Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890–1920
Biography of Susan Cushing Wood Bancroft, 1861-1948
By Lila M. Teeters
Ph.D. candidate, University of New Hampshire
Susan Cushing Wood was born to Bartholomew and Jennette Wood on March 15, 1861 in Milford, MA. After attending schools in Newton, MA, Wood taught in Pennsylvania and Massachusetts. Wood married Charles P. Bancroft in 1884. Charles's work as a physician brought the couple to New Hampshire, where they would raise two children Elizabeth and Miriam. The couple's first child, Charles, died in infancy.
The Bancrofts were an essential part of Concord's social institutions. Mrs. Bancroft participated in a vast array of clubs and welfare organizations. She belonged to Concord's Women's Club (serving as president from 1895-1897), the New Hampshire Federation of Women's Club (serving as president from 1899-1901), the New Hampshire State Conference of Charities and Corrections, the Concord Board of Education (1899-1908), New Hampshire Children's Aid and Protective Society, the Concord Female Charitable Society (serving as president from 1899-1902), the Friendly Club, and the Stratford Shakespeare Club. She was also a member of Concord's South Congregationalist Church.
Mrs. Bancroft's social work had a strong medical component. Her husband served as superintendent of New Hampshire State Hospital from 1882-1917, a position he acquired upon the retirement of his father. In his position, he developed new care models for New Hampshire citizens with intellectual disabilities. In line with this work, Mrs. Bancroft was a trustee for the New Hampshire School for the Feeble-Minded as well as a trustee of the New Hampshire Memorial Hospital for Women and Children.
Mrs. Bancroft lent steady support and leadership to the New Hampshire suffrage movement, aiding the New Hampshire Equal Suffrage Association and serving as president of the Concord Equal Suffrage League. In June of 1912, Mrs. Bancroft spoke at a legislative hearing on erasing "male" from the New Hampshire State Constitution, thereby allowing for female suffrage. Other people present included President of the National American Suffrage Association Anna Howard Shaw.
At the New Hampshire Equal Suffrage annual convention of 1915, she gave what the Portsmouth Herald called "a carefully presented and instructive paper" entitled "What the Suffrage Movement Means to the New Hampshire Woman in the Home."
Mrs. Bancroft played a key role in bringing the Federal Suffrage Amendment to a ratification vote in New Hampshire in 1919. In order for the state legislature to consider the amendment, the Governor needed to call a special session, which could only proceed if the Governor's Council approved. Mrs. Bancroft, along with Mrs. Olive Rand Clarke, Mrs. Winfield Shaw, and Mrs. Vida Chase Webb addressed the Council, who then decided to call for a special session. The House of Representatives would approve the amendment on Sept. 9, 1919, with the Senate lending its approval on Sept. 10.
Mrs. Bancroft was widowed on December 14, 1923. She died on April 19, 1948 at the age of 87.
Biographical information for Susan Bancroft can be found through Ancestry.com's digitized Massachusetts, Town and Vital Records, 1620-1988 and New Hampshire, Death and Disinterment Records, 1754-1947. A brief biographical sketch can also be found in Henry Harrison Metcalf, ed., One Thousand New HampshireNotables: Brief Biographical Sketches of New Hampshire Men and Women, Native or Resident, Prominent in Public, Professional, Business, Educational, Fraternal or Benevolent Work (Concord, NH: Rumford Printing Company, 1919), 173. Information related to the 1912 hearing can be found in "Appeared at Hearing Before Delegates," Portsmouth Herald, June 4, 1912, 2. An account of her 1915 speech can be found in "Woman Suffrage at Nashua," Portsmouth Herald, Dec. 3, 1915, 4. Ida Husted Harper provided the account of Bancroft's meeting before the Executive Council: History of Woman Suffrage, vol. 6, 1900-1920. Salem, NH: Ayer Company, Publishers, Inc., 1985, 409.
Susan Cushing Wood Bancroft
(One Thousand NH Notables )