Biographical Sketch of Elizabeth Hamilton Chew Forbes

Biographical Database of Militant Woman Suffragists, 1913-1920

Biography of Elizabeth Hamilton Chew Forbes, 1882-1971

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By Dominique Bateman and Miranda Pikaart, Undergraduates, Meredith College

Elizabeth Hamilton Chew, a white female, was born on April 17, 1882 in Illinois to Dr. John H. Chew from Baltimore, Maryland (b. 1842) and Alice Meadowcroft from Chicago, Illinois (b. 1859.) On April 18, 1906, Elizabeth Chew married Theodore Weems Forbes, who operated a farm in Harford County, Maryland, northeast of Baltimore. Like other middle-class couples of their day, the Forbeses had servants in their household and they were both socially and politically active, with Mr. Forbes appearing to have served through the local YMCA, Red Cross, and Boy Scouts to promote safety measures in the area. By 1920, the couple had four sons and had moved to Baltimore. After Elizabeth's father died, her mother relocated to Baltimore and was also living in the Forbes household in 1930. By 1940, Elizabeth's mother no longer lived with the family, and a 16-year-old daughter, named Alice after Elizabeth's mother, appears in the census records for the first time. The family was once again living in Harford County.

Regarded as a "prominent suffragist" by her peers, Mrs. Forbes actively and visibly supported the Nineteenth Amendment in both her home state of Maryland and on the national stage. She was vice-president of the Harford County Just Government League and, through that organization, she served as a leader of the Suffragist Pilgrims, a group who traveled through southern Maryland on foot, by car, and in a "prairie schooner," spreading education and campaigning for support among citizens in more remote areas of the state. Also in support of the Nineteenth Amendment, Forbes was one of twenty women arrested in February 1919 as a part of the Watchfire demonstration, so called because suffragists burned President Woodrow Wilson's speeches on democracy in cauldrons outside of the White House.

After women won the right to vote, Forbes remained an outspoken supporter of women's equality. In 1921, as a member of the National Woman's Party, she served on a delegation to the White House and shook President Warren G. Harding's hand. The group sought the President's support for legislation to end gender discrimination under the law, a precursor to the Equal Rights Amendment written by NWP founder Alice Paul in 1923. She was also an active member of the Democratic party and an assistant head to the League of Women Voters in Baltimore. In 1922, Republican Senator O. E. Weller wrote a letter to Forbes, a member of the legislative committee for the Woman's Party, to congratulate the group for securing passage of an equal rights bill in the state house. While the bill does not appear to have passed into law, an amendment to allow women to hold public office in the state was ratified in November 1921.

Forbes weighed in on the candidacy of Virginia Peters Parkhurst, a fellow Democrat and member of the National Woman's Party running to represent Maryland in Congress in 1922. While many politically active women in the state were reluctant to endorse Parkhurst because of her position on certain issues, and others insisted that it was simply too soon for a woman to run, Mrs. Forbes declared that "I am for anybody - man or woman - who will help to remove the political disabilities of women." She further stated that,

All women want to see members of their own sex in Congress, but we don't want a woman put there who does not represent us, or who is merely a catspaw for the men. The idea of having a woman in Congress loses all meaning if she really doesn't represent women. For that reason it is gratifying to hear of a woman who is willing to run on a political disabilities platform.

Forbes penned a letter to the editor of the local newspaper that same year, in which she expressed opposition to a bill that would establish elections for state and county positions every four years instead of two. She argued that what had been packaged by its proponents as a cost-saving measure was instead a means to limit the participation of people in their government. The measure passed despite her efforts, and became effective in 1926.

A photograph of Forbes and three of her sons (1915) is available here:

http://mdhistory.net/msa_sc3286/msa_sc3286_scm7805/pdf/msa_sc3286_scm7805-0081.pdf

Forbes died on June 28th, 1971 and was buried at the Trinity Episcopal Church Cemetery in Glen Arm, Baltimore County.

Photograph of Forbes's gravestone:

Photograph of Forbe's gravestone

Sources:

United States Census, 1900, database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MSQW-86R : accessed 28 December 2017), Elizabeth Chew in household of J H Chew, Precinct 3 Chicago city Ward 22, Cook, Illinois, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) 662, sheet 15A, family 203, NARA microfilm publication T623 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1972.);

United States Census, 1910, database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:M2FT-QRB : accessed 28 December 2017), Elizabeth C Forbes in household of Theodore W Forbes, District 3, Harford, Maryland, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) ED 102, sheet 8A, family 132, NARA microfilm publication T624 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1982), roll 565

