Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920

Biography of Alice Pierson Swetman, 1890-?

By Siobhan M.M. Barco, J.D.

Alice Pierson Swetman was a white woman born in Florida in 1890. She received her Bachelor of Arts from Mount Holyoke College in 1913 In 1916, Alice, who by this time resided in Cromwell, Connecticut, married Ralph Waldo Swetman. The couple hosted the State Woman Suffrage Association at their Connecticut home. Alice also helped organize a campaign of open-air meetings throughout Hartford County where Helen Todd, a suffragist who had successfully helped California's women secure the vote in 1911, was the principal speaker. On June 4, 1918 Alice and her husband each received a Master's in Education from Columbia University, Alice as a Teacher in Kindergarten and Ralph as a Superintendent of Schools.

The Swetmans moved across the nation to pursue Ralph's career as a school administrator. He served as Director of Training at the State Normal School in Ellensburg, Washington from 1917 to 1918, as Director of Extension Service from 1919 to 1921, as President of the Washington Education Association in 1921, as Director of the Washington School Equalization Initiative in 1922, and as the Cubberly Fellow in Education at Stanford University in 1922. Swetman later served as the president of several Teachers Colleges such as Humboldt (Calif.) State Teachers College (1924-1930), Arizona State Teachers College at Tempe (1930-1933), and Oswego (N.Y.) State Normal School/Teachers College (1933-1947).

At Humboldt, Alice was part of a faculty wives organization called the "Crab and Culture Society." Each Friday, several faculty wives gathered and ate local fish while they sewed, discussed books, and partook in other cultural programs. As College president, Ralph supported the start of a Women's Athletic Association at Humboldt under the leadership of Laura Herron. The most notable product of this program was women's track star Elta "Cinderelta" Cartwright who helped Humboldt win a national track meet, tied the women's world record in the 100-yard dash, set a world record in the women's long jump, and was selected for the USA's first women's Olympic team in 1928.

Alice and Ralph had three children together: Robert, born in Washington in 1920; Elisabeth, born in California in 1926; and Katherine, born in 1932 in Arizona. In 1947, Alice and her husband retired, moving to Boca Raton and later Coconut Grove, Florida.

A photograph of Alice can be found in:

Tanner, W. (1993). A View from the Hill: A History of Humboldt State University. Arcata: University Graphic Services. p. 32




Cady Stanton, E., Brownell Anthony, S., Joslyn Gage, M., & Husted Harper, I. (Eds.). (1922). The History of Woman Suffrage Volume VI. New York: J.J. Little & Ives Company. p. 72 [LINK]

Columbia College. (1918). Catalogue of the Officers and Students of Columbia College, for the year 1918-1919 . p. 276

Columbia University, (1918). One Hundred and Sixty-fourth Annual Commencement, Volumes 154-165. (T. University, Ed.). New York. pp. 19, 40

Dr. Ralph Swetman Developed School to College Rank. (1957 November 12). Oswego Palladium, p. 5. Retrieved from

Tanner, W. (1993). A View from the Hill: A History of Humboldt State University. Arcata: University Graphic Services.

The New ASU Story: Leadership. (2000). Retrieved from

University of California Register 1923-1924, Volume 2. (1923). Berkeley: University of California Press. p. 12

U.S. Bureau of the Census. Sixteenth census of the United States, 1940-Population.. Retrieved from

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