Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920

Biography of Louise Connolly, 1862-1927

By Katrina Rex, MS, Communications and Content Manager, Rochester Institute of Technology, Rochester, N.Y.

Teacher, editor, and lecturer, Louise Connolly was born in Washington, D.C., 1862 to Thomas C. and Margaret (Williams) Connolly. She attended Washington Normal School, George Washington University (Columbian College), and received a B.S. and M.S. Louise served as supervisor of schools in Newark, N.J. and superintendent of schools in Summit, N.J. She was an editor at University Publishing Company and D. C. Heath & Co, and author of several textbooks on geography and language. Louise also served as an educational expert for the Newark Free Public Library and the Newark Museum. She died while vacationing in Portland, Maine, July 17, 1927.

In February 1910, the Summit school board voted to remove her as superintendent in Summit and appoint a male replacement. Members voted 6-3 in favor of her dismissal, nominally based on "low school quality" compared to peers. However, the board president stated, on the record, that if given the choice between Ms. Connolly and an equally competent man, he would choose the male candidate. More than 150 members of the public attended the meeting in order to protest the vote to remove her. She wrote about the lack of female superintendents in the suffragist publication,The Woman Citizen, in 1919.

In June 1913, Louise attended the first New Jersey state conference of the Women's Political Union and was elected recording secretary. The group organized, trained and supported suffrage workers in Newark for several months. Later the same year, the organization's representatives attended a demonstration in Washington, D.C., where petitions were submitted in support of a federal amendment for women's suffrage. In addition, Louise distributed literature, organized meetings, and recruited volunteers in support of voting rights for women.

Louise was a founding member of National Committee for Better Films, an affiliate of the National Board of Review of Motion Pictures, founded in 1916. The committee fostered discussion about the new motion picture industry, and encouraged the development of voluntary local film review boards rather than state or federal censorship legislation. Connolly was one of three women (with Mary Gray Peck and Mary Mason Speed) who traveled extensively throughout southern states to lecture civic groups, congregations and service organizations in support of their cause. By the mid-1920s more than 20 states had draft film censorship laws in process. Rather than face the daunting prospect of complying with hundreds of state and local censorship laws, the major studios within the motion picture industry agreed to abide by the Motion Picture Production Code, which outlined acceptable content. The code formalized guidelines about topics, images, and language, and was adopted in 1930. National Board updated its mission accordingly to focus on the support and recognition of film as both art and entertainment, and is still functional today.

She frequently spoke about the role of movies in society and education, and on the topic of women's suffrage, at locations and events throughout northeast and midwest, including the American Museum of Natural History, the annual convention of the American Federation for the Arts in Detroit, and the Better Films Conference of the National Board of Review.


Obituary: Louise Connolly, New York Times, July 18, 1927, p.17

"Oust Woman Head of Summit Schools," New York Times, February 22, 1910, p. 2.

Jennifer Fronc, Monitoring the Movies: The Fight over Film Censorship in Early Twentieth-Century Urban America, (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2017), pp. 7, 61, 126, 167,173,and 195,

Librariana VIII: Staff, Newark Public Library, p. 4, Charles F. Cummings New Jersey Information Center, Newark, New Jersey. Processed: William A. Peniston, Ph.D., 2015

"What Movies do for Schools," New York Times, July 8, 1916, p. 6.

"Problems in American Art Industries," NY Times, May 26, 1918, p. 73.

About the National Board of Review. National Board of Review website: . New York, NY. Accessed December 1, 2017.

Jackie Blount, Destined to Rule the Schools: Women and the Superintendency, 1873-1995 (Albany: SUNY Press, 1998), p. 173.

New York Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends, Proceedings of the Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends, (New York, 1913), p. 40.

The History of Woman Suffrage, Volume 6, edited by Ida Husted Harper, p. 421, LINK to NJ state report

Writings of Louise Connolly, 1862-1927

Newark Museum Association, Louise Connolly , "The Educational Value of Museums" 1914, Newark Museum Association, Newark, New Jersey.

John Cotton Dana, Sara Cleveland Van de Carr, Sarah B. Ball, Marjary Lawrence Gilson, Grace Thompson, Julia Augusta Scofield Harron, Corinne Bacon, Elizabeth B. McKnight, Margaret A. McVety, Mabel Eloise Dart Colegrove, Louise Connolly, Blanche Gardner

"Modern American Library Economy as Illustrated by the Newark, N.J., Free Public Library," Volume 2, Issue 4. Elm Tree Press, 1917

Louise Connolly, "His Reason," The Woman Voter, Volumes 7-8 (June 1916), p. 21. Online at

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