Biographical Database of Militant Woman Suffragists, 1913-1920
Biography of Alice Mary Kimball, 1886-1982
By Emily Acker, undergraduate student, State University of New York at Oneonta
Alice Mary Kimball was born on December 24, 1886 to Jennie E. and Alphonso D. Kimball on a farm in Woodbury, Vermont, the daughter of a "strong, responsible mother and a poetic, glamorous father." Alice knew at an early age that she wanted to become a writer.
She attended Johnson (VT) State Normal School and started a career as a teacher. However, after several years of teaching, she decided to pursue a more rigorous and exciting profession as an investigative journalist. In 1910, she began working as a reporter for the Hardwick Gazette (Vermont) and then worked for the Kansas City Star. There she met Harry Godfrey, a writer and photographer who proposed marriage by putting an announcement in the newspaper. The couple married in 1914 and moved to New York City in 1918, where Kimball worked as a librarian and continued to write extensively, publishing in magazines all over the country. Civil rights activities inspired her at the time, including the efforts of the National Woman’s Party, and she used her talents in journalism to promote woman suffrage.
At half past four on a Tuesday afternoon in August 1918, Alice Mary Kimball was one of forty-seven women (among whom was Alice Paul) who were arrested for picketing outside the White House in Washington, D.C. She was charged with "holding a meeting on public ground" but the court announced a two-day postponement. She had no lawyer and had to speak on her own behalf. She pled not guilty and refused to rise when she was charged. Instead, she was one of many of the women who sat and read or knitted. She was sentenced to pay a fine of ten dollars or go to jail for fifteen days. She, and many other women, refused to pay the fine.
In jail, Alice Mary Kimball joined twenty-three other women in a six-day hunger strike. The government ordered her unconditional release nine days prior to the end of her sentence. Several women became very weak and sick from this ordeal, evoking sympathy in observers.
Alice Mary Kimball went on to pursue a career in journalism, supporting other civil rights movements. She and Harry Godfrey were living in Manhattan at the time of the 1920 census. Beginning in 1922 the couple lived in Greenwich Village with Edwine Behre, with whom they founded the Adamant Music School in Adamant, VT. In 1948 they remained a trio, moving uptown to W. 54th St. in Manhattan. Harry passed away in 1957 and Alice died of pneumonia in Montpelier, VT on May 13, 1982.
Doris Stevens, Jailed for Freedom (New York: Boni and Liveright, 1920), 363; Elaine Showalter, These Modern Women: Autobiographical Essays from the Twenties (New York: Feminist Press, 1993), 52-63; "Alice Mary Kimball," Writer 30, no. 11 (November 1918), 173; Adamant Music School, https://www.adamant.org/school-founders; "Free 23 Suffragists after 6 Day Fast," New York Times (August 21, 1918).
Find-a-Grave death entry for Alice Mary Kimball, VT, 13 May 1982. Accessed online at Ancestry Library edition.
Federal Manuscript Census, 1920. Manhattan, Harry and Alice Godfrey. Accessed online via Ancestry Library Edition.