Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Henrietta Anne Speke-Seeley, 1866-1939
By Rebecca Engel, undergraduate, Binghamton University
Singer, music teacher and Bronx Suffragist.
Henrietta Anne Speke-Seeley was born in England around 1866 and came to America in 1871. She married Storrs Henry Seeley in 1894 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania at the Clerk of the Orphan's Court, City Hall. Her home address was 2184 Bathgate Ave., Bronx, New York City. On October 6, 1939, she died in the Bronx. She was 73 years old.
In newspapers, pamphlets, and programs, she was referred to as Mrs. Henrietta Speke-Seeley. This is significant, as most women of the time went by their husband's names when they were being referred to. In addition, she hyphenated her name (instead of fully taking her husband's last name), which is an even more abnormal choice for the time. She was a women commonly in the public eye, which only furthers the contrast with her name; her actions were not affected by how her name was perceived by the public.
Mrs. Henrietta Speke-Seeley was key participant in many suffragist organizations. She was first involved in the Woman's Suffrage Party of the City of New York; the Party served as a union for several different equal suffrage organizations to further their political work. In 1915 and 1916 she flipped back and forth between chairman and director for the Bronx with Mrs. John Jay McKelvey. On October 23rd, 1915, she took part in and helped to organize the Banner Woman Suffrage Parade. The parade was arranged by the Votes for Women Empire State Campaign Committee, in which Seeley represented the Bronx with Mrs. Steven B. Ayers. On May 7, 1915, the New York City Federation held its thirty-seventh convention at The Hotel Astor. Mrs. Speke-Seeley was the head of the committee for music during its afternoon session. In 1916, she was the chairman for the Bronx for the Hughes Alliance, which was the Women's New York City Committee (formerly the Women's Roosevelt League). #x200e
The suffragist movement was not the only cause that drew Speke-Seeley's eye—she was active in many other circles as well. She was part of the Society of Massachusetts Women in New York, which suggests that she originates from Massachusetts. She also took part in the Bronx Republican Club and was the director for the New York City Federation of Women's Clubs from 1924 to 1926 for the Bronx Borough. Her activism in the New York City Federation of Women's Clubs was her last known effort towards the suffragist/feminist movement.
Mrs. Speke-Seeley also had a strong passion for classical music, and was well-known for her lectures and operatic performances. She was a soprano opera teacher for the Metropolitan Opera House, and also worked at the Virgil Piano Conservatory. She was famous for her lectures and performances on/of "Songs of Shakespeare", "Songs of Burns", "Summer", and "Songs of Tennyson". Her ads for teaching music can be found in the New York Tribune dating from 1912 to 1915. In the years 1892 and 1893 she performed in the Mikado, where she met her husband (Storrs) while they were performing the roles of Pish-Tush and Yum-Yum, respectively. On August 13th, 1892, she was in charge of musical entertainment for the Harlem Democratic Club's Sick Babies Fund, which was an organization that sought to provide medical aid, food, care, and attire for all of the sick children of "unfortunate" parents within the city. She was in charge of the musical work for the St. Cecilia Choral Club since its beginning, and in December of 1910 she became the director. She was the editor of the Music Review Column of The Musical Monitor and wrote reviews on new music in 1921. She also prepared a production of the Greek musical masque "When Sappho Sings" at this time, which was presented in New York City. She had an article written about her in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle on January 17, 1930, which detailed her appeal to schools asking them to increase musical education among children. The article noted her activism in the Guild of Vocal Teachers and her belief that every child should practice at least one musical instrument. In 1935, she was the chairman of music for the Congress of States Society. She served in this position until the end of her operatic career, which can be traced from 1892 to 1936, just three years before her death. Mrs. Henrietta Anne Speke-Seeley dedicated much of her life to music and women's suffrage, helping to make the feminist and musical worlds a better place.
Image found in The Musical Monitor, above the article detailing her upcoming musical endeavors in 1921.
Image found in The Musical Monitor, in the Musical Review Column. She was in charge of editing the new musical review articles. This image was found above every review section in every issue of The Musical Monitor in the year 1921.
