By Jayne Morris-Crowther
Club woman, suffragist, feminist, pacifist
Marjory Miller Whittemore was born in Cleveland, Ohio in 1889, the daughter of Frank J. Miller and Susan French Miller. She had a high school diploma but little additional formal education. On April 15, 1912, she married Wright Nelson Whittemore, a Detroit real estate developer. They had one child, a daughter named Susan.
Whittemore’s greatest energy was spent on behalf of women’s rights. She was an active suffragist before the Nineteenth Amendment and a campaigner for the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) afterwards. She was among those who formed the Michigan Branch of the Congressional Union, October 1-4, 1915 in Detroit. She promoted votes for women at both the state and national level. For example, she personally honored Michigan Congressman P. H. Kelley for his favorable vote on women’s suffrage at a luncheon for men as well as women. Prior to the Democratic and Republican party conventions in 1916 she traveled west to win support for a women’s suffrage plank in the respective party platforms. In her role as the Legislative Chairman of the Detroit Federation of Women’s Clubs, Whittemore constantly urged members to write letters to Michigan congressmen to support the franchise for women. She noted bitterly in April, 1917 that Detroit Congressmen Charles Nichols and Frank Doremus cast votes to join the war for democracy while showing scant interest in real democracy at home. In her position as the State Chair for the National Woman’s Party (NWP), she sent a telegram to Governor Albert Sleeper to convene a special session of the legislature to authorize the Nineteenth Amendment.
After the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment, Whittemore continued working with the NWP locally and nationally to gain equal rights for women. In 1922 she campaigned for a Woman’s Bill of Rights in Michigan by sponsoring a luncheon for state representative candidates. At the 1922 convention of the Michigan State Federation of Women’s Clubs, Whittemore presented an address to fully inform Michigan women of their legal standing; Whittemore explained the legal handicaps to women’s control over property, contracts and even their own wages. She urged them to help pass the Woman’s Bill of Rights. This bill was not successful so Whittemore forged ahead with a campaign for the national ERA and praised Congressman Clarence McLeod of Detroit for his offer to support the amendment.
Between 1927 and 1930 the Whittemores relocated to Santa Barbara, California where Whittemore joined and chaired the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF). In a strongly worded letter to William A. Allen she criticized his speech delivered to the City Club of Santa Barbara claiming that WILPF’s funds went to Soviet Russia for military purposes. She threatened legal action for such false statements.
In Whittemore’s later life she continued to live in Santa Barbara with her husband and daughter. She died November 18, 1957.
Ohio, Births and Christenings Index, 1774-1973, Michigan, Marriage Records, 1867-1952, 1920 United States Federal Census, all accessed through Ancestry library 4/2/17; Lucia Voorhees Grimes “A Partial List of Detroit Women Who worked for and Contributed to the Cause of Suffrage,” Box 1, Folder 3, and “A History of the Suffrage Movement as Related to Michigan and Detroit,” Box 3, Folder 2, Lucia Voorhees Grimes Collection, Michigan Historical Collections, Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI; “Campaign through the Century,” The Suffragist 3: 34 (1915) 7 accessed through Gerritsen Collection of Aletta H. Jacobs, 2/13/17; “Chicago Firms Assist Woman’s Party Convention,” The Suffragist 4: 23 (1916) 7; “Legislative Report” (April, 1917), Vol 10 Minutes 1917-1918, p. 727, MS Federation of Women’s Clubs of Metropolitan Detroit; “Women Voters Converge in Important Session,” The Michigan Daily, June 14, 1919, accessed on-line 4/2/2017; “National Woman’s Party Discuss Reorganization,” Detroit News, May 22, 1921; “Women Resent Big Army Plea,” Detroit News, October 21,1922; “Detroit Women Campaign for Legal Rights,” Detroit News, October 29,1922.; “Congressman McLeod and the Equal Rights Amendment,” Equal Rights, 14: 41 (1927), 325 accessed through Gerritsen Collection of Aletta H. Jacobs; The Records of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, U.S. Section, Swarthmore College Peace Collection Scholarly Resources Microfilm reel 42 #879, accessed on line 4/4/2017; California Death Index, 1946-1997 accessed through Ancestry library 4/2/2017.