Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920

Biographical Sketch of Isabel Amelia Baldwin (1851-1938)

By Wendy Rouse, Assistant Professor, San Jose State University

Founder and later president of the Alameda County Political Equality Society, Vice-President of the Vernon Heights Political Equality Club, President and later Vice-President of the Susan B. Anthony Club (San Francisco), Member of the Congressional Union for Woman's Suffrage (CUWS)

Isabel Amelia Wheaton was born in Somerset, Massachusetts on September 8, 1851 to Mary Ann Staples and Cyrus Martin Wheaton, Jr. She married Lloyd Baldwin around 1874 and they had four children, three of whom lived to adulthood (Grace, Lloyd Jr. and Edith). By 1880, the Baldwin family was living in Oakland, California according to the 1880 census. Lloyd Baldwin was a prominent local attorney who was well-known in the San Francisco bay area. The family eventually settled in the prestigious Vernon Heights neighborhood near Lake Merritt in Alameda County. Lloyd Baldwin passed away on October 19, 1885. Isabel raised their three young children on her own and never remarried.

Baldwin became an active member of local, state and national suffrage organizations. In 1895, she was a founding member of the Alameda County Political Equality Society, an organization whose stated goal was to "increase sentiment in favor of equal suffrage by means of lectures and personal visitations." The local organization helped raise funds for the National American Woman Suffrage Association. Baldwin also served as Vice-President of the Vernon Heights Political Equality Club and President of the Alameda County Political Equality Society. She frequently hosted prominent suffrage leaders in her home including, Susan B. Anthony, Anna Howard Shaw, and Carrie Chapman Catt. Baldwin served as President and later Vice-President of the Susan B. Anthony Club, which was founded in San Francisco as an affiliate of the California Equal Suffrage Association.

Baldwin also traveled frequently to participate and speak at women's suffrage conventions and meetings. Baldwin served as an annual delegate to the California Woman's State Suffrage Association. In 1905 she attended the National Equal Suffrage Convention in Portland. Baldwin served as a delegate to the national suffrage convention in Washington, D.C. in 1910. She attended many other similar events throughout the course of her life. By 1915, Baldwin was a member of the Congressional Union for Woman's Suffrage (CUWS) organized by Alice Paul and Lucy Burns to campaign for a federal suffrage amendment.

Baldwin, working alongside Congressional Union national strategist Doris Stevens, earned some local notoriety in 1915 when a group of CUWS members attempted to interrupt a meeting of the House Committee on Appropriations at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco. Their intent was simply to inform the committee of their support for the federal suffrage amendment noting: "the women of California wanted the ballot for the voteless women of the United States." Their request was denied, however, and instead they were forced to leave the meeting. Frustrated and annoyed, they waited in the hallway until the Congressmen walked out of the room and again attempted to make their case heard. Although the Congressmen refused to acknowledge the women, their persistence and courage garnered newspaper attention.

In addition to her extensive work on behalf of woman's suffrage, Baldwin was also active in a variety of clubs and organizations including the Oakland Ebell Society and the Unitarian Church. Baldwin also served on the executive board as the director of California for the National Alliance of Unitarian and Other Liberal Christian Women.

Baldwin outlived her husband and three of her four children. She passed away on March 14, 1938 at the age of 86. She is buried in the Mountain View Cemetery in Oakland, California.

Selected Sources:

1.)"A Society for Women." San Francisco Call. July 1, 1895, 8

2.)"A Suffrage Meeting." Oakland Tribune. September 21, 1896, 8

3.)Anthony, Susan B. & Ida Husted Harper. The History of Woman Suffrage. Volume IV, 1883-1900. Indianapolis, IN: The Hollenbeck Press, 1902

4.)"Celebrate Eighty-Fourth Birthday of their Leader." San Francisco Call. February 16, 1904, 16

5.)"Congressmen Snub Feminists." Oakland Tribune. June 18, 1915, 5

6.)Harper, Ida Husted. The Life and Work of Susan B. Anthony. Indianapolis, IN: Hollenbeck Press, 1898

7.)"Lloyd Baldwin." San Francisco Chronicle. Oct. 21, 1885, 3

8.)"Old Guard in Suffrage Association Wins Fight to Retain Organization." San Francisco Call. January 7, 1912, 47

9.)"Portraits of Pioneers." Woman's Journal, 2, no. 12 (1918): 232

10.)"Still Working for the Cause of Suffrage." Oakland Tribune. September 10, 1898, 4

11.)"Suffrage Club Holds Election." San Francisco Call. December 17, 1912, 7

12.)"Want the Ballot and Its Benefits." San Francisco Chronicle. June 13, 1896, 10

13.)"Women's Clubs Plan for Work." San Francisco Call. December 25, 1910, 57

14.)"Women's War is Renewed." San Francisco Call. February 22, 1898, 13.

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