Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920

Biography of Emilie Doetsch, 1882-1969

By David Hernandez, Undergraduate, Goucher College

Suffragist, Journalist, Lawyer, And Activist for Women's Rights

Emilie Doetsch was born June 30, 1882 in the Roland Park neighborhood of Baltimore. Emilie was one of six children of Louis John Doetsch, a well-known German-American lithographer, and Johanna (Pohl) Doetsch. Emilie graduated from The Woman's College of Baltimore (later Goucher College) in 1903. In 1906, Emilie graduated from the University of Maryland Law School, and on January 29, 1907, became the second woman admitted to the bar by the Maryland Court of Appeals. Emilie did not practice law immediately after graduation due to a lack of opportunity for women in the field.

Unable to practice law, Emilie found employment at the Baltimore News as a journalist. Her most notable contribution to the Baltimore News was her time spent as a "war correspondent" covering the Suffrage Army Hikers' journey led by General Rosalie Jones from New York to Washington, D.C. in February 1913, filing daily reports with the paper. Emilie was not only a journalist on the march, but was also one of the fourteen women that completed the entire 240-mile trek by foot during the harsh February winter. The marchers defied the notion that women of the time were fragile and, more importantly, not fit to have the right to vote. More specifically the purpose of the Suffrage Hike to Washington was to bring attention to the cause of woman suffrage by marching on Washington before the inauguration of President Woodrow Wilson on March 4th.

Doetsch did not simply report on the march, she participated whole-heartedly as a marcher. From Trenton, NJ she filed this report, under the headline, "Suffragette 'Hikers' Today One Big Ache": "Alas, poor suffragists! Alas, poor hikers! Last night one big blister, this morning one overwhelming, overpowering muscle and spirit-paralyzing ache." Doetsch understood the hikers' pain, because she shared it.

Doetsch also reported on the reception hikers received along the march route. "Anti-suffrage sentiment appeared strong in Camden," she wrote. "The crowd, which grew to immense proportions as the army approached the city, often rudely jostled the tired women and taunts and jeers were not infrequent." But the response at other times was also often very positive. Doetsch described the response a few days later: "Words fail to describe the march of the suffrage army out of Philadelphia this morning."

Following the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment, Emilie strove to give women a voice in government. In the spring of 1923, she became the first woman to run for the Baltimore City Council. She lost the election, finishing seventh citywide, but remained politically active all her life. In 1928, Emilie was appointed to the position of Assistant City Solicitor, making Emilie the first woman to hold a major post in the Baltimore City government. Her new position allowed her to finally practice law, making a name for herself for the first time in the legal field. Her high-ranking legal position was acknowledged when, in 1929, Emilie was elected president of the Women's Bar Association of Baltimore.

In addition to opening a law practice, Emilie served as managing editor of Equal Rights, the national feminist weekly published by the National Woman's Party, from 1932­1934. She remained active in women's rights as vice-chairman of the Baltimore chapter of the National Woman's Party. Emilie never married or had children, however she had a deep love for children, which was apparent from her work as Director of the Board for the Children's Fresh Air Society during the 1930s. Emilie Doetsch was also a member of a number of organizations, including the Women's Auxiliary of the German Society of Maryland, the Federation of Republican Women, the League of Women Voters, the Quota Club, and the Maryland chapter of Phi Delta (women's legal fraternity). She also served as counsel for the Women's City Club and as a member of the Board of the Hamilton Club.

Emilie Doetsch died June 10, 1969 at the age of 86 and was buried in Greenmount Cemetery in Baltimore City. In the wake of her passing, the Winter 1970 Goucher College Alumnae Quarterly published a tribute to Emilie, honoring her for her many achievements and truly capturing her nonstop dedication to gender equality: "We never thought of her as a militant suffragist, for she was a good listener... For she made converts; her reasonableness, so quiet and friendly, made friends who became converts."

Sources:

Information on Emilie's birth, birthplace, and dates at Goucher can be found in her Alumnae Individual Records, Special Collections and Archives, Goucher College Library. Information about the suffrage hike was found in The Baltimore News (Enoch Pratt Free Library, Baltimore), and the Baltimore Sun. Information on her political career, details about her family, and her accomplishments as a lawyer came from the "Round Robin Letters" in Special Collections and Archives, Goucher College Library.

All of Doetsch's coverage of the hike in the Baltimore News is found as documents 36A-36SS in Margaret Johnston, "How Did Elisabeth Freeman's Publicity Skills Promote Woman Suffrage, Antilynching, and the Peace Movement, 1909-1919?, Part 1" in Women and Social Movements in the United States, 1600-2000, 12:2 (June 2008).

See also Zachary Michael Jack, Rosalie Gardiner Jones and the Long March for Women's Rights (Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, 2020).

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