"3 Feb 1917, Page 7 - Brooklyn Daily Eagle at Newspapers.Com." Newspapers.com, www.newspapers.com/image/54438779/?terms=Henrietta%2BSpeke%2BSeeley. Accessed 1 Oct. 2017.
"10 Feb 1935, Page 27 - Brooklyn Daily Eagle at Newspapers.Com." Newspapers.com, www.newspapers.com/image/52839028/?terms=Henrietta%2BSpeke%2BSeeley%2Bdeath. Accessed 1 Oct. 2017.
"11 Dec 1910, Page 55 - New-York Tribune at Newspapers.Com." Newspapers.com, www.newspapers.com/image/49830606/?terms=Henrietta%2BSpeke%2BSeeley. Accessed 1 Oct. 2017.
"11 May 1913, Page 48 - New-York Tribune at Newspapers.Com." Newspapers.com, www.newspapers.com/image/208630063/?terms=Henrietta%2BSpeke%2BSeeley. Accessed 1 Oct. 2017.
"14 Jun 1893, Page 4 – (N.Y.) Evening World at Newspapers.Com." Newspapers.com, www.newspapers.com/image/78980248/?terms=%22Henrietta%2BSpeke%22. Accessed 1 Oct. 2017.
"15 Mar 1908, Page 21 - Brooklyn Daily Eagle at Newspapers.Com." Newspapers.com, www.newspapers.com/image/53875340/?terms=Henrietta%2BSpeke%2BSeeley. Accessed 1 Oct. 2017.
"17 Apr 1926, Page 15 - Brooklyn Life and Activities of Long Island Society at www.newspapers.com/image/83361745/?terms=Henrietta%2BSpeke%2BSeeley. Accessed 1 Oct. 2017.
"17 Jan 1930, p. 14 and 26 Jan. 1902, p. 7- Brooklyn Daily Eagle at Newspapers.Com."
7 Oct 1939, Page 23 – New York Times."
17 Oct 1914, Page 4 – (N.Y.) Evening World at Newspapers.Com."
"Announcement of Public Lectures: Manhattan, the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, Richmond." Google Books, books.google.com/books?id=BicTAAAAIAAJ&pg=PA34&lpg=PA34&dq=Henrietta%2BSpeke%2BSeeley&source=bl&ots=JQ9kBozy2j&sig=rPG28mxwURD088w76rYocugGvu8&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjngdSq6M3WAhUDwiYKHe8CDrQQ6AEILDAD#v=onepage&q=Henrietta%20Speke%20Seeley&f=false. Accessed 1 Oct. 2017.
"The Musical Monitor." Google Books, multiple issues in 1921.
National Woman's Party correspondence on election campaign, Inez Milholland illness, and final pre-Election appeal from unenfranchised women to women in suffrage states." Accessed through the ProQuest History Vault, hv-proquest-com.proxy.binghamton.edu/pdfs/002618/002618_034_0818/002618_034_0818_From_1_to_164.pdf. Accessed 1 Oct. 2017.
"New York, New York City Municipal Deaths, 1795-1949," database, FamilySearch(https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:2WP3-3J4 : 20 March 2015), Henrietta Speke Seeley, 06 Oct 1939; citing Death, Bronx, New York, New York, United States, New York Municipal Archives, New York; FHL microfilm 2,195,267.
"Pamphlets of other organizations, including programs, reports, and newsletters." ProQuest History Vault, hv-proquest-com.proxy.binghamton.edu/pdfs/002621/002621_094_0537/002621_094_0537_From_1_to_165.pdf. Accessed 1 Oct. 2017.
"Pennsylvania, Philadelphia Marriage Indexes, 1885-1951," database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:JVDN-J43 : 26 September 2017), Seeley and Henrietta Anne Speke, 1894; citing license number 70552, Clerk of the Orphan's Court. City Hall.
"St. Cecilia Choral Club's Concert." The New York Times, The New York Times, 22 May 1910, query.nytimes.com/mem/archive-free/pdf?res=9501E4D71139E333A25751C2A9639C946196D6CF.