Biographical Sketch of Sara McPike

Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920

Biography of Sara McPike, 1870-1943

By Rusty Tobin, Empire (N.Y.) State College

Sara McPike was born April 11, 1870 in Emporium, Pennsylvania to Irish immigrants Patrick and Ellen Fox McPike, the youngest of nine children. In the late 1870's the family moved to Yonkers, New York where her father and brothers were employed as laborers and her sisters were shop hands in the Alexander Smith Carpet Factory. McPike graduated from Yonkers High School and Packard's Secretarial School and took courses at Columbia University's School of Journalism. She began employment as a stenographer and was eventually appointed executive secretary to the advertising manager of the General Electric Company office in New York City. McPike lived with family members in working-class neighborhoods in Yonkers her entire life.

McPike was a member of the Women's Trade Union League and was an early suffragist. Her obituary stated she was reported "to have carried the first suffrage banner up Fifth Avenue in a parade in 1907." In 1909 she organized the Catholic Committee of the New York City Woman Suffrage Party and was chair of the propaganda work among Catholics. McPike carried the leading banner with Inez Mulholland in the 1911 New York City suffrage parade. In 1911 she founded the St. Catherine's Welfare Association, which affiliated with the New York State Woman's Suffrage Association. The organization devoted itself exclusively to the passage of woman suffrage as a means to obtain remedial legislation for the social benefit of women workers and their children. Under McPike's leadership the Association held public suffrage meetings before Catholic organizations, wrote articles for the Catholic Press and mailed articles written by pro-suffrage priests to every clergyman in the United States. In February 1917 McPike was chair of the Committee of Arrangements for a delegation of Eastern Catholic women who met with Cardinal Gibbons, the chief prelate of the Catholic Church in the United States, in an attempt to persuade him to cease his opposition to woman suffrage.

After the suffrage victory, the St. Catherine's Welfare Association focused on passage of labor legislation for women and was a member of the New York State Women's Joint Legislative Conference. McPike was among the first women named to the Executive Committee of Democratic State Committee in 1918 and subsequently served as a New York State Democratic Committeeman and as Yonkers Assembly District co-leader until 1934. She drafted the recommendations for the eight-hour day for women and a minimum wage law for the state Democratic Party's platform in 1918. In 1923, she was the first woman to be named Secretary of the New York State Labor Department and served in this position until 1930. She died February 26, 1943 in Yonkers, N.Y.

Sources:

Harper, Ida Husted., History of Woman Suffrage, Vol. VI (New York: National American Woman Suffrage Association, 1922), 487-88;

Malcolm, James, ed. The New York Red Book. Albany, NY: J. B. Lyon Co., 1927, 166.

McCarthy, Tara Monica, "True Women, Trade Unionists and the Lessons of Tammany Hall: Ethnic Identity, Social Reform and the Political Culture of Irish Women in America, 1880-1923" (Ph. D dissertation, University of Rochester, 2005), 247-48.

Zeller, Belle, Pressure Politics in New York, New York: Prentice-Hall, 1937, 32.

Sarah McPike, Ninth Census of the United States, 1870, Census Place: Emporium, Cameron, Pennsylvania; Roll: M593_1319; Page: 543; Image: 116;

Sarah McPike, Tenth Census 1880, Census Place: Yonkers, Westchester, New York; Roll: 947, Page: 603D; Enumeration District: 142, Image: 0730;

Sarah McPike, Twelfth Census 1900, Census Place: Yonkers Ward 6, Westchester, New York; Roll: T623_1178, Page: 19A, Enumeration District: 141.

"3,000 Women In March For Votes," The Sun, 5/7/1911, 1

"May Aid Teacher Fired," The Sun 5/22/1912, 6.

"Debt of Suffrage to Catholic Women," New York Times (NYT), 11/19/1917, 11.

"Opposition to Protective Laws a Republican Move," NYT, 6/6/1920, 14

"Suffragists to Meet Cardinal," Yonkers Herald, 2/14/1917, 7.

"Democrats Discuss Women," NYT, 4/14/1918, 18;

"Illness Fatal to Sara McPike, Former State Labor Official," Yonkers Herald Statesman, 2/26/1943, 2;

"Miss Sara McPike Suffrage Leader," NYT, 2/27/1943, 13.

Sara McPike to Harriet Burton Laidlaw, undated, Harriet Wright Burton Laidlaw Papers. Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe College, Series V;

New York State Archives, GACF A0612- 78H Governor Al Smith: McPike to Smith 12/5/1922, Box 16, folder "100-1-1 S. McPike Industrial Commission."

 

 

Source: Labor Department Photos, in Malcolm, James, ed. The New York Red Book. Albany, NY: J. B. Lyon Co., 1924.

 

 

 

Source: "New York City Woman Suffrage Parade, May 6, 1911." Remembering Inez at http://www.rememberinginez.com/photographs.html.

 

The caption with the photo is incorrect. McPike is on the right, Hill in center and Milholland on the left. I have communicated with Robert Cooney, Jr., creator of the website and author of the book Remembering Inez. He believes the caption is correct. However McPike was 15 years senior to Inez Milholland and wore eye glasses which are visible on the woman on the right. Other photographs of Milholland resemble the woman on the left rather than the woman on the right. The website states the original is from the Library of Congress but I have not been able to find it on-line.

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