Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Anna Julia Child Bird, 1856-1942
By Briana Saed, student, SUNY College at Old Westbury, Old Westbury, New York.
Faculty Sponsor: Carol Quirke; Librarian: Christa DeVirgilio.
Anna Julia Child was born on January 12, 1856 in Worcester County, Massachusetts to Elisha Norwin Child and Elizabeth Humphrey Martin. She attended public school, at Oreall Institute in Worcester, and then boarded at Miss Putnam's School in Boston. Child married Charles Sumner Bird on October 19, 1880. He was a graduate of Harvard, class of 1877, and owned one of the nation's largest paper manufacturing firms, F.W. Bird & Son. He was a leading figure in the political life of Massachusetts, and an unsuccessful Progressive candidate for governor in 1912 and 1913. The Birds had four children; Francis William (1881), Charles Sumner (1883), Edith Harlan (1887), and Anna Child (1889). Bird was a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution; her husband's name indicates ties to nineteenth-century anti-slavery activists. Their daughter Edith married the governor of New Hampshire, Robert Perkins Bass, at the Bird home, "Endean" in East Walpole on January 21, 1912. Anna Julia Child Bird died on November 19, 1942 in Walpole, Norfolk County, Massachusetts.
Interestingly, the historical record on Bird only comes into focus in the second decade of the twentieth century; given her stature she must have been active prior to the early 1910s. When Bird's husband ran for governor in 1912 and 1913, Bird herself was active on his behalf, and also for Theodore Roosevelt, according to a 1912 report by that party. She was also a leader in the civic life of Walpole and founded its Women's Club, in 1920. The Women's Club promoted a dental clinic, a nurse's association, health and safety campaigns, and a town planning board. Previously, she served as second Vice President to the Women's City Club of Boston, in 1915. She was also a member of many other associations, according to the New England Historical and Genealogical Register, including the Society of Daughters of the American Revolution, the Academy of Political Science, the Royal Society of Arts in London, the North British Society of England, the Massachusetts Horticultural Society, the Audubon Society, and the American Society of Natural History. Based on her and her daughter's support of Van Kleeck Allison, who was sentenced to three years of prison for distributing birth control information, she appears to have been a supporter of contraceptives; Bird also was a "patroness" to the Women's Trade Union League in 1915. That same year Bird led multiple gatherings for local peace initiatives, such as a Peace Party luncheon hosting feminist and pacifist Rosika Schwimmer who warned against U.S. involvement in the First World War, and another luncheon with British suffrage leader and world peace advocate, Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence.
No mention of Bird's suffrage activism comes until 1918. During the fall convention of the Massachusetts Woman's Suffrage Association, Bird presided as acting President. That convention celebrated Lucy Stone's birth centenary, according to the History of Woman Suffrage (281). At its 1918 convention, Bird was quoted in a November 1918 Post article as listing women's concerns as "public health, public health nursing, the girl problem, and the social order in New England." She was elected the organization's first vice president that same year, according to the New York Tribune, a title that conflicts with the History which states she was chairman (282). She presided over the 1920 convention as well.
Bird held to a neutral position on labor. According to the Boston Post, she claimed the Association could be "neither for, nor against, organized labor." Other women leaders embraced labor as allies to promote suffrage. The same paper reported in July 1918 that the Massachusetts association, under her leadership, embraced fund raising for war hospitals during the war, including hospitals to address chemical agents. Her acceptance of the war seems at odds with her peace activism, but indicates Bird was a more conventional activist. Bird gave notable lectures on the suffrage amendment in North Adams, Massachusetts in 1919, sponsored by the Massachusetts Woman Suffrage Association and the North Adams Equal Suffrage League.
As the president of the Massachusetts Equal Suffrage Association, Bird hosted a dinner at the Chilton Club in 1919 in honor of women physicians who practiced around the world. Joining her was Alice Stone Blackwell (Lucy Stone's daughter,) and Dr. Alice Hamilton, Harvard Medical School's first female professor. Bird's concerns extended to women in the professions. Bird engaged physicians from China and Italy who were involved in the fight for women's rights.
