By Madison Gretzky
Undergraduate student, Simmons College
Mary Agnes Hosmer was born on October 25, 1868. She married Walter G. Morey, a merchant from Philadelphia, on June 12, 1889. They had one daughter, Katharine Morey. Developing a late in life passion for politics, Agnes became a prolific voice in the suffrage movement and half of a dynamic mother-daughter suffragist team with Katharine.
Agnes was a founding member of the Congressional Union, later the National Woman’s Party in 1914, as well as the Massachusetts chairwoman, and a respected speaker and correspondent for the Party until her death. In 1916, she and Katharine, along with twenty-one other suffragists, participated in the “Suffrage Special” railroad tour throughout the western enfranchised states to urge western women to join the new Woman's Party and vote against President Wilson for his failure to urge passage of a suffrage constitutional amendment.
Agnes was arrested with three dozen other protesters on November 10, 1917 for "obstructing traffic," that is, picketing in front of the White House. The pickets were protesting the harsh treatment of Alice Paul and others in prison for the same crime. Like most others, Morey refused to pay the assessed fine and was sentenced to 30 days. While the suffragists were held at the Occoquan Workhouse in Lorton, Virginia, family and supporters grew worried, as no news about the prisoners was released to the outside world. Katharine tried to visit her mother, but was held under armed guard a half mile away from the prison. She was ultimately denied access to her mother. The picketers kept up their hunger strike until they were released early due to judicial concern over the deteriorating health of several of the women.
In December 1918, after President Wilson sailed for France without moving the suffrage amendment forward, as he had promised to do, over three hundred members of the NWP gathered in Boston to burn the President’s words. Agnes burned The New Freedom, President Wilson’s book, saying, “On today, the anniversary of the Boston Tea Party, in the name of the liberty-loving women of Massachusetts, I consign these words to the flames in protest against the exclusion of women from the Democratic program of this Administration.”
On February 24, 1919, Agnes and Alice Paul organized a NWP march through the Boston Commons to greet President Wilson on his return trip from Europe. Agnes and Katharine led the march, which resulted in the arrest of twenty-two suffragists, for the crime of “loitering more than seven minutes.” The protestors were sentenced to eight days in the Charles Street Jail. Although these cells were “immaculately clean,” the only toilet provided for the women was a heavy bucket. Commenting on her arrest later, Agnes said, “it is a most extraordinary thing. Thousands loitered from curiosity on the day the President arrived. Twenty-two loitered for liberty, and only those who loitered for liberty were arrested.” Agnes is credited with engineering the nationwide glut of “telegrams of protest” that all involved Boston officials received in the week following the protestors’ arrests. Eventually, their fines were mysteriously paid, and the women were released.
Agnes Morey died in 1924 at her home in Brookline, MA. A newspaper memoriam written by the National Woman’s Party after her death proclaimed, “the pinnacle of freedom is based upon devotion like Mrs. Morey’s. No task was too tedious or too dangerous for her soldier’s spirit.”
With assistance from Flannery LaGrua, Claudia Lawry, and Zoe Eckert
Birth Record, Massachusetts, Town and Vital Records, 120-1988. Ancestry.com.
Marriage Record, Massachusetts, Town and Vital Records, 120-1988Ancestry.com.
"Demand Release of Lone Militant." Boston Globe, March 1, 1919.
National Vice President of the Woman’s Party. “In Memory of Agnes Morey.” Equal Rights. 1924.
Irwin, Inez Haynes. The Story of the Woman's Party. New York, NY: Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1921, 388-89.
Stevens, Doris. Jailed for Freedom. New York: Boni & Liveright, Inc., 1920.
“Suffrage Pickets Given Freedom.” The Watertown Herald, December 1, 1917, p. 5, image 5.
Barbara F. Berenson, Massachusetts in the Woman Suffrage Movement: Revolutionary Reformers (History Press, 2018).