Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920

Biography of Cora Start, 1868-

By Kathryn Klingle, student
Harvard College, Cambridge, Massachusetts

Born in Worcester, Massachusetts in 1868, Cora Start was an avid historian and suffragist.

According to the 1870 census, her father, Rolla, was a landlord with a hefty $36,000 in property. Her mother, Angeline, was a housewife. Cora appears again on the 1910 census, unmarried and living with her parents, and again on the 1920 census, still unmarried but now living in a boarding house. Her profession was simply as "none," she was far from idle. Cora is not mentioned in the 1930 census. She likely died sometime in the late 1920s.

She attended Vassar college, graduating in 1890 with a bachelor's degree in history and again a few years later with a master's, according to the Vassar Miscellany. After college, she set to work as a historian: in 1893 she wrote "Naturalization in the English Colonies of America," the first article to thoroughly examine both the political and legal components of naturalization. Start not only published her oft-cited essay in The American Historical Review, but The Boston Globe also presented it at the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago later that year. As indicated by The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Sciences, the Fellowship in History Offered by the Women of the University of Chicago had already brought her to Chicago for the 1893-94 academic year. Though any other articles she may have written are now lost, there is still evidence that she did further historical work throughout her life. American Monthly Magazine, for example, credits her with the discovery of three historical places--including the house of John Hancock--in Boston.

Her time at Vassar appears to have inspired her in other ways as well. Not only did she later write a paper on "The Status of Vassar Alumnae in Graduate Work," but she appears to have developed a close relationship with Lucy Maynard Salmon, Vassar's first teacher of history and likely one of Cora's professors. The two frequently attended conferences together and, as reported in the Vassar Miscellany, even traveled Europein 1898-99. Start and Salmon also joined the brand-new Nantucket Maria Mitchell Association, an exploration society named for astronomer and Vassar-graduate Maria MItchell, in 1902. Start held various committee positions at the association for over a decade. Salmon and Start exchanged letters until Salmon's death in 1927.

In the 1910s, Cora became an active suffragist in Worcester and Boston (of course her naturalization article points to a much earlier interest in civil rights). She is named as a Worcester Suffrage Leader in Woman Suffrage Campaign. In Boston, she joined the suffrage Legislative Committee, chaired by Teresa Crowley, which had formed a few years prior. This committee, as The History of Woman Suffrage, 1900-1920 explains, worked to pass a suffrage amendment in Massachusetts. [LINK to Mass report in vol. 6 of HWS] However, instead of trying to persuade legislators to vote for their proposals, they focused their energy on getting pro-suffrage candidates elected in the first place.


Ames, Oakes and Blanche. Woman Suffrage Campaign Cartoons & Clippings 1913-1915. Web. Annual Report of the Maria Mitchell Association. 1. 1903. Web.

Annual Report of the Maria Mitchell Association.10. 1912. 4-5. Web.

Annual Report of the Maria Mitchell Association.15. 1917. 4-5. Web.

Avery, Elroy M. American Monthly Magazine. 25. Washington D.C.: National Society, Daughters of the American Revolution, 1904. 368. Web.

Carpenter, A. H. "Naturalization in England and the American Colonies." The American Historical Review. 9.2. Oxford University Press, 1904. Web.

Harper, Ida Husted. "Chapter XX: Massachusetts." History of Woman Suffrage, Vol. 6: 1900-1920. (New York: National American Woman Suffrage Association, 1922. 267-302. LINK

James, Edmund J. The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science. 4. Philadelphia: American Academy of Political and Social Science, 1894. 196, 314. Web.

Johnson, Rossiter. A History of the World's Columbian Exposition Held in Chicago in 1893: By Authority of the Board of Directors. New York: D. Appleton, 1897. 124, 172-74. Web.

McPherson, W.M. "The Nantucket Maria Mitchell Association." The American Astronomer. 25 Nov. 1909: 1. Web.

Start, Cora. "Naturalization in the English Colonies in America." The Miscellaneous Documents of the Senate of the United States for the Second Session of the Fifty-Third Congress. Washington: Government Printing Office, 1895. 317-38. Web.

"Stories for Children." Boston Daily Globe (1872-1922), 14 July 1893, 2.

"United States Census, 1870, 1910, and 1920."

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