Biographical Sketch of Emma May Borst (Mrs. Arthur) Hunter

Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920

Biography of Emma May Borst (Mrs. Arthur) Hunter, 1869-1925

By Nancy J. Marvel, Regional Counsel, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (retired); independent historian.

Suffragist. President, Montclair Equal Suffrage League; Chair of Finance Committee, Auditor and Vice-President, New Jersey Woman Suffrage Association; Auditor and Regional Director, New Jersey League of Women Voters; Founder, Montclair League of Women Voters; President, Montclair Women's Club.

Emma May Borst was born in Liverpool, England in 1869. She was the eldest child of Albert W. Borst, a prominent organist and composer with the Liverpool Cathedral and his wife Emma Tadd Borst. As a girl, Emma studied piano under her father's tutelage and passed exams at the Royal Academy of Music. When she was sixteen, the family emigrated to Philadelphia where her father became a music teacher and organist at several Philadelphia churches. In 1894, Emma married Arthur Hunter, a recent immigrant from Scotland and an up-and-coming actuary with Fidelity Mutual Life Insurance. The couple had two daughters, Dorothy and Virginia.

In 1911, the Hunter family moved to Montclair, New Jersey, where Hunter soon joined the two-year-old Montclair Equal Suffrage League. By 1912, she was elected an officer with the League. In early 1913, Hunter became active with the New Jersey Woman Suffrage Association (WSA) and chaired its finance committee. In that capacity, she led the fund-raising efforts throughout the State of New Jersey for the 1915 campaign in advance of a suffrage referendum in the fall of 1915. In Montclair, Hunter moved steadily up within the ranks, elected treasurer of the Montclair Equal Suffrage League in 1913 and president in 1914, a position she would hold until the passage and ratification of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Hunter was also elected auditor of the New Jersey WSA in 1913, serving under President Lillian Feickert of Dunellen, New Jersey, a position she held until 1919 when she was elected a vice-president of the state organization.

Hunter was indefatigable in her efforts to spread the word about the benefits of suffrage and to raise money. She organized a Montclair dinner in conjunction with the planned Lucy Stone Memorial celebration in August 1915 at which suffrage luminaries such as Dr. Anna Howard Shaw, Mrs. Alice Stone Blackwell (daughter of Lucy Stone) and Mrs. Carrie Chapman Catt spoke.

She was a delegate to women's suffrage conventions throughout New Jersey and nationally. At one such convention, she had the idea to raise money by placing a 60-pound melting pot decorated with daffodils upon the stage for conventioneers to use for their donations. As a result, that convention raised $145 [$4303 in 2023 dollars] in cash as well as silverware, and gold and silver jewelry. The New York Times related," One woman parted with a spoon which belonged to her great-grandmother, and another gave a spoon which belonged to her mother, who was associated with Elizabeth Cady Stanton in her work for suffrage."

The defeat of the New Jersey equal suffrage referendum in October 1915, although a disappointment to all New Jersey suffragists, did not deter them from doubling down on their pro-suffrage activities. Hunter joined the delegation from the Montclair Equal Suffrage League marching down Fifth Avenue on October 23, 1915, carrying signs which read, "Delayed but not Defeated." Hunter finished up 1915 by representing New Jersey as a delegate to the 47th National American Woman Suffrage Convention in Washington, DC.

During the years of United States' participation in the First World War, women's suffrage activities took a back seat to efforts in support of the war. Beginning in 1919, the suffragists geared up once again to push for passage of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Hunter, as President of the Montclair Equal Suffrage League and Vice-President of the New Jersey Equal Suffrage League and chair of its Finance Committee, represented New Jersey WSA in lieu of Mrs. Fieckert at the National American Woman Suffrage Association Convention in St. Louis in March 1919, where the League of Women Voters was founded.

Once the 19th Amendment was passed by Congress, the New Jersey suffragists turned their attention to promoting ratification within the state. Hunter was active in the ratification fight, as the State organization held a massive rally in January 1920 which produced a petition of over 135,000 signatures asking the Governor and Legislature to ratify the Amendment. New Jersey ratified the Amendment on February 9, 1920.

Thereafter, Hunter spearheaded the founding of the Montclair branch of the League of Women Voters, becoming its first, but temporary, chair while officers were elected. She remained active in the League of Women Voters for the rest of her life, becoming the auditor and a regional director of the New Jersey League of Women Voters and Vice-President of the Montclair Branch in 1921. During these years, Hunter also served as President of the Montclair Women's Club.

May Hunter died on August 20, 1925, at the age of 56. Upon her death, the board of directors of the New Jersey League of Women Voters adopted the following resolution:

In the death of Mrs. Hunter, the New Jersey League of Women Voters has sustained a severe loss.

Her untiring efforts in the cause of good citizenship were always an inspiration to those who were associated with her.

Her kindliness, energy, courage, generosity and endur- ing sense of responsibility and service will be a lesson and lasting encouragement to our members.


"Royal Academy of Music." Liverpool Daily Post. Liverpool, Merseyside, England. 07 June 1886.

"A Great Bridal Week." The Philadelphia Times. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. 21 Oct. 1894.

Harper, Ida Husted, ed., "Chapter XXIX: New Jersey, Part I," In History of Woman Suffrage, Vol. 6 (New York: National American Woman Suffrage Association, 1922), p. 421.

Blackwell, Alice Stone. The Woman Citizen: A Weekly Chronicle of Progress. Vol. 4. New York City: Woman's Journal, 1919. 267, 1183.

National American Woman Suffrage Association. Ed. Susan W. Fitzgerald. The Handbook of the National American Woman Suffrage Association and Proceedings of the Forty-Eighth Annual Convention. NAWSA: Washington, D.C., 1915. 131.

"Rapid Strides by Montclair Women." Newark Star-Eagle. Newark, New Jersey. 29 Oct. 1912.

"Suffragists Want $15,000 to Win the Ballot Next Year." Central New Jersey Home News. New Brunswick, New Jersey. 10 Jan 1913.

"A Defender of Militancy." Montclair Times. Montclair, New Jersey. 17 May 1913.

"Mrs. Arthur Hunter." Montclair Times. Montclair, New Jersey. 7 Feb. 1914.

"Officers Elected by Suffragettes." The Morning Call. Paterson, New Jersey. 15 Nov 1913.

"Suffrage Election Held." New York Tribune. New York, New York. 23 Jan 1916.

"Montclair Women Chosen." Montclair Times. Montclair, New Jersey 24 May 1919.

"Jewels to the Suffrage Cause." New York Times. New York, New York. 1 Feb 1915.

"Militant Suffragist Speaks in Montclair." Newark Star-Eagle. Newark, New Jersey. 8 Dec. 1915.

"Meeting of Suffragists." Montclair Times. Montclair, New Jersey. 19 April 1919.

New Jersey League of Women Voters, Minutes of First Meeting, April 30, 1920 Courtesy, Special Collections/University Archives, Rutgers University Libraries.

Federal Manuscript Census entries for Arthur and Emma Hunter, Newark and Montclair, NJ, 1900-1920. Accessed online via Ancestry Library Edition.

"Obituary." Montclair Times, Montclair, New Jersey. 22 Aug. 1925.

"Resolution of Sympathy." Montclair Times, Montclair, New Jersey. 3 Oct. 1925.

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