Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Annette W. Parmelee (or Parmalee), 1865-1924
By Michelle Derse Lowry, student, and Melanie Gustafson, professor, University of Vermont
Member, Vermont Equal Suffrage Association
Chair, League of Women Voters of Vermont
Annette Cora Watson was born in Washington, Vermont, on April 7, 1865 to Jefferson Watson and Carrie Guernsey Watson. In 1889, she moved to Enosburg Falls, Vermont, after marrying Edward Jones Parmelee, a lawyer and accountant. They had no children. At some point, Annette Parmelee trained as a nurse.
Parmelee attended the 1900 annual convention of the Vermont Woman Suffrage Association (VWSA), which met at Waterbury. In 1907, when the VWSA changed its name to the Vermont Equal Suffrage Association (VESA), Parmelee was elected the first State Superintendent of Press Work. In subsequent years, her titles were Press Correspondent and Press Superintendent. She regularly attended and was a frequent speaker at the state suffrage conventions. She served on the VESA's Committee on Resolutions. She also served as the NAWSA's Chairman of the Church Work Committee for Vermont. In 1920, the VESA papers were handed over to her and she became the organization's historian.
Before and after becoming an active suffrage worker, Parmelee was involved in temperance work and she sought to influence the Vermont temperance movement's stand on woman suffrage. In October 1911, Parmelee spoke at the annual state convention of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union about the success of the woman suffrage campaign in California. In January 1916, Parmelee told a temperance audience that alcohol should not be used in medical treatments. On October 19, 1920, the Saint Alban's Daily Messenger ran an article by Parmelee that argued against the use of alcohol baths for the sick.
Parmelee became one of the most well known and most outspoken suffragists in Vermont. Parmelee frequently wrote to newspapers, earning her the nickname "Suffragette Hornet," and the newspapers made her a fixture in their reports on the suffrage movement. In a December 1909 article titled "He Has Heard from Annette," a Rutland Herald writer claimed that the editors of every daily newspaper in the state of Vermont would recognize the significance of those words. The author then described Parmelee's support for the Pankhursts and militant suffragettes in England and claimed that this opinionated woman's only aim in life was to scold men. The article concluded by declaring that had Parmelee lived in the age of the Puritans she would have been put on a seesaw and dunked repeatedly into a duck pond. In 1915, an editorial writer in the St. Alban's Daily Messenger wrote: "In Iceland women are allowed to vote. Why not locate in Iceland, Mrs. Annette W. Parmelee?"
In October 1910, Parmelee participated in lobbying efforts at the Vermont State House, where she distributed leaflets listing seventeen reasons why women should have the right to vote. Six days later, she addressed the House Committee considering a bill that would give taxpaying women equal suffrage; she argued for the right of taxpaying women to have a say in how their money was spent. The suffrage bill failed by a slim margin, 111 to 114. The Barre Times called Parmelee, the bill's "chief lobbyist" and reported that she was making immediate plans to resuscitate the bill. In 1912, suffrage supporters again lobbied legislators in Montpelier and Parmelee, along with other suffragists, spoke in favor of a new equal suffrage bill. It too was defeated. In 1917, the legislature passed the bill allowing taxpaying women to vote in municipal elections. Parmelee participated in the Vermont State House lobbying effort that Ann Batchelder called the "Green Mountain Girls" in April 1920 to pressure Governor Percival W. Clement to convene a special session to vote on the ratification of the federal woman suffrage amendment.
When women won the right to vote in 1920, Parmelee joined the Vermont League of Woman Voters and served as the chair of the research committee.
Annette W. Parmelee died in 1924 at the age of 59.
Vermont Death Records, 1909-2008, Ancestry.com
U.S. Census 1920, Ancestry.com
Vermont Vital Records, 1720-1908, Ancestry.co
Vermont Wills and Probate Records, 1749-1999, Ancestry.com
Vermont Equal Suffrage Association Papers, MSC 144-146, Vermont Historical Society, Leahy Library, Vermont History Center, Barre, Vermont.
The Report of the Vermont Equal Suffrage Association and Minutes of the 23rd Annual Convention at Burlington, 1907 (Bethel, Vt.: Bethel Publishing Co., 1907).
The Report of the Vermont Equal Suffrage Association and Minutes of the 24th Annual Convention at Rutland, VT., 1908 (Bethel, Vt.: Bethel Publishing Co., 1908).
The Report of the Vermont Equal Suffrage Association and Minutes of the 25th Annual Convention Held at Barre, Vt., June 4th and 5th, 1909 (Bethel, Vt.: Bethel Printing Company, 1909).
Vermont Equal Suffrage Association Year Book, 1912-1913 (Woodstock, Vt.: Elm Tree Press, 1913).
Ann Batchelder, "Green Mountain Girls," Woman Citizen, May 1, 1920, pp. 1194, 1205.
Deborah Clifford, "The Suffragette Hornet," at http://www.thefamilyparmelee.com/f-suffragette.html (with image of 1917 poster announcing talk)
Deborah Clifford, "The Drive for Women's Municipal Suffrage in Vermont, 1883-1917, Vermont History 47:3 (Summer 1979): 173-90.