Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Ettie Lois Simonds Lowell, 1869-1930
By Pascale de Sa e Silva and Nora O'Neill, undergraduate students
Harvard University, Cambridge, MA
Ettie Lois Simonds was born on March 6, 1869 to Rial Barrows and Maria Simonds in the town of Newton, Massachusetts, where she lived for most of her life. The mother of ten children from two marriages, Ettie first married William H. Pike in 1887, and after Pike's death in 1891, married George Franklin Lowell, a restaurateur and later hotel owner, in 1893. A woman of many talents, Ettie Lowell was not only a suffragist and reformer but also a singer and investment banker. Lowell wrote music and sang as an alto in the Handel and Haydn Society of Boston. She also owned the bond and investment firm, E L Lowell of Boston. However, much of her work outside the home focused on social movements, such as pacifism, temperance, education, and women's suffrage. She died in 1930.
After her second husband's death, Lowell became a prominent activist, speaking up about schools, the raising of children, and women's rights. She served as the president of the Republican Women's Club in Boston and in 1905, she became the president of the Newton Equal Franchise League. Lowell often held meetings in her 6,776 square foot house at 525 Walnut St., with her children serving refreshments.
Under Lowell, the League helped women register to vote in school board elections, which Massachusetts women were allowed to do after the year 1879. In 1909, one of the Lowell's most important projects was securing pensions for schoolteachers. She organized a petition, but the city solicitor ruled that all signatures belonging to women were not politically legitimate—he decided that the right to vote in school board elections did not give them power to sign petitions on school matters. In the same year, when her son attended the Rindge Technical School in Cambridge, Lowell protested the principal's exclusion of mothers in his appointments to the Parents' Committee. She demanded that half be women.
From roughly 1905 to 1915, Lowell maintained a close relationship with the press. She was an important public figure, having been called "one of the richest and most prominent club women" in Newton by the Boston Post, and "one of the best-known Massachusetts suffragists" by the Boston Globe. She allowed her sense of humor to come across in printed interviews and in letters she wrote to newspapers. In one such, Lowell wrote of her shock when she learned of a competition that awarded $50 to a man who captured "A Young Woman's Ideal" with a picture of a woman bidding her lover goodbye as he left for battle.
Lowell was also very concerned with the reputation of suffragists. As a wealthy, fashionable woman, she had specific ideas about proper women's dress. She advised fellow suffragists to dress femininely, to not promote the image of the "unwomanly" suffragist. However, Lowell has been more forgiving; in May 1910, the Boston Post wrote about her frustration towards the excessive spending on lavish graduation gowns for young women. She proposed a ten-dollar limit as a way to reduce competition between female students, and to reduce the embarrassment of those with less clothing money.
A mother of nine children, Lowell also worked on parenting books. Some of her tips include "don't send a chaperone with a girl; such action shows but lack of trust on mother's part," "whipping a child is the worst method of punishment," and "send your children to the public school, and let them run round barefoot when the warm weather comes."
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Blue Book of Newton, MA For 1910. Google Books.
Boston Daily Globe. September 12, 1909,, p..37.
Boston Daily Globe. December 21, 1907, p.14.
Boston Daily Globe. January 12, 1909, p..2.
Boston Daily Globe. December 6, 1908, p..17.
Boston Daily Globe. March 13, 1910, p..45.
Boston Post. May 24, 1910;
Boston Sunday Globe. April 17, 1904.
Boston Sunday Post. October 31, 1909.
Boston Sunday Post. December 19, 1909.
Boston Sunday Post. May 03, 1908.
Goshen Daily Democrat. April 28, 1911.
The National Cyclopedia of American Biography. Vol. 14. New York: J.T. White, 1910.
Washington Post. February 28, 1909.
Woman's Journal. 1909. Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass. Vol. 40, no. 36, September 4, 1909.
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Blackwell, Alice Stone. "Fact and Comment." Woman's Journal (New York) 3, no. 16 (1918): 312..