Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Hester Sullivan Cochrane Fearing, 1875-1969
By Caroline Zheng, undergraduate, Harvard University
Chairman, Massachusetts, League of Woman Voters; Chairman, Boston, Salvation Army Appeal Ladies' Committee.
Hester Sullivan Cochrane was born on March 21, 1875 in Boston, Massachusetts to Alexander Cochrane, Jr. and Mary Lynde Sullivan Cochrane. She married George Richmond Fearing, Jr., a Harvard College graduate and investment banker, in May of 1897 - they remained married until his death in 1956. She had one son, Col. George R. Fearing, Jr., and six grandchildren by the time of her death. At the age of 93, Hester Fearing passed away in June of 1969 in Westwood, Massachusetts.
In the two decades leading up to the passage of the nineteenth amendment in 1920, Hester Fearing was an active member of the Massachusetts Woman Suffrage Association, a state chapter of the National American Woman Suffrage Association. As a suffragist in the upper-middle class social circles of Greater Boston, Hester Fearing served as the head of several committees including the Liberty Bond Committee and hosted regular outreach lunches engaging with anti-suffragists. Many local newspapers at the time, such as the Boston Globe, reported on the surprising successes of these high-society luncheons, and how she and her fellow suffragists were able to convert numerous anti-suffragists into supporting their cause. However, her most prominent work was associated with the Massachusetts League of Women Voters, a nonpartisan organization established in May of 1920 with the purpose of aiding women in becoming informed participants in government. She was elected chairman of the League days after its creation. In this position, she not only wrote directly to Congressmen for legislative purposes and maintained ties with the National League of Women Voters, but also helped organize plays, galas, and festivals to encourage women to exercise their right to vote. After her term elapsed, she continued to remain active in the League, and also served as president of the Women's Republican Club of Massachusetts.
Aside from her avid political participation, Hester Fearing also championed causes relating to poverty and women's health. At the age of seventeen, she and her classmates at Boston's Miss Shaw's School for Girls founded the Vincent Club, a ladies' club that put on theater productions to raise money for St. Vincent's Hospital, a hospital with the mission of treating "diseases of women". Throughout her adult life, she and her husband remained trustees of the Boston Hospital for Women; they also opened their home for impoverished servicemen during both World Wars. After a trip to France in 1921, when asked to give her impressions of post-WWI France, she commented on the inevitable spread of epidemics among peasants and the high infant mortality rate. She emphasized the need for American medical aid in war-torn France, particularly in caring for new mothers and vulnerable infants. In 1940, Hester Fearing was named chairman of the Salvation Army Appeal Ladies' Committee. In her years of work with the Salvation Army, she continued to promote charity and kindness towards poorer mothers and their children.
Today, Hester Fearing's legacy lives on through two organizations she helped establish - the Massachusetts League of Women Voters and the Vincent Club.
"AISLE WAS A FLORAL PATHWAY." Boston Daily Globe, May 13, 1897, p. 5.
"Deaths and Funerals." Daily Boston Globe, Jun 16, 1956, p. 14,
Massachusetts Birth Records 1840-1915
"MRS FEARING HEADS THE WOMEN VOTERS." Boston Daily Globe, May 29, 1920, p. 6.
"MRS GEORGE R. FEARING JR PAYS TRIBUTE TO PEASANTS OF FRANCE." Boston Daily Globe, Aug 31, 1921, p. 18.
"Obituary 1 -- no Title." New York Times, Jun 26, 1968, p. 47,
"OBITUARIES." Boston Globe, Jun 25, 1968, p. 34.
"State Correspondence." Woman's Journal, 3 Apr. 1909, p. 55+.
"The Vincent Club - History". The Vincent Club. http://www.citationmachine.net/bibliographies/178495824?new=true
"Today in SOCIETY." Daily Boston Globe, Oct 11, 1940, p. 19.