Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920

Biography of Ida C. Hultin, 1858-1938

By Clare M. Sheridan, librarian (retired): American Textile History Museum, Lowell, MA

Minister, Unitarian Church and activist in the Suffrage movement

Ida C. Hultin was born in Michigan in 1858 and died in Lincoln, MA in December 1938 after a prolonged illness. Her parents were Dr. Karl Constance Hultin, born and educated in Sweden, and Susan Parkins Soman, born and educated in Michigan. She attended the University of Michigan from 1882-1884. Hultin began her career in the little towns of Michigan as a teacher, speaker and finally as a preacher. As one of a small group of pioneer women ministers of the Unitarian church (the "Iowa Sisterhood"), she began her ministry in Algona, Iowa in 1884. After her ordination in 1886, she was installed in the Unity Church in Des Moines where she served from 1886 to1891. From this church, the Midwest's major suffrage paper, The Woman's Standard, was launched. Hultin then served in Moline, IL from 1891 to 1898 where she developed a national reputation as a guest preacher at churches throughout the country. An imposing presence and eloquent speaker, she addressed numerous conferences and conventions of the women's rights and suffrage movement. Subsequently, she was appointed to the Unitarian church in Allston, MA from 1900 to 1903. Her last pastorate was at the First Parish in Sudbury, MA where she was minister for thirteen years. She retired from Sudbury in 1916. Hultin was active in the Free Religious Association, a group that "defined themselves beyond or outside traditional Christianity."

As a minister, Hultin was active in the Unitarian movement. She was elected president of the Women's Western Unitarian Conference in 1891 and served as vice-president of the Central States Conference of Unitarian Churches. She delivered sermons at the Iowa Conference in 1887 and at the Western Unitarian Conference in 1888 and 1896. She was a speaker at the World's Parliament of Religions in Sept., 1893 held in conjunction with the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago. In her address "The Essential Oneness of Ethical Ideas..." she underscored her belief that the basis of all religion is ethics and coupled this belief with her views about women: "No creedal church and no form of ecclesiasticism has ever lent itself to the emancipation of the woman-half of humanity. She has suffered, and still suffers, because of the results of dogmatic beliefs and theological traditions." Such was her reputation that many thought she would be appointed to the pulpit of All Souls Unitarian Church in Washington, D.C. However, opposition from the conservatives in the congregation proved too strong.

Her abilities as a preacher were also evident in her role as a suffragist. As another Unitarian, Julia Ward Howe, observed: "It was hardly surprising that fighting for suffrage felt like a sacred duty when one's religion was based on the same democratic beliefs as one's claim to the full rights of citizenship." She was invited to speak at the Women's National Council of the United States and at the conventions of the National American Woman Suffrage Association (the National-American Conventions) in Washington D.C. in 1891, 1894, 1897, 1900, 1902 and 1903. During the 1894 convention, she provided testimony before the House Judiciary Committee with Susan B. Anthony presenting the speakers and closing the discussion. An adverse report from a majority of the Committee was submitted. In addition, Hultin addressed the audience at the 80th birthday celebration of Elizabeth Cady Stanton at New York's Metropolitan Opera House in 1895 and also delivered remarks at the 1900 convention on the 80th birthday of Susan B. Anthony.

She was a frequent speaker at state suffrage conventions including those in Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, Maryland and New Hampshire. She addressed the joint annual meeting of the New England and Massachusetts Woman Suffrage Associations held in Boston's Music Hall in 1892 and delivered an address at a memorial service for Julia Ward Howe on Nov. 7, 1910. She spoke on "Woman and Religion" at the World's Congress of Representative Women in May 1893 held during the World's Columbian Exposition. Her travels and speaking engagements were extensive, ranging from New York to California.

Her spirit is best captured by several newspaper articles that covered her participation in Michigan's campaign for woman's suffrage. An article from the Fort Wayne [Indiana] News (August 16, 1912) noted "Miss Ida Hultin, pastor of the Unitarian Church of Sunbury [Sudbury], Massachusetts, a suburb of Boston, made speeches on the principal street corners from an automobile. Large crowds gathered about the speaker at each stop and listened with respectful attention...A constitutional amendment granting equal suffrage will be submitted to the voters in November." The Detroit Free Press of August 21st featured her address to the "appreciative" workers at the Ford Plant accompanied by a photograph of the crowd as well as a portrait of her below the caption: "Talks Suffrage from Soapbox."

A photograph of Rev. Hultin can be found in The World's Congress of Representative Women, Vol. 1, edited by May Wright Sewall, 1894, facing p.237. [LINK]


Anthony, Susan B. and Ida Husted Harper. History of Woman Suffrage. Vol. IV (1883-1900). Rochester, N.Y., 1902.

City directories for Des Moines, Iowa and Boston, Sudbury, Lincoln, Massachusetts (1888-1938) website

"Deaths and Funerals...Rev. Ida C. Hultin." Boston Globe, Dec. 29, 1938, p.15. Proquest Historical Newspapers (website)

Eagle, Mary Kavanaugh Oldham, ed. The Congress of Women: Held in the Woman's Building, World's Columbian Exposition, Chicago, U.S. A. 1893. Chicago, IL: Monarch Book Company, 1895. Extracts from "Woman and Religion," by Rev. Ida C. Hultin, pp.788-89 [LINK]

Harper, Ida Husted, et al., eds. History of Woman Suffrage. Vols. V and VI (1900-1920). N.p.: National American Woman Suffrage Association, 1922.

Hultin, Ida C. "Essential Oneness of Ethical Ideas...." An address by Ida C. Hultin at The World's Parliament of Religions, 1893, Columbian Exposition, Chicago. Commentary by Jone Johnson Lewis with summary and full text at ThoughtCo., updated June 28, 2016.

Hultin, Rev. Ida C. "Address," [LINK] The World's Congress of Representative Women. Edited by May Wright Sewall. Vol. 1. Chicago: Rand McNally, 1894, pp.297-98.

Hultin, Rev. Ida. "Moral Progress." Reunion of the Pioneers and Friends of...Woman's Progress on the Eightieth Birthday of Mrs. Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Under the auspices of The National Council of Women. New York: Metropolitan Opera House, Nov. 12, 1895. At The Library of Congress, American Memory (Miller:NAWSA Suffrage Scrapbooks, 1897-1911).

"Ida Hultin and the Moline Unitarian Church." Original Author: Hayley Zertuche. Wikispaces Classroom:

Ida C. Hultin (in) Notable Universalist and Unitarian Women: [Letter] H.

Keller, Rosemary Skinner and Rosemary Radford Ruether, eds. Encyclopedia of Women and Religion in North America. Bloomington: Indiana U.P., 2006.

"Ladies Change! With Ballot They Warn Men to Look Out." Boston Globe, May 26, 1892, p.8.

Meadville Portfolio. Vol. 1, no. 2 (Sept. 1894), pp. 22-23. References to Hultin's early career in the publication of the Meadville Theological School, Meadville, PA

"Michigan Women in Fight for the Ballot." Fort Wayne [Indiana] News, August 16, 1912, p. 16.

Tucker, Cynthia Grant. Prophetic Sisterhood: Liberal Women Ministers of the Frontier, 1880-1930. San Jose: Authors Choice Press, 2000. (Originally published by Beacon Press, 1990).

U.S. Bureau of the Census. Fourteenth census of the United States, 1920-Population. website.

"Woman Suffrage Talks to Ford Shopmen in Open Air." Detroit Free Press, August 21, 1912, p.3.

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