Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920

Biography of Juliet Walton Finley, 1861-1944

By Karen Lerner, Independent Historian

2nd Vice President of New Jersey Woman Suffrage Association, member of New Jersey Congressional Union and the Equal Suffrage League.

Mrs. Robert P. Finley was born Juliet Coates Walton on July 14, 1861 in the state of Pennsylvania to Benjamin L. Walton and Elizabeth Baker Coates Walton. Her father was part of the seventh generation descendants of John Kirk Sr. (1660-1705), born in Derbyshire, England who was one of the early settlers of Darby, PA. On March 4, 1886 she married Robert Patterson Finley (1852-1926), an "Allopath" (medical doctor) for a railroad company, who graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1881. His father Clement A. Finley was the Surgeon General of the U.S. Army. The couple initially lived in Pennsylvania, later moving to Merchantville, New Jersey around 1900. They lived on West Maple Avenue with her mother, sister, brother and his wife.

The record of Mrs. Finley's work on behalf of the suffrage movement began on October 30, 1913, when she was elected president of the Merchantville Equal Suffrage League. At this time, she also agreed to host a weekly class in her home to study parliamentary law. In April of 1914, she gave an address at the annual suffrage conference held in Camden. During a week of suffrage meetings held in Asbury Park in July 1915, she was elected 2nd vice president of the New Jersey Woman Suffrage Association (NJWSA). Mrs. Finley also became active in the New Jersey Congressional Union (NJCU) after the NAWSA referendum. In 1916, she became chairman of the First Congressional District for the NJCU and also attended its first annual convention held in Newark in December of that year. Finley regularly opened her home to suffrage events including one where Mrs. J.A.H. Hopkins (State Chairman of the Congressional Union--CU) addressed members from all over the county. She attended the National Woman's Party (NWP) annual convention in Washington, D.C. and joined the nearly thousand women who picketed the white house. Later in March 1917, she was elected secretary of the NJCU. She was listed as a member of the National Advisory Council of the NWP in a letter written by Alice Paul in 1918.

As noted in Delight W. Dodyk's dissertation, Education and Agitation: The Woman Suffrage Movement in New Jersey, "Finley was in the Assembly gallery when the Nineteenth Amendment was ratified by the New Jersey legislature, ‘Smiling happily, (she) threaded a needle with a golden cord and sewed upon a great flag a golden star that added New Jersey to the states in which the ratification resolution has won a victory. She is known among her fellow workers as The Betsy Ross of Suffrage.'" After the 19th amendment was passed and ratified, Juliet C. W. Finley continued to rally for women's causes, publicly announcing her plans to attend the National Women's Party Convention in 1921. She also stayed an active member of the NWP throughout the 1920s.

After her husband Robert passed away in 1926, she continued to work on behalf of the community as a librarian. When her life of service came to an end, she was interred at Laurel Hill Cemetery in Philadelphia, PA on January 10, 1944.


  • Directory of Deceased American Physicians, 1804 – 1929
  • Record of Internments, South Laurel Hill Cemetery
  • Census of the State of New Jersey, 1915
  • Federal Census: 1900, 1910

Stanton, Elizabeth Cady, Susan Brownell Anthony, Matilda Joslyn Gage, Ida Husted, History of Woman Suffrage: 1900 – 1920, Vol. 6 (New York, J.J. Little & Ives, 1922). [LINK]

Cope, Gilbert, Genealogy of the descendants of John Kirk (Doylestown, PA: The Intelligencer Company, 1913), pg. 564.,+PA&source=bl&ots=2TpHA-qTQv&sig=eKEs9QgmM-q8qwwFVlL-X93q3BY&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwj69MSixKbcAhXvYd8KHWmRBGsQ6AEIPTAD#v=onepage&q=Juliet%20Coates%20Walton%2C%20PA&f=false

Congressional Series of United States Public Documents, Volume 4114, (1913), p. 1067.

Dodyk, Delight W., Education and Agitation: The Woman Suffrage Movement in New Jersey, (New Brunswick, NJ: PhD Dissertation Rutgers University, 1977), pp. 638-39.

New Brunswick Times

  • November 15, 1913 ("Woman Suffrage News Column")
  • April 25, 1914 ("Suffrage Day Speakers Here")

The Philadelphia Inquirer

  • April 25, 1914
  • January 20, 1917 ("Merchantville")

Newark Evening News

  • February 10, 1920, p. 1

Trenton Evening Times

The Courier-News

Altoona Tribune

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