Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920

Biography of Jennette Atwater (Street) Jeffrey, 1872-1960

by Amy E. O'Neal, independent historian

Jennette Atwater Street was born on January 27, 1872, the daughter of druggist salesman Charles B. Street and his wife Rachel (Bishop) Street. Although Jennette was born in Brooklyn, New York, the family moved to New Jersey and then to Canada while Jennette was still young. Jennette won a scholarship to attend the University of Toronto, and while there, she achieved high honors. She subsequently attended Bryn Mawr College in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, as a Fellow in Latin (1895-1896). Following her time at Bryn Mawr, Street taught classics and English at St. Margaret's College in Toronto, from 1897 through 1901.

In June of 1901, Jennette Street married noted botanist Edward C. Jeffrey, then a lecturer at the University of Toronto. Their son Charles Street Jeffrey was born in 1903. The couple soon moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts, where Dr. Jeffrey took a position as professor of plant morphology at Harvard University.

There, Jennette Jeffrey was active in Harvard social clubs, but no less so in public life. The Cambridge Political Equality Association (CPEA) was a club founded in 1896 in support of women's suffrage, and although male members were prominent, women governed its affairs. Jennette Jeffrey joined the organization. Although her husband joined as well, it was Mrs. Jeffrey who took a hand in the club. She eventually served as corresponding secretary for the CPEA, writing unsigned letters to newspapers. At the meetings of the CPEA, Mrs. Jeffrey advised other members as to which local newspapers were in favor of the vote. The "country newspaper," she said, had been a key feature of a suffrage referendum defeat in Wisconsin, a largely rural state; a community paper's influence could not be overlooked.

On April 17, 1915, the Boston American, a Hearst newspaper favorable to the cause, ran a special pro-suffrage edition. Mrs. Jeffrey served as editor in chief, assisted by several other prominent Boston suffragists. Suffragist women took up the role of newsboys, and sold the paper by hand in the street. The edition featured statements and articles in favor of suffrage by Governor David Walsh, the legendary populist Boston mayor James Curley, and the influential jurist Louis Brandeis, together with other local leaders in government, labor and religion.

This issue was produced in anticipation of a Massachusetts suffrage referendum, held on November 2, 1915. Despite parades and public spirit, this referendum would prove a resounding defeat for the suffragists. Nonetheless, the CPEA pushed forward. In 1916, Mrs. Jeffrey served as a vice-president of the association. It was later reorganized as a District Organization of the Massachusetts Woman Suffrage Association, and finally, after the Nineteenth Amendment, as the Cambridge League of Women Voters.

Mrs. Jeffrey died in Framingham, Massachusetts, in 1960, surviving her husband Edward by just short of eight years. She is interred in Mount Pleasant Cemetery in Toronto.

Sources: 2009. 1870 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc. Images reproduced by FamilySearch. 2013. Massachusetts, Birth Records, 1840-1915 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc. 2013. Massachusetts, Death Index, 1901-1980 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc.,

Boston American, April 1915.

Encyclopedia Britannica, "Edward Charles Jeffrey." Last accessed November 30, 2017.

Records of the Cambridge Political Equality Association in the Woman's Rights Collection, 1896-1926. Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Islington. Photograph of memorial to Edward Charles Jeffrey and Jennette Atwater Street Jeffrey, Mount Pleasant Cemetery, Toronto, Canada. 2015.

Jeffrey, Jennette, ed. Boston American, April 17, 1915.

Leonard, John William, ed. (1914) 1976. Woman's Who's Who for 1914-15. [LINK]

MacLeod, Marion, ed. "Jennette Atwater (Street) Jeffrey (abt. 1872-1960)." Last accessed November 30, 2017.

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