Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Mary Chanler Aldrich, 1870-1963
By Jodell A. Raymond, Adjunct Faculty Business Administration & Economics, State University of New York, Monroe Community College, and Nicole Karafian, undergraduate, SUNY Oneonta
Margaret Chanler was born in New York City, October 1870, one of eleven children of John Winthrop Chanler and Margaret Astor Ward, a descendant of the prominent Astor family. In 1906, she married Richard Aldrich, an American music critic for the New York Times. Richard Aldrich died on June 2, 1937 in Rome, Italy. Their children were Margaret Aldrich DeMott (1911-2011) and Richard Chanler Aldrich (1909-1961). In 1958 she wrote her memoirs, Family Vista. Margaret died in 1963 in Rhinebeck, Dutchess County, New York.
Margaret served as a nurse for the American Red Cross during the Spanish American War in 1898. She enlisted because she could speak Spanish and thought she could be useful as an interpreter for the American nurses. She took care of soldiers and eventually her work attracted the attention of Red Cross founder, Clara Barton. On December 19, 1939, she was awarded a Congressional Medal by President Roosevelt for her nursing service with the Red Cross.
For her first foray into the woman's suffrage movement, in the winter of 1894, Margaret Chanler was invited by Joseph H. Choate to speak to the New York State Convention meeting to revise the state constitution. Since there were not any supporters from New York city attending, Mrs. Aldrich would speak on behalf of the women in favor of the suffrage movement. At that time, she was encouraged by her aunt, suffragist Julia Ward Howe, to go to Washington to attend the woman's suffrage convention in order to study and learn more about woman's suffrage. At one of these conventions she read a paper on "The Changing Type of Womanhood." For women in New York State to be successful in gaining the vote, Mrs. Aldrich noted that the women in Albany must be included and consulted or they would derail any efforts. She also observed that the prominent women of the anti-suffrage movement helped the cause by encouraging all women take a stand for their beliefs.
Mrs. Aldrich became President of the Woman's Municipal League; Founder of the Churchwoman's club, a suffrage club; Head of the Law Enforcement League; and treasurer for the Woman's Suffrage Party in New York. In 1917, she was elected president of the Protestant Episcopal Women's Suffrage Association. At one point, she met Susan B. Anthony and asked her advice for a suffrage speaking engagement in Albany. Anthony told her, "Always address the farthest man on the farthest bench. Some of those in between are agreeing with you." She is noted as one of Carrie Chapman Catt's capable officials in the campaign for suffrage in New York State.
Family Vista: The Memoirs of Margaret Chanler Aldrich (New York: William-Frederick Press, 1958). Accessed online 5 march 2017 at https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=wu.89072981608;view=1up;seq=9
The History of Woman Suffrage Volume VI, pp. 454, 462, 466. [LINK]
For genealogical information, see the Geni website at https://www.geni.com/people/Margaret-Aldrich/6000000018845490292 accessed 5 March 2017
Christopher T. Rand, Silver Diaspora: A Journey up from Hudson Aristocracy (n.p.: iUniverse, 2014)
Fredrica Harris Thompsett and Sheryl A. Kujawa-Holbrook, eds., Deeper Joy: Lay Women and Vocation in the 20th Century Episcopal Church (New York: Church Publishing, 2005)
My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt December 18, 1939. Accessed 5 March 2017 https://www2.gwu.edu/~erpapers/myday/displaydoc.cfm?_y=1939&_f=md055452