Bird became active in the League of Women Voters after the franchise was won, and was a nationwide Republican Party leader. Bird had a long history of activism in national Republican Party politics. She joined the fifty-woman Hughes campaign train, a month-long, transcontinental tour, and according to the Omaha Bee "the first women who have ever attempted an organized campaign in the interests of a national party." The Golden Train as it was disparaged for the monied women involved, supported Republican Charles Evans Hughes, against Woodrow Wilson in 1916, because of Wilson's ambivalence toward suffrage. The women began with a parade down New York's Fifth Avenue, before the campaign traveled to cities across the U.S.. In 1920, Bird was named chairman of the Women's Division of the Republican Party of Massachusetts, and served as the state party's Vice Chair. She wrote letters to the editor, rejecting the Democratic Party's claim that it supported women's interests more than the Republican Party; she spoke at rallies throughout Massachusetts on behalf of candidates, and hosted luncheons educating women on Republican Party politics and history, according to the Boston Post. The week before the 1920 election, Bird led the Republican Party's women's contingent in a torchlight parade. "Clad all in white," she "drew round after round of applause," according to the Post, more than Calvin Coolidge's wife (Coolidge was then Massachusetts's governor), who walked behind her. According to her obituary, Bird was the first woman elected delegate to the National Republican Convention, in 1920 and she was one of the first women delegates to the Electoral College which cast the Massachusetts vote for Warren Harding and Coolidge. The New York Times noted her support for Herbert Hoover at the 1928 Republican Party convention. In 1935 Bird headed a "tea party" against Franklin Roosevelt's tax plan. Calling the plan "an immediate crisis," she led women parading to the Massachusetts State House wearing colonial garb.
Bird also served on the board of the non-partisan League of Women Voters (LWV). A February 1921 Boston Post story indicates her Republican commitments caused some resentment within the League. Bird served as the LWV's foreign correspondent for the Committee on Reduction of Armaments, and in 1921 sent letters to women leaders globally, including to Queen Mary of England, to the queens of Belgium, Italy, Sweden and Greece, fourteen women in European parliaments, along with "women workers, educators, humanitarians, and others of the professional classes." In July 1921 Bird sent a telegram to Harding, to have him call a conference of nations to reduce armaments. The previous year the LWV had adopted this position at their annual conference. In November, Harding then named Bird as one of the four women members of the Advisory Committee to the Limitation of Arms Conference (of 21 members total). At the end of 1921, the New York Herald noted that Bird, along with Mrs. Thomas Winter, of the General Federation of Women's Clubs, brought women's groups together at the National Council for Limitation of Armaments against the use of submarines and gas, simultaneous to the British government announcing their rejection of both. Bird was quoted as saying, "I should be glad to see all such horrible weapons done away with."
Bird's husband had been interested in town planning, and was the author of the 1917 Town Planning for Small Communities. When their son, Francis William died, in 1925, she and her husband founded a park in his name. East Walpole was industrial, and the "inviting and restful" park offered athletic fields and bathing facilities for residents (Nolen, 38). Bird nurtured this commitment; in 1932, Bird's "The Game Plan" had a national impact. Her "game" asked over 500 students in Norfolk County to imagine a city of the future. Touted by the New England Town Planning Association, the Rotary Club ultimately sponsored it, and over 8,000 school children participated (Proceedings...Rotary, 367). In 1923, Bird was elected to head the Department of International Relations of the General Federation of Women's Clubs; she served on the board of a Boston University program providing a Bachelor's degree in Secretarial Sciences in 1919, She was also a patron to the National Consumers League in the 1920s. Her New York Times obituary has her promoting prohibition through the 1920s, arguing that liquor led to crime.
"1916: Hughes Women's Campaign Train," Faithfully Yours, Elisabeth Freeman website, http://www.elizabethfreeman.org/hughes.php.
"36 Minute Women Protest Tax Plan," Washington Evening Star. June 29, 1935, 2.
"Action Urged By Mrs. Bird." Boston Post. July 10, 1921, 21.
"A Story of One Business Day with the Busiest Woman in Boston." Boston Post. February 6,1921, 52.
"Bay State Suffragists Elect Mr. Charles Sumer Bird," New York Tribune, May 26, 1918, 11.
Bird, Charles Sumner. Town Planning for Small Communities. New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1917.
Boyington, Bill. "Anna Julia Child Bird (1856-1942)." Find A Grave Memorial, www.findagrave.com/memorial/146181065/anna-julia-bird.
"Birth Control Case Up Today." Boston Post. November 20, 1916, p. 8
"British to Press Demands for End to Submarines." New York Herald. December 13, 1921, 2.
"Delegates Meet." Fitchburg Sentinel. January 27, 1916, 2.
"Frau Schwimmer Has Successful Luncheon." Boston Daily Globe. January 30, 1915, 28.
