Biographical Database of Militant Woman Suffragists, 1913-1920
Biography of Ethel C. Lewis, 1865-1953

Sacred Heart Preparatory High School Student Contributors: Alfonso Siam, Yasmin Jazayeri, Maria Gutierrez, Clare McCarthy, and Kristen Kelly

Ethel Lewis was born in 1865 in Sculcoates, Yorkshire East Riding, United Kingdom. Ethel arrived in the United States in 1895. She married Austin Lewis, son of Thomas Lewis and Ellen Austin. Austin Lewis was born in 1865 in West Derby, Lancashire and arrived in the United States in 1890. Ethel and Austin had one son, Austin Saxon Lewis, and three daughters, Aylen, Hesper, and Hope Lewis, between 1896 and 1906. In 1910, Ethel and her family moved to Oakland in Alameda County, California, where they resided until the late 1950s. Ethel Lewis died in 1953.

Her suffrage activism began locally in California campaigns. An article described her participation at a luncheon in Oakland in September 1908, where Mrs. Lewis spoke on the subject, “Why I Believe in Woman’s Suffrage.” She, and many other suffragists, expressed their opposition to State Senator Frank W. Leavitt, who was openly against the movement for suffrage.

Later Ethel Lewis became an avid member and supporter of the National Woman's Party (NWP), a militant group dedicated to women’s rights. She is documented having carried banners to lobby President Wilson to press for Senate passage of a federal woman suffrage amendment. In 1918 the amendment lacked 10 votes, and the NWP hoped to petition the President to sway Congress in favor of suffrage. According to the San Francisco Call, Lewis took part in a protest at a National Woman's Party demonstration in Washington, D.C. in early August 1918 by carrying banners. Under the leadership of Maud Younger, the NWP lobbying chairman at the time, the women challenged the Senate, specifically President Wilson’s own party, for blocking women from voting rights. Elsie Hill and Lavinia Dock were the speakers at this demonstration, and were lobbying for the President to work with the Senate to gain the needed votes for the amendment. Maud Younger was quoted as saying, “we lacked ten votes. Four of these have been won by pressure from the constituencies, four by the influence of the Republican party organization. The President must win the other two.” This was a charge directly aimed at Woodrow Wilson, because he had a strong influence on Congress and had not won a single vote for suffrage. The women took to the street carrying banners and lobbying for him to intervene and put pressure on the Senate for the ten votes. Ethel C. Lewis was directly involved both in banner carrying at the Washington, D.C. demonstration and in the earlier Alameda county suffrage meeting lobbying for woman suffrage.


“Suffragists Are Against Leavitt,” San Francisco Call, September 19, 1908, p. 4.

Ethel C. Lewis and Austin Lewis, accessed on

“Suffrage Demonstration Before White House Planned: Women Protest at Recess of Senate Without Action on Suffrage: Call Upon President to Demand Passage of Amendment,” San Francisco Call, August 3, 1918, pp. 5-6.

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