Biographical Database of Militant Woman Suffragists, 1913-1920
Biography of Matilda Hall Gardner, 1871-1954

By Sophie van den Elzen, PhD Candidate at Utrecht University

Matilda Campbell Hall was born in Washington, D.C. on 31 December 1871, to Frederick Hillsgrove Hall, editor of the Chicago Tribune, and Matilda L. Campbell. With her mother she attended and hosted society events in Chicago before she married Harry Gilson Gardner on 3 November 1900. Gilson Gardner worked as an influential Washington correspondent for the Chicago Journal, and later for the liberal Scripps newspaper chain, and he was a well-regarded political correspondent. His circle of friends included President Theodore Roosevelt, and Matilda moved comfortably in Washington high society, as a member of numerous clubs. Matilda died on 15 March 1954, in Alexandria, Virginia. The couple had no children.

Matilda Gardner was one of the Washington women assisting Alice Paul in organizing the first national suffrage parade, held March 3, 1913. She took part in a suffrage demonstration at the Capitol on 7 April 1913. Later that year she spoke before the Equal Suffrage Association of Glencoe, Maryland, predicting national equal suffrage would be achieved soon. In December 1913 she was appointed chairman of a suffragist committee organizing testimony for a House suffrage hearing, and was elected as a delegate to the next national convention of the State Equal Suffrage Association. She played a key role in organizing the 1915 First National Convention of the Congressional Union for Woman Suffrage. Matilda served on the executive committee of the National Woman’s Party (NWP) from 1914 at least until 1921, when she took part in a conference with President Harding to remove discrimination against women from federal laws. On 14 July 1917 she was arrested for participating in the NWP's Bastille Day demonstration in front of the White House and was sentenced to 60 days in the Occoquan Workhouse. Later that year, in September, she acted as counsel to other suffragists imprisoned at Occoquan, petitioning local authorities on their behalf. On 14 January 1919 she was sentenced to 5 days in the district jail for building ‘watch fires’ in front of the White House. In jail, she commenced a hunger strike with the other 22 convicted suffragists.

Matilda and her husband actively supported progressive politics. Matilda served as an officer of the Committee for Progressive Political Action , and was a strong advocate of the founding of the Progressive Party. She was also involved in Robert La Follette’s campaign for the presidency in 1924. Matilda claimed that, like many other women, her suffrage activity flowed naturally from her social work: “Social work of all sorts, like the work for constructive peace, is a feeder for suffrage.” Matilda was particularly active in settlement work. She and her husband were trustees of the Southwestern Neighbourhood House in Washington. She was also a member of organizations pursuing world peace and the release of political prisoners, the Rational Defence League, the Woman’s World Disarmament committee and the National Folk-Craft Society. She served on several executive committees, including those of the Drama League from 1913 onwards, and of the Women’s Committee for the Recognition of Russia, in 1923.

