Biographical Database of Militant Suffragists, 1913-1920

Biography of Grace Ella Cross, 1863-?

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By Morgan Kolakowski, graduate student, Simmons College

Born in Boston, Massachusetts on March 26, 1863, Grace Ella Cross was the only surviving child of parents, Anne Wilkinson Cross, née Forrest, and William Plumber Cross, both originally of New Hampshire. Her parents had moved with Anne to the city of Boston just three years prior, establishing himself as a successful doctor and a man of good reputation within his church, St Mary's Episcopal, and his community of South Boston. Their daughter grew up in a family that placed a very high value on education; Grace received her earliest instruction from private tutors. Cross's undergraduate institution is unknown but she did complete an undergraduate degree. She then attended Boston University School of Medicine and graduated with an M.D. in 1886, at the age of twenty-three. This proved significant both to her career and to her activism on behalf of women.

Cross practiced medicine with her father until his death in 1888, continuing to use her home at 581 East Broadway as both a place of work and a personal residence with her mother. In the school directory for Boston University, published in 1918, her specialty is listed as Gynecology with surgical training. She served on the board of editors of The North American Journal of Homeopathy and wrote about the society and events of the Boston medical community in numerous issues of the journal. Cross often commented on the activities of the women's division of the Twentieth Century Medical Club and on the current affairs of the Boston section of the Massachusetts Homeopathic Medical Society, as well as on the lectures and post-graduate courses being offered by Boston University's School of Medicine.

Cross was highly involved in many other organizations beyond the field of medicine. Myra Lord noted in her history of the New England Woman's Press Association that, "Dr. Grace E. Cross, who aside from her professional standing, which is of the highest, is a woman of marked versatility." Such versatility came to include involvement in the Red Cross during the First World War as well as in the National Woman's Party (NWP) by 1919. Although her exact role in the NWP is unknown, Cross took part in both the Boston and New York NWP parade demonstrations, sustaining serious injuries from her participation in the latter. As part of the militant National Woman's Party, Cross took great risks in order to make gains in the rights and treatment of women. On one occasion, the suffragists assembled around New York's Metropolitan Opera House to bring attention to their cause at the location of President Wilson's speech on the League of Nations. The New York Times chronicled the transition from peaceable activity to violence at the protest, with some women in the crowd using their fingernails and banners as weapons against the cordons of police trying to impede their demonstration. Though the newspaper did not mention Cross's name, it noted that one of the militants "was knocked down. The police ha[d] difficulty in saving her from being trampled by her fellow-agitators [sic]." The injuries Cross sustained during the protest left life-long marks upon her body.

Cross was involved in several women's clubs including the National Women's Press Association and the Boston University Women Graduates' Club. Belonging to such organizations demonstrated her devotion to the pursuit of knowledge as well as constant personal growth through social engagement. Cross lived with various female companions after her mother's death in 1915 until her own death sometime before 1950. No census record exists for Grace Ella Cross after 1940, and thus it is assumed that she died sometime after the 1940 census, during which she was 77, and before the 1950 census, when she would have been 87.

Sources:

Ancestry.com, Massachusetts, Town and Vital Records, 1620-1988. Provo, Utah, Ancestry.com Operations Inc., 2011.

Ancestry.com, U.S., School Catalogues. 1765-1935. Provo, Utah: Ancestry.com Operations Inc., 2012.

Cross, Grace E. "Boston Notes." The North American Journal of Homeopathy 60, no. 3 (1912): 49, 52.

Cross, Lucy Rodgers Hill. History of Northfield, New Hampshire, 1780-1905. Concord, New Hampshire: Rumford Printing Company, 1905.

Lord, Myra Belle Horne. History of the New England Woman's Press Association, 1885-1933. Newton, Massachusetts: The Graphic Press, 1932.

"Six Suffragists Out Under Arrest," New York Times, March 5, 1919.

Scott, Anne Firor. Natural Allies: Women's Associations in American History. Urbana, Illinois: University of Illinois Press, 1991.

"Suffragists Say Police Hit Them," New York Times, March 5, 1919.

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