woman’s Party” in The Outlook (August 23, 1916), 1002-04, available online at http://www.unz.org/Pub/Outlook-1916aug23-01002?View=PDF. Biographical information about Baker is also available from the National Woman’s Party online at http://nationalwomansparty.org/women-in-turning-points/ and at The Turning Point Suffragist Memorial site at http://www.suffragistmemorial.org/abby-scott-baker-1871-1944/.