Biographical Sketch of Elizabeth Guest Grinnell Van Patten

Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920

Biography of Elizabeth Guest Grinnell Van Patten, 1879-1948

By Nellie Harvey, student, and Melanie Gustafson, professor, University of Vermont

Vice President, Vermont Equal Suffrage Association

Elizabeth Guest Grinnell Van Patten was born on December 30, 1879 to Ashbel P. Grinnell and Elizabeth Guest Grinnell. Her parents moved from New York to Burlington, Vermont, around the time of her birth. Her father was a physician and Dean of the University of Vermont Medical School. She married Charles Strain Van Patten, a businessman, on October 12, 1901. They had a son, William J. Van Patten (1903-1926). Her husband Charles committed suicide in April 1917. Elizabeth never remarried and supported herself by working as an interior decorator and performing dramatic impersonations of modern plays. She was an active member of the Congregational Church. She primarily lived in Burlington but also resided in New York City and Hartford, Connecticut. She died in Burlington on March 14, 1948.

In October 1912, Van Patten joined a large contingent of suffragists who attended a hearing at the state legislature in Montpelier to support an equal suffrage bill. Van Patten was one of nine speakers on behalf of the bill, which was defeated. Van Patten joined a coalition of Vermont and New Hampshire suffragists who organized and staffed a suffrage exhibit at the Vermont State Fair in White River, Vermont, in 1913.

Elizabeth Van Patten served as a vice president of the Vermont Equal Suffrage Association from 1913 to 1915. The State Committee of the VESA met at her home in Burlington to make plans for its 1913 annual convention. When the convention met it Rochester, Vermont in June 1913, Van Patten gave two speeches. The first, titled an "Anti-Suffrage Monologue," was given during a reception at the home of VESA President Julia A. Pierce. The second, "Some Things We Can Do," was presented the next afternoon at the Universalist Church. Newspapers reported that Van Patten was a popular speaker, known for her humor and sarcasm.

At the 1915 VESA Convention, Van Patten presented a plan for the formation of county leagues to meet the problem of suffrage supporters who found the one dollar fee for membership in the state VESA to be prohibitive. The cost of membership in these county leagues would be 25 cents. The convention eventually decided that it would be unwise to move forward with the plan.


Vermont Equal Suffrage Association Year Book, 1912-1913 (Woodstock, Vt.: Elm Tree Press, 1913)

Vermont Equal Suffrage Association Twenty-Sixth Annual Convention, Rochester, June 11-12, 1913 (n.d., n.p.).

"Vermont Women Fail to Agree on Right to Vote," Burlington Weekly Free Press, October 31, 1912.

"Plurality Election on Fourth Ballot," Barre Daily Times, December 18, 1912.

"Equal Suffrage Convention," Barre Daily Times, June 17, 1913.

"Annual Convention of Vermont Association Held at Rochester," Bennington Evening Banner, June 17, 1913.

"Vermont Astir," Women's Journal, September 27, 1913.

Ida Husted Harper, History of Woman Suffrage, 6:662 [LINK]

"Dr. A.P. Grinnell Dead." Middlebury Register. April 12, 1907.

"Dr. Grinnell Dead: Formerly Dean of the Medical Department, Vermont University." Barre Daily Times. April 8, 1907. p. 2.

"Equal Suffrage Day." Burlington Weekly Free Press. May 7, 1914. p. 16.

Find A Grave Index. "Elizabeth Grinnell Van Patten." Accessed October 13, 2016.

"Graceful and Artistic." Burlington Weekly Free Press. April 23, 1914. p. 16.

"Klifa Club's Christmas Plays." Burlington Weekly Free Press. December 31, 1903. p. 8.

"Plurality Election on Fourth Ballot." Barre Daily Times. December 18, 1912. p. 5.

"Van Patten a Suicide." Brattleboro Daily Reformer. April 5, 1917.

Vermont Vital Records. "Elizabeth Guest Grinnell." Accessed October 13, 2016.

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