Biographical Sketch of Charlotte A. Cleveland

Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920

Biography of Charlotte A. (Dickson) Cleveland, 1818-1901

By Sara E. Campbell of Erving, MA [RememberingAncestors.blogspot.com]

Charlotte Augusta Dickson was born on 4 February 1818 in Hopewell, Ontario County, New York to Andrews and Laura (Babcock) Dickson. Her father died in 1833, when she was only fifteen. Newspapers from the time show that he had legal action brought against him in 1829 as "an insolvent debtor." Without further evidence, we might surmise that he was the inspiration for Charlotte's dedication to temperance as an adult, but at any rate her early life was difficult. She was the oldest of six or more siblings.

Charlotte married just before she turned 21 to Henry Cleveland in York, Livingston County, New York. Her children were:

Lucia A. b.7 August 1840, d. 1899

Henry Davis, b. 9 January 1843, graduated from Yale, d. 1916. He worked for several railroad companies in Saint Louis, and some of his family joined him there for a time around 1883.

Mary Agnes, b. 26 January 1846, d. 1916.

Henry Augustus, b. 27 August 1848, graduated Yale 1870, d. 22 April 1873

Her husband was a merchant, "a prominent and enterprising man." He died in at the age of 42 on 28 June, 1852. He owned property in Meridian, Michigan and died there from cholera. As her mother was, Charlotte was left a widow with small children. Unlike her mother, she had a sufficient estate to pursue her interests and to educate her children.

Charlotte moved to New Haven, Connecticut while her sons attended Yale, and where she is found on the 1860 census with real estate and personal estate valued at $10,000 each.. Her brother, Samuel, also lived in New Haven with his family at that time. Shy had a servant from Ireland in the household. It was said in her eulogy that she attended lectures there to further her education and was "naturally fond of law and medicine, of science and of history, and has been for years a most helpful member of the various reading circles in this [Perry, NY] village."

She was also said to have volunteered as a nurse during the Civil War.

The 1870 census found her living in a hotel back in Perry, NY with her two daughters, where she stated that she had a personal estate of $30,000. Her mother was living alone nearby.

In September of 1871 Charlotte applied for a passport, which describes her as 4 ft. 1 ½ inches in height, hazel eyes, large nose, round chin, light complexion and grayish hair. She was said to have "travelled widely at home and abroad."

In 1873, her son Henry D. died at 24.

In 1875, Charlotte was living in Perry with her sister, Margaret Markham, Margaret's children, and Charlotte's two daughters in the largest house in the neighborhood. That year, her daughter Lucia gave her occupation as a high school teacher. In 1880 she lived alone in Perry,

Her activism may have increased with her age, as she gained positions of leadership in local social movements. Reverend C.H. Dibble eulogized her as follows:

She stood strongly for temperance and total abstinence, and the enforcement of law. She was an active member and a liberal supporter of the Women's [sic] Christian Temperance Union, and was especially interested in temperance instruction in the common schools. It is well and widely known that Mrs. Cleveland was particularly interested in the civil and political rights of women. For many years she had been closely identified with this movement, giving it her most earnest effort, and laboring diligently to secure the fullest suffrage for her sex. She regarded the successful prosecution of many reforms in the light of equal suffrage. She sought the opportunity to vote, not for itself alone, but as a means to the attainment of many ends, not only for the betterment but the highest good of society and the State. Mrs. Cleveland had read much upon this subject, thought deeply, and of all public questions it was nearest her heart. Cheerfully accepting important official positions, both in the county and the state, and always holding herself for the most strenuous service, she lived to see her hopes realized in the hard won privilege of a limited suffrage for women, and she passed away with an unwavering faith in its future enlargement and complete accomplishment. In the future history of this movement the name of Mrs. Cleveland should fill an important place.

Women gained the right to vote in school board elections in New York State in 1880. Her opinion of School suffrage was printed in the August edition of National Citizen and Ballot Box that year:

Suffrage Question in New York

I can see no reason to expect that school suffrage for women under the present statutes, even if common people could be persuaded that it was valid, will amount to anything very gratifying to suffragists unless special efforts are made by somebody to help the common women to the use of the franchise. Do you notice how silent the political press of the state is in reference to it? Men never speak of it to women, and voice will not be found for anything in regard to it till after the election of school officers, when the universal chorus will be "I told you so, the women don't want to vote.

The Wyoming County newspapers mention her positions in the local suffrage movement. In 1892 she was President of the Wyoming County Political Equality Club and attended the Convention of the National Women's suffrage Association.

In July of 1894 the Suffrage Committee in the NYS Assembly voted on the question at Albany. Charlotte was there in the gallery with her friend Susan B. Anthony.

In November of 1895 she attended the Convention of State Women's Suffrage Association in Newburg, and continued to a meeting with Elizabeth Cady Stanton in New York City,

She attended the 1896 Convention in Rochester

In 1900 she lived on Grove Street in Perry in a home that was owned without a mortgage. Her daughter Mary Agnes was living with her, as well as a male servant from Canada. She was named honorary president of the Wyoming County Political Equality Club announced at their annual convention that year.

Charlotte died at home on Grove Street in Perry, NY on 17 April 1901 after a fall the previous November. She was 83. Two of her children survived her, but neither married or had children. When Susan B. Anthony died in 1905, the local newspaper from Wyoming, NY, The Western New Yorker, called her a friend of Mrs. Cleveland, as well as other activists from the region.

References:

National Citizen and Ballot Box, August 1880, p. 4 accessed at www.fultonhistory.com.

Wyoming County Times, 25 April 1901.

Daily Albany Argus, 3 October 1870, p. 4.

Cleveland, Edmund Janes and Horace Gillette Cleveland, "The Genealogy of the Cleveland and Cleaveland Families," Hartford, CT: The Case, Lockwood & Brainard Company, 1899, Vol, 1, pp. 804-05.

1860 U.S. Census, New Haven, New Haven, CT

1875 New York State Census Perry, Wyoming, NY

1870, 1880, 1900 U.S. Census Perry, Wyoming, NY

back to top