Biographical Database of Militant Suffragists, 1913-1920
Biography of Carlotta Felgemaker, 1875-1922
By Tori Lent, Undergraduate, State University of New York at Oneonta
Carlotta Felgemaker was born in Erie, Pennsylvania on June 22, 1875. Her mother was Julia D. Felgemaker, and she had a younger sister, Julia O. Felgemaker. The Felgemakers were a prestigious family in Erie that ran a large organ-building factory. Carlotta attended college at the New York University; her name is listed in the Bulletin of Enrolled Students for only 1907 and 1917. She was in the Women's Law afternoon course provided by NYU. The addresses listed in the bulletins suggest that Felgemaker did not take up a permanent residence in the city, but instead lived in hotels. In 1910 she is listed in the US census for Erie, PA. Felgemaker is not listed in the graduate's bulletins in any years after 1917; she may have moved home and discontinued her education.
On March 4, 1919, Felgemaker was in New York City to participate in the National Woman's Party's march on the Metropolitan Opera House during a speech given by President Woodrow Wilson. The suffrage parade was meant to be a peaceful protest outside the Opera House. It escalated into a riot when soldiers, sailors, and other men on the sidewalk took offense at the demonstrating women. During the brawl, six suffragists, including Alice Paul, were arrested. Felgemaker was not one of those arrested, but her name made it into the newspaper reports. She was noted for taking part in the parade without having prior involvement in the movement. According to the reports, Paul told the police commissioner that the parade was never intended to be violent. Reporters stated that the women were trying to gain access to the talk to get diplomatic quotes from Wilson for the watchfires. The watchfires, held in Washington, DC, symbolized their constant watching for the U.S. Senate to pass the constitutional amendment for woman suffrage. Quoting Wilson's speeches, suffragists read them aloud, then threw the paper into the fire. The suffragists specifically wanted quotes about liberty and democracy, according to the Tribune reporter.
After the parade in New York Felgemaker disappears again from suffrage history. She never married and had no recorded children. There is a grave marker in Erie, PA near the Felgemaker memorial in the Erie Cemetery in Erie County. She died August 22, 1922 at the age of 47.
Sally Hunter Graham, “Woodrow Wilson, Alice Paul, and the Women's Suffrage Movement,” Political Science Quarterly 98, no 4 (Winter 1983-1984): 665-79. “Suffs in Battle, Speech is Burned,” New YorkSun, March 5, 1919, sec 4; “Six Women Suffragists Are Arrested,” New York Tribune, March 5, 1919; Doris Stevens, Jailed for Freedom (New York: Boni and Liveright Publisher, 1920); New York University Bulletin Catalogue 1906-1907, vol. 7 (New York University, 1907); New York University Bulletin Catalogue 1916-1917, vol 16 (New York University, 1917). “Carlotta Felgemaker in the 1910 United States Federal Census,” Ancestry. Accessed October 3, 2018.