Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Helen S. Lippincott, 1863-1955
By Cindy Gordon, Plainsboro, New Jersey
Treasurer of New Jersey Women's Suffrage Association; founder of Suffrage Section of Riverton Porch Club; delegate, life member, and member of executive committee of National Women’s Suffrage Association; delegate to Congress of International Women’s Suffrage Alliance
Helen S. Lippincott was born on April 27, 1863, in Riverton, New Jersey, the daughter of Anna Sutton (1840-1890) and Ezra Lippincott (1936-1906). She married Harry Hollingshead Sawyer in 1886 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. They had three children, Helen S. (1887-1940), Elwood L. (1889-1970) and Emma (1891-?). She died on December 16, 1955, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, at the age of 92.
Lippincott's father, Ezra, was a prominent merchant in Riverton. The family belonged to the local Friends Meeting. In 1916 Ezra Lippincott built a home for his daughter, at 107 Lippincott Avenue, where she lived for the rest of her life. Her sister, Hetty Coale Lippincott, six years her junior, was also active in the suffrage movement, as were other members of the Lippincott family.
New Jersey was very active in the woman suffrage movement at the turn of the twentieth century. The New Jersey Women’s Suffrage Association was organized in 1867, one of the first in the country. Mrs. Florence Howe Hall, a daughter of Mrs. Julia Ward Howe, was president from 1893 until 1900, and Helen Lippincott served as treasurer of the organization for five years.
Many suffragists came from Riverton. The town had a large Quaker population and there were close ties between the Quakers and the suffrage movement. Local historical society records note a likely association between Riverton women and noted suffragist Alice Paul, who came from neighboring Moorestown and was also an active Quaker. The records show that many Riverton “clubwomen” were involved in the women’s suffrage movement. They report that Helen Lippincott was a charter member of the Riverton Porch Club, a non-profit organization founded in 1890 for the purpose of inspiring, encouraging, educating and bettering its membership. A socially and civically engaged group, The Porch Club was one of the country’s first organized women’s clubs. In 1904, Helen Lippincott called for the formation of a Suffrage Section, or department, at the Porch Club. The suffrage section was eventually renamed as the Riverton Suffrage League.
In the next few decades, Helen Lippincott continued her suffrage activities at the local, state, and international levels. She also served as a delegate to the 1912 National Convention of the Women’s Suffrage Association. At the forty-third meeting of the group, she was listed as a delegate and life member, and at the 1914 meeting she was made a member of the executive committee.
The New Jersey Woman Suffrage Association grew rapidly with Helen Lippincott as an active member. Its membership grew from 2,200 in 1912 to more than 6,000 a year later.
In August 1913, Helen Lippincott took part in a demonstration in Washington, arranged by the National Congressional Committee, at which petitions were presented to the Senate asking for the immediate submission of the Federal (suffrage) Amendment.
At the annual convention held in Newark in November 1913, she joined the organization’s board as second vice-president.
Helen Lippincott was one of 12 delegates from the United States listed in the program for the eighth congress of the International Women’s Suffrage Alliance, an assemblage of women from 31 countries who met in Geneva in June 1920. The conference was led by Carrie Chapman Catt and was the first such conference to be held after World War I and after the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment in 1919.
Helen Lippincott’s passport application in March of 1920 indicated her reason for traveling was to visit the women’s conference in Geneva, followed by a stay in London for a Friends’ Conference. She sailed from New York on May 19.
Helen Lippincott died in December 1955 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, at the age of 92. She was buried Westfield Friends burial grounds in Cinnaminson, New Jersey, a town neighboring Riverton.
US Census 1870--Ancestry.com
US Census 1880--Ancestry.com
US Census 1890--Ancestry.com
US Census 1900--Ancestry.com
US Census 1910--Ancestry.com
US Census 1920--Ancestry.com
US Census 1940--Ancestry.com
US Quaker Meeting Records, 1681-1935--Ancestry.com
US Passport Applications, 1795-1925--Ancestry.com
Pennsylvania Death Certificates, 1906-1964—Ancestry.com
"Locals participated in suffrage battles," Gaslight News, November 2016, Riverton (NJ) Historical Society.
"State suffrage annual meeting," Plainfield (NJ) Courier News, November 1, 1910.
"Suffragists elect officers," Plainfield (NJ) Courier News, November 15, 1913.
"Suffragists meet in state convention," Plainfield (NJ) Courier News, January 21, 1916.
"Women delegates to Geneva named," NY Times, April 18,1920.
International Women's Suffrage Alliance, Report of Eighth Congress, June 1920.
"FGC (Friends General Council) Quakers and Suffrage," Friends Journal, August, 2000.
Ida Husted Harper, et al., eds. History of Woman Suffrage, Volume VI, 1922 [LINK.]
Helen Lippincott photo posted to Lippincott family tree on Ancestry.com by Tad Dykes on May 11, 2017.