Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Anne E. Hitchcock (Mrs. W.S.) Sims, 1875-1960
By Shane Allen, undergraduate student, Rhode Island College
Suffragist, Newport County Woman's Suffrage League, Rhode Island Equal Suffrage Association; Naval Wife; Vice-President, Girl Scouts of the USA
Anne Erwin Hitchcock Sims was a prominent supporter of woman suffrage from Newport, RI. She was born on January 4, 1875 in St. Louis, Missouri to Ethan Allen Hitchcock and Margaret Collier Hitchcock. The Hitchcock family was affluent and politically connected. Her father was the great-grandson of Ethan Allen who gained fame as leader of the Green Mountain Boys in the American Revolution. Ethan Hitchcock was appointed the first ambassador to Russia by President William McKinley and later Secretary of the Interior by President Theodore Roosevelt. Anne Hitchcock married Lieutenant Commander of the Navy William Sowden Sims on November 21, 1905. Later in his career, William Sims achieved the rank of Rear Admiral and served as President of the Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island. Hitchcock and Sims were both politically prominent and their wedding in Washington D.C. was attended by President Theodore Roosevelt and the First Lady, Vice President Charles Fairbanks, and the entire presidential cabinet, among other political leaders. The Simses settled in Newport, RI and had five children.
Sims became involved in the woman suffrage cause through her husband. She explained, “Admiral Sims won me over to it, you know. He has always been in favor of it.” As political and social leaders in Newport and Rhode Island, Admiral and Anne Sims's support for woman suffrage was influential. In detailing the history of Rhode Island woman suffrage, The History of Woman Suffrage recognized the importance of the “aid and comfort” the Simses provided to the cause as “beyond belief in those days when it took some courage in fashionable Newport to ‘come out' for woman suffrage!” Anne Sims also helped advance the campaign by submitting a petition in support of woman suffrage to the United State House of Representatives in 1915.
During World War I, Admiral Sims was a naval leader in Europe, leaving Anne Sims at home in Newport with their children. She believed that women had an important role to play in supporting the war effort, which echoed the National American Woman Suffrage Association's suffrage strategy during the war. Sims explained, “We must just set ourselves to the one great task of winning this war. That is why I feel as I do about suffrage.” She sharply criticized the wartime suffrage protests of the National Women's Party. Sims explained “I have no patience with the women who have been selfish enough to harass the President by picketing the White House. This is not the time for group issues. The urge is national, and demands the unity of all our efforts.” In this spirit, Sims participated in a great deal of voluntarism during the war, serving as a member of the General Committee of the Red Cross and participating in naval relief and food conservation efforts. Captain W.G. Cassard celebrated Sims's wartime activism in the Newport Recruit. He wrote that there was not a more patriotic “family than the Sims; the Admiral doing his part abroad in service to his country, Mrs. Sims at home administering the affairs of her household as a true American housewife, and at the same time hearing and heeding the call of her country to assist with the numerous volunteer societies.”
In addition to woman suffrage, Sims was politically and socially active in many issues. She was a member of the Rhode Island Civic Committee. As part of this committee, she helped lead an effort to improve the Rhode Island penal system and lobbied for the Sherwood Bill which reformed the penal system leadership. In 1922, she lobbied and testified against the appointment of Egbert W. Lowe as Director of State Institutions because she believed he was not a capable leader. Sims also used her influence to fight for child labor legislation and submitted a petition to the United States House of Representatives in support of the Owen-Palmer child labor bill in 1915. As an prominent naval wife, Sims participated in naval politics, most notably writing a letter to her friend, Eleanor Roosevelt, in 1918 about a scandal involving another naval leader, so that Roosevelt could warn her husband, Franklin Roosevelt, Assistant Secretary of the Navy. Sims served was a local official and national vice-president of the Girl Scouts. In the 1920s, after the ratification of women suffrage, Sims worried that American girls were being led astray by modern technology. At a national conference of the Girl Scouts of the USA in 1926, she spoke about modern girls, stating that, “Our children, listening to radio, watching movies, playing with perfected mechanical toys, are often sophisticated little beings who have lost that wonder of life—imagination.”
Anne Sims died on May 7, 1960 in Virginia and was buried at Arlington National Cemetery with her husband who had died previously in 1926.
National Magazine, Vol. XLVII, No. 6 (May 1918): 256.
Captain W.G. Cassard, “Concerning a Naval Family [Family of President of the Naval War College William S. Sims],” The Newport Recruit (January 1919), 15.
“Mrs. W. S. Sims Praises American Girl of To-Day,” The Providence Journal, April 20, 1926. John Hay Library, Brown University, Providence, RI. Copyright @2018. The Providence Journal. Reproduced with permission.
Ida Husted Harper, ed. The History of Woman Suffrage, Vol. 6: 1900-1920 (New York: J.J. Little & Ives Company, 1922), 578. [LINK]
Sara M. Algeo, The Story of a Sub-Pioneer (Providence, RI: Snow & Farnham Co., 1925), 260.
“Mrs. W. S. Sims Praises American Girl of To-Day,” The Providence Journal, April 20, 1926.
“Noted Girl Scouts Executives Speakers at Conference Here,” The Providence Journal, May 20, 1922.
“Public Protest of Selection of Lowe Urged by Mrs. W. S. Sims,” The Providence Journal, July 18, 1922.
“Shake-up of Penal Board Is Favored,” The Providence Journal, March 22, 1922.
Garnet Noel Wiley, “Admiral Sims and His Lady,” National Magazine, Vol. XLVII, No. 6 (May 1918): 256-258, 281.
Captain W.G. Cassard, “Concerning a Naval Family [Family of President of the Naval War College William S. Sims],” Newport Recruit (January 1919): 15-17, 59.
Journal of the House of Representatives of the United States, Sixty-Third Congress, Third Session (Washington, D.C. 1915) pp. 99, 161, 164.
William Hugh McGrann, Admiral Sims, United States Navy, 1856-1936 (1936).
Geoffrey C. Ward, A First-Class Temperament: The Emergence of Franklin Roosevelt, 1905-1928 (New York: Harper & Row, 1989).
“Anne Erwin Hitchcock Sims,” https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/25758196/anne-erwin-sims
“Ethan Allen Hitchcock,” https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/7247254
“William Sowden Sims,” https://www.britannica.com/biography/William-Sowden-Sims