Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Armenia S. White, 1817-1916
By Sally Wilkins, freelance writer, Amherst, New Hampshire
First president of New Hampshire Woman Suffrage Association
In the History of Woman Suffrage, 1900-1920, Elizabeth Cady Stranton and her co-authors wrote of Armenia S. White, "To her more than to any one person was the suffrage cause in New Hampshire indebted." Armenia was born November 1, 1817 in Mendon, Massachusetts, daughter of Quakers John and Harriet (Smith) Aldrich. Her family moved to Boscawen, New Hampshire when she was 13. There Armenia met Nathaniel White, six years her senior, who drove the daily coach from Concord to Plymouth bringing mail, passengers and newspapers. They were married in 1836. Nathaniel's honesty and abstention from hard liquor and card-playing caught the attention of his employer, who soon invited him into partnership. The once-penniless country boy proved to be a good businessman. Anticipating a demand for express delivery services, he established a route to Boston when he was just 27, and expanded it quickly when the railroad came to Concord. Eventually the Whites would sell the business to the American Express Company.
Nathaniel invested widely and wisely. Committed to the then-radical notion of equal partnership in marriage, Nathaniel included Armenia in all his dealings. When he died unexpectedly, she managed their finances and continued their philanthropy for three more decades.
The Whites were deeply involved in all the reformist movements of the nineteenth century. They were passionate supporters of temperance causes, and Armenia was first president of the New Hampshire Woman's Christian Temperance Union. They endowed a hospital for the insane, a home for orphans, and a home for the aged. They were fierce abolitionists, and their Concord farm was an important stop on the Underground Railway; noted as a place where escaping slaves were afforded not only a safe hiding space but ample food, fresh clothing and funds for the remainder of their journeys. Nathaniel and Armenia attended the November 1868 New England Convention in Boston and returned to convene the first state suffrage convention the following month. They represented New Hampshire at regional and national conventions. Armenia invited, housed and funded speakers including Lucy Stone, Julia Ward Howe and Mary A. Livermore. When New Hampshire granted women the right to vote in school district elections in 1878, Armenia was the first woman to vote in Concord.
Armenia was active in the suffrage movement throughout her long life. She served as "honorary president" of the NH State Association until her death, and funded suffrage work both in New Hampshire and nationally. She was an important funder of the compilation and publishing of the History of Woman Suffrage books and of a retirement fund for Susan B. Anthony.
Armenia Smith Aldrich White died May 7, 1916. The Boston Globe noted that she had outlived all her friends and co-workers in the suffrage movement except Marilla Ricker.
A Brief History of the New Hampshire Women Suffrage Association: A Report of the Annual Meeting Held in Manchester, October 25, 1907. Concord, NH: Association, 1907.
"Armenia S. White." New Hampshire Women: A Collection of Portraits and Biographical Sketches of Daughters and Residents of the Granite State. Concord, NH: New Hampshire, 1895.
Assorted Letters to Armenia S White. 1850-1915, in the collection at the New Hampshire Historical Society, Concord, NH.
Brown, Janice A. "Concord New Hampshire's White Park And Family." Cow Hampshire: New Hampshire's History Blog, 22 Dec. 2007. accessed 10 Oct. 2016.
Eaton, Aurore. "Looking Back with Aurore Eaton: Concord Couple Was Early Proponent of Women's Suffrage." Unionleader.com. New Hampshire Union Leader, 27 Jan. 2016. accessed 12 Dec. 2016.
Eaton, Aurore. "Looking Back with Aurore Eaton: Victory, the defeat for the Women's Vote." Unionleader.com. New Hampshire Union Leader, 10 Feb. 2016. accessed 12 Dec. 2016.
"A Notable New Hampshire Woman." Granite Monthly XLII.1 (1910): 3-5.
"Pioneer Woman Suffragist Dead." Portsmouth Herald (1916): page 2. NewspaperArchive.com
Stanton, Elizabeth Cady, Susan B. Anthony, Matilda Joslyn Gage, and Ida Husted Harper. History of Woman Suffrage. Vol. III. Rochester, NY: Susan B. Anthony, 1886.