Biographical Sketch of Martha Reed Shoemaker

Biographical Database of Militant Woman Suffragists, 1913-1920
Biography of Martha Reed Shoemaker, 1886-1978

By Jessica Roden, Vassar College ‘17

Martha Reed was born on December 21, 1886 in Philadelphia to Charles H. Reed and Joan Schermeral. Following her education at Kent Place School in Summit, New Jersey, she studied the social sciences and languages at Vassar College, class of 1910. The only time in her life that she worked was during the the Great War, when she was a correspondence secretary and graded examination papers of correspondence. She also volunteered her time on the Executive Committee of the Bureau of Occupations for Trained Women and as a surgical dresser for the Red Cross. On April 29, 1916, she married dentist Edwin Shoemaker, and they raised two children together. In February of 1919, she served five days in jail for participating in the final National Woman’s Party watchfire demonstration. The NWP sought media attention to urge President Wilson to secure the final necessary Senate votes to pass what would become the 19th Amendment. Nothing is known about why Shoemaker became involved and whether her involvement continued. A number of Vassar women participated in the NWP, either because of their own suffrage zeal or perhaps because they felt a connection to Vassar alum Lucy Burns, an NWP leader. Subsequently, Shoemaker spent time being a housewife and joining various clubs like the College Club, Civic Club, Colonial Dames of America, Magna Charter Dames, and the Vassar Club. She died on August 8, 1978.

*The sentence in brackets comes from Jailed for Freedom, but I didn’t find anything else that indicated that she was involved in the suffrage movement.


The collection of sources is from the Martha Reed folder in Box 31 of the Vassar College Alumnae/i Biographical Files (AAVC), located in the Archives and Special Collections Library of Vassar College Libraries in Poughkeepsie, NY. It contained Vassar College alumnae questionnaires. Biographical information was also found in Doris Stevens’s Jailed for Freedom (1920), accessed online at

Senior-year yearbook entry including photo and quote from the 1910 Vassarion, found in Vassar College Libraries.

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