Biographical Database of Militant Woman Suffragists, 1913-1920
Biography of Joy Oden Young, 1891-1953

By Linda D. Wilson, Independent Historian

Joy Oden Young, the daughter of Ludwick and Harriet (Oden) Young, was an organizer for the National Woman’s Party (NWP). Born on August 4, 1891, in Falls Church, Virginia, Joy Young and her younger sister Matilda joined the ranks of suffragists, both influenced by their mother’s participation in the suffrage movement. As a young woman and writer, Joy Young lived in New York City and worked on the leftist organ known as The Masses. She was a member of the American Union Against Militarism and a member of the New York City Woman’s Peace Party (NYC-WPP). The NYC-WPP had split from the original organization and published the antiwar journal Four Lights, for which Young was one of the editors in 1917.

As well as an NWP organizer Young worked as a spokesperson for the Congressional Union (CU). On Thursday, October 14, 1915, she and Helena Hill Weed spoke to a throng gathered at Tenth and D streets in Washington, D.C. On May Day 1916 Young, representing the CU, delivered a basket of flowers to President Woodrow Wilson. Included in the basket were two messages: one requesting passage of the suffrage amendment and one from women voters of the West. That same month Young chaired the member’s committee for the celebration honoring the returning envoy of NWP members who had toured in the West. Young continued to speak at street meetings in D.C. in the fall of 1916 and that November she traveled to Chicago, where she, Alice Paul, and several suffragists staged a mass meeting.

In addition to Young’s work as an organizer and spokesperson, she was an assistant editor on The Suffragist in 1916. She made recommendations regarding the journal’s content to Alice Paul in April that year. Young believed that The Suffragist should not include advertisements for contributions and new subscriptions. She thought that subscribers were more interested in receiving news of the organization’s activities. Young recommended that personal letters be sent to members requesting donations.

On July 4, 1917, Young, Lucy Burns, and others picketed in front of the White House. Despite the crowds and hecklers, Young valiantly held on to her banner until a policeman placed his arms around her. She and the others were arrested, summarily tried and convicted of “obstructing traffic.” Given the choice of paying a fine or three days in jail, all chose jail time in order to gain media attention. In August 1917 as an NWP organizer, Young went to New Hampshire where she met disdain and received little support for the cause. News of the suffragists marching to the White House with a banner addressed to “Kaiser Wilson” had upset the public, and New Hampshire women who supported suffrage feared retaliation.

Joy Young, Maud Younger, and Mrs. Howard Gould toured Mississippi in a National Woman’s Party automobile in early November 1917. Young reported their itinerary to Organization Chairman Miss Clarks stating that they “swept through Mississippi” entering the state at Biloxi where they held an open-air meeting to an audience of approximately two hundred. Leaving Biloxi, they journeyed to Gulfport. On November 8, the NWP organizers spoke to more than seven hundred in Meridian’s new city hall. Approximately one hundred individuals turned out at the courthouse in Jackson, Mississippi. Young reported that many women joined the NWP that evening. The last meeting in Mississippi was held in Natchez. Young noted that Mississippians were appalled upon hearing about the treatment of suffragists incarcerated at the Occoquan Workhouse in Virginia. A local sheriff told Young that he could not believe they were arrested for carrying banners and stated that they should continue their fight for a federal amendment.

In November 1917 Joy Young and Maud Younger toured Tennessee with mixed public support. Young visited Nashville and Younger spoke in Jackson on November 23. Two days later Young met difficulty with Chattanooga authorities who barred her from venues such as the courthouse and town hall. Through the help of the mayor, she gained free access to the casino on Signal Mountain and the Central Federation of Labor Hall. Young claimed that both newspapers gave her good publicity. The tide turned in Knoxville, Tennessee. During the last week of November 1917, Joy Young and Maud Younger were denied access to the courthouse where they were to give speeches. Undaunted and dressed in evening clothes they braced the chilly air and addressed citizens from the Knoxville courthouse steps. A visit to Johnson City, Tennessee, was canceled because Young could not obtain a meeting place.

Joy Young addressed more than one thousand attendees at a mass meeting held in the Commerce Board Auditorium in Detroit, Michigan, on February 8, 1918. Young and Dudley Field Malone were the only speakers. Malone, an attorney and politician, had served as an attorney for the suffrage prisoners; he was involved intimately with NWP stalwart Doris Stevens. Young asked for donations and received more than five hundred dollars, “the largest amount ever pledged at a suffrage meeting in the state.”

In January 1919, Young joined Tennessee chair of the NWP Sue Shelton White to continue suffrage work in that state. The women hoped to have a meeting with Tennessee’s Democrat U.S. Senator John K. Shield who opposed woman’s suffrage. However, due to his serious illness, they were unable to meet him. Writing to Alice Paul from Memphis, Young expressed her frustration that they were not making any progress in the state and asked Paul to reassign her to another state. White with the agreement of Young and the invitation of Chattanooga’s mayor asked that the “Prison Special” train come through that city on its journey from Washington, D.C., to California.

Young continued her work in Tennessee. In January 1919, Young lobbied legislators in Nashville to garner Tennessee’s ratification of Nineteenth Amendment after it was passed in the U.S. Congress. In early February, Mabel Vernon joined Young in Chattanooga. They acted as advance agents of the “Prison Special” train carrying twenty-six women who had been incarcerated for picketing in Washington, D.C. Before the train’s arrival in Chattanooga, Young and Vernon continued their agitation for women’s suffrage by holding a street meeting from an automobile on February 8, 1919. Also, Young had gained permission to hold open-air meetings on the courthouse lawn.

Joy Young married Charles Merrill Rogers, Jr., on December 20, 1917, in New York City. Apparently, they met while working at The Masses. Charles Rogers, Jr., was business manager of the organ. In 1920 Joy (Young) Rogers continued to consider herself a National Woman’s Party organizer when she and her husband were enumerated on the federal census as living in Westport, Connecticut. Twenty years later the couple lived in Manhattan, where he worked as a free-lance writer and she was a housewife. The couple moved to Washington, D.C., in 1943. She died there on December 9, 1953, and was buried with family members in Monocacy Cemetery, Beallsville, Maryland.

SOURCES: Chattanooga News, 30 and 31 January 1919 and 3, 8, and 20 February 1919. Day Book (Chicago, Ill.), 1 November 1916. Kathleen L. Endres and Therese L. Lueck, eds., Women’s Periodicals in the United States: Social and Political Issues (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1996). Washington Evening Star, 13 May 1916 and 28 November 1917. Linda G. Ford, Iron-Jawed Angels: The Suffrage Militancy of the National Woman’s Party, 1912-1920 (Lanham, Md.: University Press of America, 1991). National Woman’s Party Papers: The Suffrage Years, 1913-1920, Series I, Reels 27, 47, 51, 52, 53, 57, 67, and 68 (Sanford, N.C.: Microfilming Corporation of America. 1981). New Mexico State Record (Santa Fe, NM), 30 November 1917. Doris Stevens, Jailed for Freedom: American Women Win the Vote (New York: Boni and Liveright, 1920). New York Sun, 7 July 1917. Mary Walton, A Woman’s Crusade: Alice Paul and the Battle for the Ballot (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010). Washington Herald, 18 October 1915 and 5 July 1917. Washington Post, 16 December 1953; Washington Times, 12 May and 14 October 1916.

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