Sources

“Matilda Campbell Hall.” FamilySearch, https://www.familysearch.org/tree/person/9Z7W-W4K/details accessed 9 Sep 2017; “Women Leaders of Third Party Want to Stay in Field.” Daily Times Davenport, 28 Nov. 1924. Newspapers.com, www.newspapers.com/image/300037373/ accessed 10 Sep 2017; “Alexandria.” Evening star 25 Jul. 1924, p.10. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn83045462/1924-07-25/ed-1/seq-10/ accessed 10 Sep 2017; “To Form a Society on National Lines.” Evening star 25 Mar. 1917, p. 16. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn83045462/1917-03-25/ed-1/seq-16 accessed 10 Sep 2017; “Engagement Announced.” Pantagraph 6 Oct. 1900, p. 6.; “Plans Laid for Capitol Attack.” Washington Herald. 3 Apr. 1913. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn83045433/1913-04-03/ed-1/seq-3/ accessed 10 Sep 2017; “Interesting Local News Items.” The day book 14 Oct. 1913, n.p. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn83045487/1913-10-14/ed-1/seq-25/ accessed 10 Sep 2017; “Dinner for Trustees.” Evening star 27 Jan. 1914. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn83045462/1914-01-27/ed-1/seq-5/ accessed 10 Sep 2017; “Mrs. Gilson Gardner Says Peace Talk Aids Suffrage.” Washington Herald 2 Dec. 1915. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn83045433/1915-12-02/ed-1/seq-8/ accessed 10 Sep 2017; “Would Improve Drama.” Evening Star 12 Nov. 1912. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn83045462/1912-11-12/ed-1/seq-8/ accessed 10 Sep 2017; “Mrs. Gilson Gardner Named.” Evening Star 20 Nov. 1913, p. 15. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn83045462/1913-11-20/ed-1/seq-15/ accessed 10 Sep 2017; “Local Women to Aid World Peace Plan.” Evening Star 26 Nov. 1914, p. 22. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn83045462/1914-11-26/ed-1/seq-22/ accessed 10 Sep 2017; “Equal Franchise Urged in District.” Evening Star 2 Nov. 1913, p.2. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn83045462/1913-11-02/ed-1/seq-2/ accessed 10 Sep 2017; “White House Levee.” Evening Star 9 Feb. 1906, n.p. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn83045462/1906-02-09/ed-1/seq-17/ accessed 10 Sep 2017; “Women Decide to Keep Party” Washington Herald 15 Jan. 1921, p.3. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn83045433/1921-01-15/ed-1/seq-3/ accessed 10 Sep 2017; “Mrs. Matilda H. Gardner.” Chicago Tribune 6 Mar 16, 1954, 31. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers; “Finds Worms in Jail Fare.” Washington Herald 10 Sept. 1917, p.1. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn83045433/1917-09-10/ed-1/seq-1/ accessed 10 Sep 2017; “Sixty Days is Sentence Given to Suffragists.” Arizona Republican 18 July 1917, p. 1-2. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn84020558/1917-07-18/ed-1/seq-2/; “Women See Hope of President’s Aid.” Evening Star 7 April 1921, p.4. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn83045462/1921-04-07/ed-1/seq-4/ accessed 10 Sep 2017; “Gardner, Gilson.” Illinois Biographical Dictionary. 2008-2009 edition, Vol. 1. 272-273. Hamburg: State History Publications, 2008. Google Books accessed 10 Sep 2017; “Women on Hunger Strike after Watch Fire Arrests.” Chicago Tribune 15 Jan 1919, p.7; “Call Disarmament Meeting.” The Washington Post Monday, March 21, 1921, p.3. Newspapers.com https://www.newspapers.com/image/31531470/?terms=mrs%2Bgilson%2Bgardner accessed 10 Sep 2017; “Mr. Keating to Speak on Defense Measures.” Evening Star 7 Dec. 1915, p.9. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn83045462/1915-12-07/ed-1/seq-9/ accessed 11 Sep 2017; “Congressional Union is in its New Quarters.” Evening Star 17 Jan. 1916, p. 18. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn83045462/1916-01-17/ed-1/seq-18/ accessed 11 Sep 2017; Congressional Union for Woman Suffrage. Program. Library of Congress https://www.loc.gov/resource/rbpe.2080180a/ accessed 9 Sep 2017.

“Here they are! Out of jail but ready to picket again!” Grand Forks Herald 25 Jul. 1917, p.7. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn85042414/1917-07-25/ed-1/seq-8/ accessed 10 Sep 2017. Matilda is pictured left.

Matilda Hall Gardner. National Woman’s Party Photograph collection, http://nationalwomansparty.pastperfectonline.com/photo/FFB31BAE-067F-4363-86D5-291240023371 accessed 9 Sep 2017.

“Mrs. Gilson Gardner marching in Procession.” ca. 1913-1917. Library of Congress https://www.loc.gov/resource/mnwp.151001/ accessed 9 Sep 2017.

“Backs LaFollette” Great Falls Tribune. 14 Jul 1924, p.5. Newspapers.com www.newspapers.com/image/238116537/ accessed 11 Sep 2017.

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