Biographical Database of Militant Suffragists, 1913-1920

Biography of Matilda Nesbit Young, 1898-1989

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By Linda D. Wilson, Independent Historian

Matilda Nesbit Young, the daughter of Ludwick and Harriet (Oden) Young, was the youngest suffragist to be incarcerated during the picketing in front of the White House in 1917. Born on March 14, 1898, in Virginia, Matilda Young and her older sister Joy became active in the suffrage movement because they were influenced by their mother's participation. Matilda Young graduated from Central High School, Washington, D.C., in June 1916. (1)

On October 6, 1917, Matilda Young, Joy Young, and ten other National Woman's Party (NWP) suffragists including their leader Alice Paul marched with banners from their headquarters at Cameron House to the White House. The timing of their picketing in front of the White House coincided with government workers leaving their jobs. When the police arrived, the women refused to abandon their posts and were arrested on the charge of obstructing traffic. At police headquarters Matilda Young was one of six women who refused to give her age. (2)

In November 1917 Matilda Young joined thirty NWP members who picketed in front of the White House for fifteen minutes, before being arrested and taken by patrol wagons and automobiles to the First Precinct. With the others, she was summarily tried and convicted for obstructing traffic. Young, like most others, refused to pay the assessed fine and was sentenced to fifteen days in the District Jail. On August 17, 1918, Young marched with other suffragists from Cameron House to Lafayette Square for a watchfire demonstration and public speaking by Lucy Burns and others. In December of that year Young was among NWP members displaying banners in Lafayette Square. They left the park at 9 p.m. having been there for eight hours. During their presence at the park police arrested a number of people for attacking the women and tearing their banners. (3)

In January 1919 Matilda Young was arrested for burning one of President Wilson's speeches in front of the White House during a watchfire demonstration. She and others were arrested and, after declining to pay the fine, sentenced to five days' incarceration. Young received an additional three days of imprisonment for applauding the suffrage prisoners in court. She was released from the District Jail on the morning of January 13, 1919. (4)

With Mrs. Toscan Bennett, Matilda Young burned one of Wilson's speeches at the base of the Lafayette statue. The Suffragist of June 18, 1919 in a story, "While Women Go to Jail," reported on the incident and quoted Mrs. Bennett as stating, "'The women of the country will keep the flame of liberty ablaze until complete victory is assured and the words of the President are translated into reality.'" After the Nineteenth Amendment was passed, Matilda Young continued her work in the NWP. She and her mother served as delegates from the District of Columbia at the NWP's convention in February 1921. (5)

In 1933 Matilda Young and her sister Mary (Young) Baker, who were living together in Washington, D.C., journeyed to England. This trip occurred after Mary had worked for five years as secretary and companion to suffragist Alva Belmont. In March 1945 Matilda Young joined the newly established Children's Book Guild. During the mid-1940s she organized and directed the Children's Museum in Washington, D.C. Young, who never married, died on April 1, 1989, in Washington, D.C. and was buried with family members in Monocacy Cemetery in Beallsville, Maryland. (6)

Sources:

Alexandria Gazette (Alexandria, Va.), 11 January 1919. Evening Star (Washington, D.C.), 7 and 8 October 1917 and 10 February 1921. Linda G. Ford, Iron-Jawed Angels: The Suffrage Militancy of the National Woman's Party, 1912-1920 (Lanham, Md.: University Press of America, 1991). Belinda A. Stillion Southard, Militant Citizenship: Rhetorical Strategies of the National Woman's Party, 1913-1920 (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 2011). Doris Stevens, Jailed for Freedom (NY: Boni and Liveright, 1920). Washington Herald (Washington, D.C.), 18 June 1916, 7 October and 14 November 1917, and 9 January 1919. Washington Times (Washington, D.C.), 8 October and 13 November 1917, 8 December 1918, and 13 January 1919.

(1) Doris Stevens, Jailed for Freedom (NY: Boni and Liveright, 1920), 371. Find-A-Grave, Matilda Nesbit Young; Social Security Death Index, 1935-2014, Matilda Young, District of Columbia; and Passenger List dated May 1933, all accessed through Ancestry.com on January 13, 2017. Linda G. Ford, Iron-Jawed Angels: The Suffrage Militancy of the National Woman's Party, 1912-1920 (Lanham, Md.: University Press of America, 1991), 178 and 269-270. Washington Herald (Washington, D.C.), 18 June 1916. U.S. Census, 1900, 1910, 1920, and 1930, Washington, D.C., accessed on Ancestry.com on January 20, 2017.

(2) Evening Star (Washington, D.C.), 7 and 8 October 1917. Washington Herald (Washington, D.C.), 7 October 1917. Washington Times (Washington, D.C.), 8 October 1917.

(3) Doris Stevens, Jailed for Freedom, 371. Washington Times (Washington, D.C.), 13 November 1917 and 6 August and 8 December 1918. Washington Herald (Washington, D.C., 14 November 1917.

(4) Washington Herald (Washington, D.C.), 9 January 1919. Washington Times (Washington, D.C.), 13 January 1919. Alexandria Gazette (Alexandria, Va.), 11 January 1919. Doris Stevens, Jailed for Freedom, 371.

(5) Evening Star (Washington, D.C.), 10 February 1921.

(6) Find-A-Grave, Matilda Nesbit Young; Social Security Death Index, 1935-2014, Matilda Young, District of Columbia; and Passenger List dated May 1933, all accessed through Ancestry.com on January 13, 2017. Sylvia D. Hoffert, Alva Vanderbilt Belmont: Unlikely Champion of Women's Rights (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2012), 175, 179. www.childrensbookguild.org, accessed on April 29, 2017. www.washingtonpost.com/local/curiosity...March 17, 2012, accessed on April 29, 2017.

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