United States Census, 1920, database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:M63T-T6B : accessed 28 December 2017), Elizabeth Forbes in household of Theodore Forbes, Baltimore Ward 11, Baltimore (Independent City), Maryland, United States; citing ED 173, sheet 7A, line 25, family 145, NARA microfilm publication T625 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1992), roll 661

United States Census, 1930, database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:X3WL-6R2 : accessed 28 December 2017), Elizabeth C Forbes in household of Theodore W Forbes, Baltimore (Districts 501-673), Baltimore (Independent City), Maryland, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) ED 599, sheet 4A, line 2, family 65, NARA microfilm publication T626 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 2002), roll 858

United States Census, 1940, database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:K7F8-WTG : accessed 28 December 2017), Elizabeth S Forbes in household of Theodore W Forbes, Election District 3, Harford, Maryland, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) 13-14, sheet 11A, line 31, family 197, Sixteenth Census of the United States, 1940, NARA digital publication T627. Records of the Bureau of the Census, 1790 - 2007, RG 29. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 2012, roll 1551.

Albert Nelson Marquis, The Book of Chicagoans: A Biographical Dictionary of Leading Living Men of the City of Chicago, (Chicago: 1911) 133.

Edward Swift Dunster, et. al, International Record of Medicine and General Practice Clinics, Volume 3, (Maryland: MD Publications, 1906), 896.

"Caution Needed: ‘Ware Of Danger" Evening Star. (Washington, D.C.), 28 June 1913. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn83045462/1913-06-28/ed-1/seq-4/. Accessed July 15 2017;

"Life Savers Outline Summer's Campaign" The Washington Herald (Washington, D.C.), April 8, 1916. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn83045433/1916-04-08/ed-1/seq-4/. Accessed July 15 2017.

Maryland Suffrage News, Just Government League of Maryland (Baltimore, MD), May 29th, 1915, p. 98. http://mdhistory.net/msa_sc3286/msa_sc3286_scm7805/pdf/msa_sc3286_scm7805-0081.pdf. Accessed August 21, 2017.

Doris Stevens, Jailed for Freedom (New York: Boni and Liveright, 1920), p. 359.

"Women See Hope of President's Aid," Evening Star. (Washington, D.C.), April 7, 1921. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers, Library of Congress. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn83045462/1921-04-07/ed-1/seq-4/. Accessed June 10, 2017.

"Praises Action for Equal Rights," The Washington Herald (Washington, D.C.), March 2, 1922. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers, Library of Congress. https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn83045433/1922-03-02/ed-1/seq-2/#date1=1922&index=2&rows=20&words=Forbes+Theodore&searchType=basic&sequence=0&state=District+of+Columbia&date2=1922&proxtext=theodore+forbes&y=14&x=18&dateFilterType=yearRange&page=1. Accessed December 28, 2017

"Maryland at a Glance," Maryland Manual On-Line, Maryland State Archives http://msa.maryland.gov/msa/mdmanual/01glance/chron/html/chron19.html. Accessed December 28, 2017.

"Women Silent on Parkhurst Race," Evening Star (Washington, D.C.), July 16, 1922. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers, Library of Congress. https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn83045462/1922-07-16/ed-1/seq-5/#date1=1922&index=1&rows=20&words=Forbes+Theodore&searchType=basic&sequence=0&state=District+of+Columbia&date2=1922&proxtext=theodore+forbes&y=14&x=18&dateFilterType=yearRange&page=1. Accessed December 28, 2017.

"Opposed to Fewer Elections," Aegis & Intelligencer (Bel Air, Md.) October 27. 1922. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers, Library of Congress. https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn83016107/1922-10-27/ed-1/seq-3/#date1=1922&index=0&rows=20&words=ELIZABETH+FORBES&searchType=basic&sequence=0&state=Maryland&date2=1922&proxtext=elizabeth+forbes&y=16&x=17&dateFilterType=yearRange&page=1. Accessed December 29, 1917.

"Women Watch Legislation," Evening Star (Washington, D.C.) January 5, 1922, https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn83045462/1922-01-05/ed-1/seq-17/#date1=1922&index=0&rows=20&words=Forbes+Theodore&searchType=basic&sequence=0&state=District+of+Columbia&date2=1922&proxtext=theodore+forbes&y=14&x=18&dateFilterType=yearRange&page=1. Accessed December 28, 2017.

"Maryland at a Glance," Maryland Manual On-Line, Maryland State Archives http://msa.maryland.gov/msa/mdmanual/01glance/chron/html/chron19.html. Accessed December 28, 2017.

Nancy Sheads,"Elizabeth Chew Forbes," Find A Grave, Record Added: Jul 24, 2009. https://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=39839576. Accessed June 23, 2017.

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