Biographical Sketch of Elsie Probst Vervane

Biographical Database of Militant Suffragists, 1913–1920
Biography of Elsie Probst Vervane, 1870-?

By Xhesi Morena, undergraduate student, Central Connecticut State University

Elsie Vervane (Ver Vane, Vervaene, Von Vane) was born Elsie Probst in New York, New York in approximately December of 1870. She was the daughter of two German immigrants to the United States, George and Augusta Probst, who migrated to Connecticut shortly after her birth. She married Samuel Vervane on September 15, 1895 and they went on to have 8 children. In January of 1926, she divorced her husband in Michigan citing extreme cruelty. She resided in Bridgeport, Connecticut for most of her life, and worked in the city’s munitions industry for most of those years, eventually becoming the president of the Bridgeport Ladies Machinist Union.

Her interest in women’s suffrage and rights was significant and she went on to be involved in very prominent events in suffrage history. At a local level, she was very involved with her community. On October 9, 1918, Vervane made a speech in favor of votes for women before a meeting of women at Machinists' Hall. Around that time, Mrs. Vervane was running a campaign for the Board of Education on the American Labor Party ticket. She was one of four women running out of eight candidates.

In December of 1918, she was one of 200 state chairmen, delegates, and members of the national advisory council attending a three-day emergency conference called by the National Woman's Party in Washington on December 14-16. The conference was for the purpose of considering ways and means to secure the passage of the suffrage amendment before March 4th of that year. Elsie was an active suffragist, saying herself in an article written in the Bridgeport Times on December 16, 1918 that “The suffrage situation is very critical…there is almost no chance of the amendment being passed by this Congress unless the women of the country make an irresistible and constant demand for it.”

In January of 1919, Elsie was one of the four Connecticut women who were arrested and sentenced to jail for participating in the Washington D.C. “watchfire” protests. The “watchfire” protest was an event where the National Woman's Party began to light fires in metal cauldrons in front of the White House, promising to keep them burning until Congress passed a woman suffrage amendment. A Bridgeport Times article from January 22, 1919 described Elsie’s appearance as motherly and around the age of 50, but because of her actions in D.C that month, they call her a “militant suffragist.” Her life as a suffragist is well documented in articles about her actions in The Bridgeport Times and Evening Farmer.


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Nichols, Carole, Votes and More for Women: Suffrage and After in Connecticut. (New York: Routledge, 2013).

“History - Women of Protest: Photographs from the Records of the National Woman’s Party - Collection Connections | Teacher Resources - Library of Congress.” 2017. Webpage. Accessed April 19, 2017 at.

“In the Voting Booth and on the Shop Floor, Women Fought for Parity.” 2017. Accessed April 19 online at

McCartin, Joseph A. 1997. Labor’s Great War: The Struggle for Industrial Democracy and the Origins of Modern American Labor Relations, 1912-1921 (Chapel Hill: UNC Press, 1997).

“1910 United States Federal Census -” 2017. Accessed April 19.,%20USA&msypn=9&msypn_PInfo=5-%7C0%7C1652393%7C0%7C2%7C0%7C9%7C0%7C0%7C0%7C0%7C0%7C&catbucket=rstp&MSAV=0&MSV=0&uidh=5kr&pcat=ROOT_CATEGORY&h=187418993&dbid=7884&indiv=1&ml_rpos=3.

“1920 United States Federal Census -” 2017. Accessed April 19.,%20USA&msypn=9&msypn_PInfo=5-%7C0%7C1652393%7C0%7C2%7C0%7C9%7C0%7C0%7C0%7C0%7C0%7C&catbucket=rstp&MSAV=0&MSV=0&uidh=5kr&pcat=ROOT_CATEGORY&h=13048885&dbid=6061&indiv=1&ml_rpos=6.

“ - Michigan, Divorce Records, 1897-1952.” 2017. Accessed April 19.,%2520USA%26msypn%3D9%26msypn_PInfo%3D5-%257C0%257C1652393%257C0%257C2%257C0%257C9%257C0%257C0%257C0%257C0%257C0%257C%26msypn_x%3DPAS%26msypn__ftp_x%3D1%26catbucket%3Drstp%26MSAV%3D0%26MSV%3D0%26uidh%3D5kr%26pcat%3DROOT_CATEGORY%26h%3D6349619%26dbid%3D9092%26indiv%3D1%26ml_rpos%3D1&treeid=&personid=&hintid=&usePUB=true&_phsrc=Tua2&_phstart=successSource&usePUBJs=true.

“Michigan, Death Records, 1867-1950 -” 2017. Accessed April 19.,%20USA&msypn=9&msypn_PInfo=5-%7C0%7C1652393%7C0%7C2%7C0%7C9%7C0%7C0%7C0%7C0%7C0%7C&catbucket=rstp&MSAV=1&MSV=0&uidh=5kr&pcat=ROOT_CATEGORY&h=636177&recoff=8%209%2021%2022%2023&dbid=60872&indiv=1&ml_rpos=11.

The Bridgeport Times and Evening Farmer. (Bridgeport, Conn.) December 16, 1918, Image 12.

The Bridgeport Times and Evening Farmer. (Bridgeport, Conn.), February 8, 1922, Image 2.

The Bridgeport Times and Evening Farmer. (Bridgeport, Conn.), January 14, 1919, Image 1.

The Bridgeport Times and Evening Farmer. (Bridgeport, Conn.), January 20, 1919, Image 7.

The Bridgeport Times and Evening Farmer. (Bridgeport, Conn.), January 22, 1919, Image 2.

The Bridgeport Times and Evening Farmer. (Bridgeport, Conn.), November 6, 1918, Image 10.

All these articles in “Chronicling America,” are accessible online at

“ - Michigan, Divorce Records, 1897-1952.” 2017. Accessed April 30.,%2520USA%26msypn%3D25%26msypn_PInfo%3D5-%257C0%257C1652393%257C0%257C2%257C0%257C25%257C0%257C0%257C0%257C0%257C0%257C%26catbucket%3Drstp%26MSAV%3D0%26MSV%3D0%26uidh%3D5kr%26pcat%3DROOT_CATEGORY%26h%3D6349619%26dbid%3D9092%26indiv%3D1%26ml_rpos%3D8&treeid=&personid=&hintid=&usePUB=true&_phsrc=xqo1&_phstart=successSource&usePUBJs=true.

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