"Getting Out the Feminine Vote," New York Tribune. October 17, 1920, 14.
"GOP Women Defy Rain and March in Spectacular Torchlight Parade." Boston Post. October 29, 1920, 25.
"Gossip Table." Boston Daily Globe. January 17, 1915, 69.
"Has Successful Party." Boston Daily Globe. May 8, 1915, 13.
"Higher Status for Private Secretary." Charlevoix County Herald. August 8, 1919.
Leonard, John William, Woman's Who's Who of America: A Biographical Dictionsary of Contemporary Women of the United States and Canada, 1914-1915 (New York, NY: American Commonwealth Company, 1914), 83-83.
"Miss Bird Becomes Bride of Gov. Bass." Boston Daily Globe. January 21, 1912.
"Mrs. Bird Gives Dinner For Women Physicians." Boston Daily Globe. September 28, 1919.
"Mrs. Bird Heads Women's Division," Boston Post. April 1 1920, 11.
"Mrs. Bird, GOP Leader, Dies." The Berkshire Eagle, November 20, 1942, 8.
"Mrs. Bird's Confidence in Women in Politics." Boston Post. November 3, 1920, 16.
"Mrs. C.S. Bird Dies Suffrage Leader." New York Times. November 21, 1942, 11.
"Mrs. James J. Storrow, President." Boston Daily Globe. May 5, 1915, 4.
National Consumers League. "Invitation and Handbill." National Consumers' League Meeting, November 1925, 4.
Nolen, John. New Towns for Old. Routledge: London, 1927, reprinted 1998, 38-43.
"Notable Lectures on Suffrage Amendment." The North Adams Transcript. March 17, 1919, 7.
"Noted Folk Demand End of Submarine." New York Tribune. November 21, 1921, 2.
"Plan Campaign For Suffrage Hospitals." Boston Post. July 27, 1918, 9.
"Planning Expert Will Speak Here." The North Adams Transcript. January 6, 1936, 9.
"Report on Progressive Party Organization." September 26, 1912, available at https://Digital.Janeaddams.Ramapo.Edu/Items/Show/5091.
"Republican Chiefs in Session Here." New York Times. August 24, 1920, 3.
"Republican Rally." Fitchburg Sentinel. August 11, 1920, 2.
"Proceedings of the Electoral College of Massachusetts." Boston: Wright and Potter, 1921.
"Proceedings of the Twentieth-Eighth Annual Convention of the Rotary International." Nice, France, 1937, 367.
Sherman, Richard. "Charles Sumner Bird and the Progressive Party in Massachusetts." New England Quarterly 33 n. 3 (September 1960): 325-340.
"Suffrage Attitude Toward Union Labor." Boston Post. July 13, 1918, 2.
"Suffs Still Hope." Boston Post. July 13, 1920, 17.
"Sutherland Heads Arms Advisory Body," New York Herald. November 2, 1921, 2.
"Memoirs of Deceased Members." The New England Historical and Genealogical Register. January 1943, 96-97, available at https://books.google.com/books?id=Be8QAAAAIAAJ&pg=PA96&lpg=PA96&dq=%22Mrs.+Charles+Sumner+Bird%22&source=bl&ots=AUM0TrtR_L&sig=nzr1yIreifUYWHIPX8IlkFQNcHs&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjP0OKhkevdAhWqd98KHa82B8E4ChDoATAOegQIABAB#v=onepage&q=%22Mrs.%20Charles%20Sumner%20Bird%22&f=false.
"Women Form Class in Practical Politics." Boston Post. June 23, 1920, 6.
"Urges Women To Do Their Own Thinking." Boston Post. July 25, 1920, 43.
"Women Active Among the Backers." New York Times. June 11, 1928, 2.
"Women to Help Stop War." Boston Daily Globe. January 10, 1915, 46.
"Women's Hughes Campaign Train." Omaha Bee. October 4, 1916, 7.
"Work Ahead For Suffrage." Boston Post, November 21, 1918, 2.
"Writes to Queen Mary." Boston Post, August 14, 1921, 5.
Art and Picture Collection, The New York Public Library. Underwood and Underwood, "Especially Posed Photograph Of Mrs. Charles Sumner Bird Of East Walpole, Massachusetts." New York Public Library Digital Collections. Accessed October 3, 2018. http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47e1-22d8-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99
"Memoirs of Deceased Members," The New England Historical and Genealogical Register. January 1943, 96-97.